Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde the Bride

It finally happened. I finally lost my wedding cool in a huge way. After thirteen months of trying really hard to keep myself sane, I found myself consumed in a spiraling vortex of bridal hell because another couple used one of the most emotionally resonant wedding "details" that I'd been planning on using for our wedding. What sort of detail could inspire me to ignore Jason for the entire car ride home from the airport? It must have been something that hit at the core of our wedding, right? Ha. I wish it had been something important. But all it took to nudge me off my stress-ledge-edge was finding out that another couple used the same freaking escort card idea I'd been planning on creating and my eyes began to shoot little daggers of hate in all directions.

I wish I could blame my grumpiness on having to navigate LAX at midnight to pick up Jason, who had just arrived back from a wedding in New York, but my dark silence only descended when he mentioned their escort card detail. I wish I could say I maintained some semblance of "welcome back" cheerfulness while listening to Jason gush about the idea that I'd had months ago but that I hadn't yet shared, but it turns out I'm not that mature and I suddenly got stingy with my "welcome back" kisses. I wish I could say that I didn't immediately sulk about how horribly unoriginal we'll seem now that all his college friends have attended this New York wedding, but I glowered and grumbled the entire drive home. 

I know I'm being ridiculous. And I'm comforting myself with knowing that I'm not throwing a hissy fit about flowers or garlands or pinatas or even the physical design of the escort cards. Nope, I could still care less if someone else has a pinata or papel picado decorating their fiesta wedding. Instead, I'm being ridiculous about the emotion of a plan that I'd been holding close to my heart and hidden from the blog. I'm being a brat because someone else had the same great idea about one of the details that felt too personal to share here (believe it or not, there are a few details I'm keeping quiet about so our community can discover them in person, for themselves) and now it's out, running around, impressing our friends well before my brilliant wedding had a chance to wow them all instead. I have been reduced to a whiny copycat bride who recognizes that she's behaving like a giant jerk, but is too ticked off to care right now.

On the plus side, I have calmed down enough to kiss Jason again. I may be dumb enough to get emotionally invested in ephemeral wedding detail crap, but at least I'm not dumb enough to forget why I'm putting up with this wedding crap in the first place. I'm sure that it will only take a day or so to regain some perspective and figure out how to make this detail our own again... just in time for the next moment of wedding ridiculousness to strike. I have a sinking suspicion that because we're six months out from our April wedding the stress of wedding planning and life living have finally combined into a toxic brew of short fuses and ridiculous temper tantrums.

On the plus side, I'm really looking forward to that honeymoon. I cannot say enough good things about our honeymoon plans. Yay.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Search Of

I can get through this
I will get through this
I've done it before I can do it again.
This too shall pass
You've managed harder challenges than this!
Who needs sleep anyhow?

Hmm. I think my mantra skills need work. I think mantras are supposed to inspire and not just blow dejected-seeming hot air around the same sad facts. But this is all I'm capable of right now.

Zen is a myth than can go jump off a bridge. I'm currently giving another presentation in another far-off city while my to-do list continues to mock me, smug in the knowledge that it can never be conquered and that my boss will be unhappy about eight still incomplete/in-progress tasks when I arrive back in the office, despite a sure-to-be-great presentation. "Sure-to-be-great presentation." Hmm. Yeah. That's my "I f*cking rule" enthusiasm for the day. Because it WILL be great, but it won't help me with anything beyond another checkbox on my to-do list.. Zen and balance and self-help exhortations can take that mantra and wave it around like a battle cry, because success in this one teeny corner of life is all that's keeping the rest of my life from going over a ledge. Balance: ha. Zen: ha. Survival: yes, please.

