Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sorry, This One is All Wedding

Whew. Lemme just sit here and catch my breath a minute.
Hi. I just had a whirlwind of a week. My parents came to visit, so I gave myself permission to more-or-less take the week off from school and work. That's the great thing about the way I currently earn a living as a graduate student: ever since coursework ended, schoolwork is entirely optional (the dissertation has to get done eventually, but nobody is breathing down my neck about it...yet) and since all of my assistantship work is of the "as long as you get it done in a reasonable amount of time, you can do it whenever you feel like it" category I can make my own schedule every week. So last week I adjusted accordingly and crammed all of the absolutely necessary work tasks into Monday morning so that I could take the rest of the week off. I'll have to play catch up a little bit this week since I only did the bare minimum last week, but it's no big deal.
In a way last week was restful since I was doing nothing but fun-having (Penn always refers to "fun-having" for some reason), but we stayed really busy. Much of the running around was wedding-related. First of all, Kiki came down from New York and she and my mom and I went wedding dress shopping! That was so much fun. It didn't make me as emotional as I thought it might. It felt a little bit strange to put on that first white dress and reflect on the fact that, wow, I'm actually going to have the experience of having a big white wedding. For a while there a few years back I thought a wedding honestly wasn't in the cards for me, so it's always a tiny bit surprising when I remember that I'm the bride-to-be and I have an almost-husband. But for the most part this just seems like the next step in a very natural progression, so it doesn't feel strange to be trying on wedding dresses. It just feels like what I'm supposed to be doing right now.
It was so much fun to go through the racks and/or books of wedding dresses and say, "I want to try this one, and this one, and, oooh, bring me that one." If anything, I got emotional because I realized I'm only going to get to do this once (well, hopefully, God-willing, I'll only do this once!) and it was a bummer to realize that there are so many gorgeous dresses I'll never get to wear. I asked Penn if we could renew our vows in ten years so that I can pick out a second fancy white dress, and he just laughed at me, so I guess that's not going to happen.
Anyway, after two days of dress shopping at three different bridal salons and trying on about 30 dresses, I think I found the one for me. I ended up really surprising myself. All winter long while I looked at dresses online and in magazines, I thought two things: 1) I want the dress to have a lace overlay and 2) I absolutely, positively DO NOT want a strapless dress. Well, lo and behold, I tried on a bunch of dresses and the two I loved most don't have a speck of lace on them and they're both strapless! I tried on dresses with halter necks and cap sleeves and shoulder straps, but I just wasn't feeling any of them. It turns out strapless dresses look better on my body. Before trying on dresses I'd been afraid that a strapless dress would give me those weird teeny little rolls where the dress meets my chest (ladies, you know what I'm talking about, and unfortunately they happen no matter how skinny you are) or, worse, that I'd have to be hiking the dress up all night to keep it on. Well, it turns out I was wrong about both of those things. Wedding dresses with built-in corsets are ahhhhhhmaaazing. I'm relatively thin in the first place, but the first time a salesperson laced me into a corseted dress I was like, "Whoa, hello there, waist!! And boobs!? Where did you come from?!" I was suddenly super skinny and yet I simultaneously got curves in all the right places. I've never loved my body so much. Right now I'm seriously wondering why on earth corsets ever went out of fashion (Note: I may feel differently about this after being laced up for eight hours on the wedding day!). Also, it turns out that once you're laced into your dress it's absolutely not going anywhere. Even not custom-fitted for me yet, those dresses all fit like a second skin. And I can adjust it just perfectly so that I won't accidentally flash anyone but so that it won't make my skin pinch awkwardly where dress meets flesh. In short, I am a convert and will very likely be wearing a strapless wedding dress after all.
The life lesson in this, I guess, is try things even when you think they are not for you. You may be very pleasantly surprised!
I narrowed it down to two dresses, but I can't stop thinking about one of them, which I think means I need to go put it on again and see if it's The Dress. They're both beautiful and I'd be happy wearing either of them (I'd be happy wearing almost any of the dresses I tried on, actually) but one of them just seems more special. It has a bit more drama, and that suits me, as it turns out that the only thing I DIDN'T change my mind about when wedding dress shopping is that I want a dress that screams "Wedding!" and that is not something I would ever be able to wear again. Why not go all out on the one day in your life that you're encouraged to be the center of attention?

Well, I was going to tell you about other things that happened last week, but my almost-husband just went to bed and that seems like a wise idea so I'm going to join him. I'll try to be back soon with more stories. I have tales about trips in limousines and secret service agents and hockey playoffs and my own personal Meet the Fockers evening and dislocated knees (not mine or Penn's, thankfully). You'll wait with baited breath, I'm sure.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Best Wedding Ever

The other night my sister and I were texting cross-country while watching The Sound of Music on TV [Incidentally, I love text messaging. I talk to at least one of my family members pretty much every day via text message, and it's the main way we communicate. I'm the perfect combination of too lazy+too busy to pick up the phone to have a lengthy conversation, even with people I really love, so if it weren't for text messages I am pretty sure I'd only talk to my parents once every couple of weeks and my sister and brother maybe every few months.]

Anyway, as I was watching the second half of the movie I was suddenly inspired and had to text message my sister with my brilliant idea:
Me: I'm going to make Penn sing this song with me at the wedding!
My Sister: Which song? Climb Every Mountain?
Me: No, the one that the Captain and Maria sing together at the gazebo. "For here you are standing there loving me, whether or not you should..."That one.
My Sister: Oh, that one works!
Me: I'm also gonna wear a super-long tulle veil like Maria's.
My Sister: You'd better not! I'm going to sing "So long, farewell..." to everyone at the end of the reception.
Me: Yes!!
My Sister: The whole wedding party can do it! We'll be the birds and the boys will stand in front.
Me: And Penn's nieces and nephews can all wear matching uniforms and march around to a whistle!
My Sister: Perfect!

The whistle was totally Penn's suggestion, by the way. I told him that I wanted to change our wedding theme to "The Sound of Music" and he said "NO WAY" but then when I told him all of the ideas so far he said, "And I'll blow a whistle and the kids can march around." So, I'm pretty sure this means he secretly supports the plan. He just has to put up a manly front.
I'm fairly certain my sister-in-law-to-be will get on board with this plan, as Penn has assured me that she is a big fan of The Sound of Music (who ISN'T a big fan of The Sound of Music? It's amazing!). Plus it beats the other two plans my family members suggested so far, which were a) Jersey-style hair and bridesmaid dresses with revealing cutouts and b) my mother and her girlfriends wearing their old wedding dresses only "Madonna-ing them up."

In all seriousness, the wedding doesn't really have a theme. So far it's just a hodgepodge of things we like that I'm trying to pull together into some sort of unifying concept. Right now the concept (which exists only in my head at this point) involves mostly books and trees and candles and winter. Books and trees are vaguely related, I suppose. Add candles to the mix and it gets sort of, um, dangerous, what with all that paper and wood around, but I'm sure there's a way to do it. And "winter" is mostly just apparent in my color choices and the fact that I want to have a hot chocolate bar and it isn't actually a "theme" per se. I mean, I don't think there are going to be glitter snowflakes all over the place. I have no idea how (or if) it will all come together.

But now that I'm considering throwing all my ideas out in favor of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical-themed wedding, it may be a moot point.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Easter is here! It's a beautiful day here today. The temperature is in the 70s and it's gloriously sunny and the daffodils and tulips are blooming in everyone's yards and along the highway. It's exactly how Easter should be.
It was Penn's birthday yesterday and I surprised him with tickets to a concert at a local jazz club. There are some well-known jazz venues here that have been around since the 1920s, and Penn has been wanting to check one out for a long time but we'd just never gotten around to doing it. When he challenged me to pick something fun to do for his birthday, I decided that it was time to finally check out the jazz scene. I used to think that I didn't like jazz music much, but through Penn's instruction (documentaries from Netflix; samples from various musicians when we're driving in the car) I'm definitely starting to appreciate it and even enjoy it. Last night's show featured a jazz bassist who played with everyone: Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, a bunch of other well-known people. He's more than 70 now and still going strong. He played the bass in a really classy suit, accompanied by a pianist and a guitar player. The club is in a dark, candlelit basement. It was very small and intimate. I really liked the atmosphere of the whole thing, and I'd definitely do it again.
Anyway, I was worried that since we'd gone out last night we'd be too tired to want to go to church this morning, but we were up at 9:00 and got to church by 10:00 in time to claim our usual pew before the place totally filled up. Church was PACKED. The church we've been going to (the church where we're going to get married in January) has a decent-sized congregation anyway. I'd say about 200-250 people attend every week. It's big enough that it feels like a bustling, active place, but not so huge that nobody knows each other. The pastor knows everyone's names and details about their lives. At least, that's how it is normally. Today there were at least 500 people there, maybe more. It was a nice service. There was an entire brass instrument quartet and a big kettledrum to fill out the music, there were Easter lilies everywhere, and it was fun seeing all the kids in their Easter outfits. Easter really isn't much of a holiday unless you go to a church service, so I'm glad we made it this morning. On the drive home Penn and I were talking about how much we like the church we've been going to. We've been going regularly since January, and I realize that's only three months so far, but in the past ten years this is by far the most consistent I've been about going to church. My whole childhood church felt kind of like a drag, like something I had to do because my parents were forcing me to get up on Sunday mornings. Then for the past ten years church was something I still thought about fairly often but I just couldn't figure out how to justify my intellectual, logical life with any sort of faith, and I was very turned off by all the right-wing Christian mumbo jumbo which seems to have been growing more and more prevalent over the past decade. I had no desire to associate myself with any of that. I realized something, though. If all of the reasonable, sane people leave the Christian church, then church becomes nothing but everything I hate about it now: a bunch of zealots pushing their views on everyone else and trying to muddle in government and law where they do not belong at all whatsoever (or, at worst, becoming psychotic extremists who believe it's okay to kill for their faith, as we saw with that news story of the religious militia in Michigan earlier this week). I listened to a radio program the other day about women's roles in various faith communities. One of the panelists was an Orthodox Jewish woman who is pushing from within her church to allow women to have more parity with men. The host asked, "Why not just stop living the Orthodox lifestyle and become part of a more liberal Jewish group that allows women more equality?" and the woman basically said (and I'm paraphrasing big time), "Because I fundamentally like the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, there are just a few man-made elements of it that I disagree with. And the only way to create true change is from within, so if I leave then the situation will never change. If I stay, I may be frustrated, but hopefully in the long run I can make a difference." That made a lot of sense to me. I need to keep going to church, if only to prove that all Christians don't have to interpret the Bible literally and believe that homosexuality is wrong and that the Earth was created in seven days (oh, wait, six days. The seventh was for resting) and so on. I suppose when it comes right down to it I'm much more interested in the spirit of the law then the letter of the law, and the spirit of it all--loving each other, treating each other with respect, being generous, taking care of those who cannot help themselves, giving thanks for life's blessings, finding comfort in sorrow and strife--well, I definitely believe in all of that. So I'll keep going to church.
Now, I feel genuinely blessed to have found a church with a pastor that has a sense of humor and provides thought-provoking, entertaining sermons. In general, this church just seems reasonable and friendly, and I feel no guilt for being so skeptical and cynical. Instead I feel like the message for me at this point is "Of course you're skeptical. Most reasonable people are. But faith is not about reason, and you have your whole life to keep working to feel it." I've never before been excited about going to church, but now I actually look forward to Sunday mornings, and I'm bummed on weekends when we can't make it to church for some reason. I never thought I'd end up feeling like this. As Penn said this morning, "Every Sunday I'm just surprised that I don't hate having to get up to go to church." Exactly. For the first time it doesn't feel like an obligation, but instead something I honestly like doing. I just hope this pastor sticks around for a while!