Oh, and I haven't done one lick of work on my wedding website or save the date since I wrote about it last week. Nor have I done a lick of work on anything wedding related in the last month. A human being can only handle so much before she has to prioritize and shed deadweight obligations. That's right wedding, I'm talking about you. You can go jump in a pond with Zen and Balance and come back when you're ready to play nice again.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Department Store Dress Shopping, Take 3

It's been a while since I posted photos of the department store dresses I didn't choose, so I thought it was time to revisit these stunning-yet-affordable dress options. Because when I say affordable, I mean it. the following dress is $298 at Nordstrom and was really really really hard to return. Like, I still kinda wish I had it, even if the dress I have now is the right dress for me. Like, it took me two weeks to decide on my wedding dress because they were all so amazing (apparently my wedding dress hunt has been a feast-or-famine process. Who know the feasting would be so stressful too?) And it's not just me who loves this dress: the reviews at Nordstrom are unanimous in their shared love of it.

What's not to love? To-die-for party ruffles (that remind me of my years in Spain), a really flattering silhouette, lightweight material with a nice sheen, and built in boning and detachable straps (for use after the ceremony when you're partying on the dance floor). Also, the designer Dahlia McPhee is local, uses only vegan materials in her dresses, and plants a tree to reforest Lake Tahoe (a California locale I know and love) each time a dress is purchased, making my eco-friendly, local-love heart glow.

In the photos you'll notice a lot of ruching: while it's true that there is very flattering ruching on the dress, the dress I ordered was one size too large and you can see the extra fabric bunching in the photos. If you go for this dress option, ignore the reviews that tell you to buy it a size larger - it runs true to size. I would still have needed some minor alterations to get the exact fit, but I'd need that with any dress. Ultimately, I thought it was a little too diamond-white for my incredibly pale skin tone, but I can only imagine how fabulous this dress would be for someone else's wedding, and all for $300.

Here's the model (via Nordstrom):


Here's me:
 
 Seriously, if you don't kick up your heels in this dress and twirl, there's something wrong with you.


This was probably the most "weddingy" dress I tried on from the department stores, and I loved it. Both my Mom and Jason were leaning towards this dress over any of the others (though we were all pretty muddled about which dress was the right-est). It didn't look like a $2,000 salon dress (no, the material isn't salon-level gorgeous, but it's normal people pretty and doesn't feel cheap), but it looked a heck of a lot more expensive than $300. It just looked fabulous and festive and like I was ready to have the most fun wedding party in the history of wedding parties. And with such a great cut and superfun ruffles, I really hope one of you gets this dress for her wedding and then emails me the sure-to-be amazing photos.

Previously:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Four Years

Today is our four year anniversary. Today is the last year that our dating anniversary won't be eclipsed by our wedding anniversary. Today is the last time when we'll celebrate this lucky happenstance meeting more than we'll celebrate the hard-but-oh-so-easy decision to bind ourselves together, legally and according to the customs of our religious tradition, despite whatever challenges life will throw at us. I haven't really talked about how Jason and I met on this blog, because in many ways it doesn't really matter. We met, we're right for each other, and we're getting married. But on our four-year dating anniversary, it feels fitting to think back on our how-we-met story.

Four years ago, luck and a free dating website brought us together. Although we'd both been on OkCupid and JDate (on and off - a person can only really take Jdate in one month stretches at a time) for a year or so, we'd never seen each others' profiles. One night, Jason was playing around with his search preferences and my profile suddenly appeared (he still doesn't know what minor changes he made, but we're lucky he did). He decided to email right away.

I battled with whether to reply because I had decided that dating younger men never worked.  But his sense of humor, mastery of the English language (online dating is a testament to the need for education reform), a variety of cute, nice smile, representative photos (I had some interesting dates with men whose single photos were less than honest) his height (at 6'3" it meant he wasn't put off by my 5'9", unlike many other Jewish men), and some truly odd similarities in our profiles (in addition to some disconcerting parallels in our self-descriptions, OkCupid also rated us as a 95% match) finally overrode my concerns about our three year age gap. After finally getting over my superficial ridiculousness about age, I then nearly canceled our first date because of my superficial ridiculousness about a massive pimple that appeared two days before the date. Luckily, due to serious self-sit-down and a helpful lady at Sephora, decided I would be stupid to give him any flaky first impressions and went through with the Thursday night date. Ignoring the pimple was definitely the right decision.

It just felt good and comfortable from the first moment. We met for Mediterranean food at a cute outdoor cafe and he invited me to continue the date at an intimate concert venue across the street. Someone at the music venue's bar mentioned their surprise that it was just a first date. (I know, it's too chick-flick barfy to be true, except that it actually happened. And I wouldn't have shared it, except that those of us with online dating stories need to take our how-we-met romance where we can, okay?) After the date, I didn't have any of the will-he-call/does-he-like-me-as-much-as-I-like-him jitters that can lead to missteps in early dating: we both just knew there would be a second date. Beyond that, neither of us put any expectations on it: Jason wasn't really looking for something serious and I had been burned enough to want to take things slowly. All we needed to know was that the first date felt right.

After our fifth kept-feeling-righter-and-righter date, I disappeared on a two week trip to Budapest and Prague with a girlfriend. Jason showed up the weekend before my trip with 10 CDs that he had decorated with hand-drawn sketches (my ipod had just died, and I was grumpy about the more limited travel music on my old-but-still-functional CD walkman.) That's when I knew he really liked me. And that's also when I really really started to like him in the deep important ways, because it hit me that he was tall, smart, funny, cute, honest in his interactions, didn't play games, and entirely respected my independence. I barely noticed the men in our hostels and I found myself looking forward to making out with Jason when I got back to Los Angeles, instead of looking forward to making out with random cute guys in Prague.

We don't have any big-gesture romantic stories about how we met. There weren't any surprises or tortured turns along the way. It's just been a good-and-getting-better story since the first email. Four years ago we met by chance, and now we're celebrating the choice to be together. So, as much as I'll miss celebrating our official anniversary on September 21, I'm much too excited about April 3 to really mind. And anyhow, September 21 will always be a fabulous excuse for a nice dinner out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Local Love: Photo Scavenger Hunt with Prizes


Long time readers will probably recall my love of photo scavenger hunts, exploring hidden gems of neighborhoods, the excuse for a fun date night (or afternoon), and the chance to win amazing prizes. So when I came across a local activity that combined all four of those entirely great things, I thought it would be worthwhile to share. Especially because there are $2,200 worth of (nominally) wedding prizes (of the entirely rad "night in a luxury hotel" sort and not the "win free favors!" sort) and another $2,200 worth of entirely non-wedding centric (but equally rad) prizes that you can win just by having a good date afternoon, neighborhood-exploring time.


The Marina Del Rey Visitors Bureau, in a brilliant attempt to demonstrate all the local treasures in the area, has designed a prize-laden photo scavenger hunt contest through the neighborhood called Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  The digital photo hunt gives participants a list of photo missions at the Marina's iconic and quirky landmarks, divided loosely into three competitive categories: Wedding (or generally just romantic stuff), Foodie, or Family. The grand prize in each category will be awarded to a randomly chosen participant who completes all ten missions in their category.
Wedding Prizes
Grand Prize
(1) Bed & Breakfast Overnight at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey
(1) Sunday Brunch for 2 at Jer-Ne at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey
(1) $50 Dinner Certificate for Vu Restaurant at Jamaica Bay Inn
(3)  Double kayak rentals at Marina Boat Rentals

First Prize
(1) $50 Gift Card for Dinner at Vu Restaurant at Jamaica Bay Inn
(1) Room Night at Marina International Hotel

Second Prize
(2) Friday Dinner Blues Cruise with Hornblower Cruises & Event

Foodie Prizes
Grand Prize
(1) $300 Gift Card for Meal at Café del Rey
(1) $50 Gift Card for Group Lunch at Tony P’s Dockside Grill
(4) Saturday Night Dinner Cruises with Hornblower Cruises & Events
(1) Room Night at Jamaica Bay Inn

First Prize
(2) Friday Dinner Blues Cruise with Hornblower Cruises & Events
(1) $50 Towards a Meal at Mendocino Farms Sandwiches & Marketplace