Speaking of Easter and church, I promised to update you on my Lent project. I was going to try to be still and not do anything other than just sit and think for ten minutes every day. You guys, it was SO HARD. It was even more difficult than I thought it would be. I did really well for the first month, but the past couple of weeks I have to admit that I skipped my quiet time on more days than I did it. The problem is that there was always, ALWAYS something I could have been doing in those ten minutes. I needed to be straightening up the house, or walking across campus to get to the library, or reading something, or answering an e-mail. Trying to be still for even a short amount of time every day made it really hit home for me that I'm constantly doing something, that I quite literally never give myself a break. My life moves way too fast, to the point that I realized that even my leisure activities feel rushed because I have to squeeze them in before work demands my time again.
In the end, the best thing that happened for me in terms of my Lent resolution was that I ended up doing a lot of baby-sitting the past few weeks. My usual baby-sitting client has added some additional hours every week, and I spent last week taking care of my cousin. Being with those babies (the little guy I usually watch is 15 months old, my cousin is 9 months old) was exactly what I needed to do. Watching them play and observe the world, I realized that they're not constantly rushing from one thing to the next thinking about what else they need to do. I had my cousin at the park on Thursday and she spent five whole minutes sitting in one place and staring at a screw. Just a silver screw holding together two sides of the playscape. She had no desire to go anywhere else. That single screw had her full attention, and since I wasn't rushing her to get anywhere she was able to look at it until she finally felt like doing something else. I realize that eventually life with kids gets incredibly hectic, too, but life with a baby is actually extremely simple (or at least life with these two particular babies is incredibly simple!). With my cousin, for instance, she'd wake up in the morning, I'd feed her some baby cereal, we'd play with her toys in the living room for an hour or two ("playing" at this point mostly means picking up a variety of things and handing them to her or putting them somewhere so she can crawl to them and then examine them by pushing buttons or shaking them or whatever) and then she'd take a nap. While she napped I'd read or do a bit of school work. Then she'd be up and I'd feed her again, then we'd go on some sort of short outing to the park or the infant room at the science center or the local library. Then it was time for another nap, then more food, a little bit more crawling practice, then a bath, then bedtime. There is a routine and a cycle, but every part of it is something simple and her needs are so easy to meet and it should have been really boring but I found the whole routine really soothing, actually, and every day there was a sense of accomplishment because, hey, the baby was fine and healthy! Mission accomplished!
I'm sure it would eventually get dull and I'd miss the rush of the life I have now, and the work that I'm doing. But I have to admit that I enjoyed the simple time baby-sitting time a lot. That's a relief to me, knowing that perhaps I won't go completely mad when I'm home for a while taking care of a baby one of these days. It turns out that I might actually enjoy it more than I thought I would. If nothing else, it's going to force me to take life slower and to let go of a lot of the extras that fill it up right now. I think that will be good for me.

Anyway, Penn and I are going on a long bike ride and then I'm coming home to eat deviled eggs. Hope you're having a good weekend, whatever you're doing!