Second Prize

(1) Dinner for Two at Jer-Ne at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey
You have six weeks to complete up to 10 photo missions, with contest accepting entries through October 27. Do them all in one day or take a few weekends. You can only choose one category:
  • Download the Wedding mission here.
  • Download the Foodie mission here
  • Download the Family mission here 

To participate, you have to RSVP to here. Submit your photos one-by-one or as a collection via Facebook or Twitter. When you complete all 10 Missions under a category, you’re entered to win grand prizes. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Facebook, Twitter and the Visit Marina del Rey Blog on Nov. 10, 2010. Please note that by submitting photos for Hit Me With Your Best Shot, participants agree to the rules of the contest.

This is not a sponsored post. I just really like excuses for adventuring and ridiculousness, and I like them even more when there are prizes involved, so I decided to share. In fact, I'm probably going to participate in this contest myself, because why the heck wouldn't I? Who doesn't want a free romantic night in a hotel, or a free romantic dinner, or the chance to have fun in kayaks with friends?Also, we're seriously thinking of doing our hotel block in the Marina, because we need easy access to PCH and it's more affordable than Venice or Santa Monica hotels and still has walkable fun. So this should definitely help us find some "around town" recommendations.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I F*cking Rule

It's Friday, which means it's time to reflect on the week and figure out how we all f*cking ruled over the last seven days. H*ll to the yeah.

1. Wedding related: I f*cking rule because we finalized our sodeliciousI'mdroolingNOW menu from the Border Grill Truck. We organized a tasting, stuffed ourselves silly on fusion tacos, gourmet cheese and roasted pepper quesadillas, sweet green corn tamales and dulce de leche-infused churro balls. We're getting all that deliciousness (plus salad, rice and beans, but we all know that's secondary) for $22 per person. Yeah, you read that right: $22 per person, and that includes a melt-in-your-mouth dessert called churro balls. I am not going to stop mentioning that for the next six months. And no, I have no interest in being corrected and told that the official name for those balls is churro tots.

2. Self-image (health) related: I f*cking rule because I finally sucked up the cost and joined a yoga studio, recognizing that I need to commit to regularly untying the massive knots in my back. And I even managed to keep some (outward) yogi-like zen when I arrived to find my 8pm Wednesday class full, even though I was inwardly thinking "effity eff eff mother effing eff I just braved an hour of effing traffic for this bullcrocky and I had the worst effing day and I needed yoga so effing much and eff I waaaant a COOOOOKIE." And then, despite wanting that cookie and being entirely emotionally drained, I dragged my bum home and worked out in front of the TV. I'm still amazed I said no to the cookie and the couch.

How about you?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Careers and Gender Assumptions

As part of our marriage planning class, Jason and I took a long personality assessment. First we filled in multiple choice bubbles about our own answers (which inspired some scan-tron nostalgia). Then we did the same thing, with the same questions, about our partner. Then we met to review the results of how we see ourselves versus how our partner sees us with one of the Marriage and Family Therapists who leads the class.

Luckily, this assessment didn't present any real surprises or major concerns for our future compatibility. We know each other pretty darn well and we know what we're getting into. We balance each other well, with his optimism and calm approach contrasting my neuroses and tendency towards negativity (or, as I call it, realism and planning for the worst while hoping for the best). It works, and now we have a therapist's seal of approval too. (Actually, they don't give seals of approval, though that might be handy for couples with in-law issues.) 

One thing we will continue to work on is the way in which stress (my stress) impacts our relationship. I am generally a stress-mess. My shoulders are knotted and gnarled with stress. My health deteriorates with stress. And a lot of that stress comes from my job. Don't get me wrong - I have a great job doing something I enjoy and believe in, and I get to work with other brilliant committed people. I'm very lucky. But the tradeoff is hellish hours, never feeling good enough, and feeling like I never accomplishing enough.

So I was initially amused when the therapist tried to elicit more information about my long hours, stress, and transition to management by asking "do you work in retail?" In the moment, I didn't think much about it because I was focused on the the real issue of how we deal with the impact of stress in our relationship. But throughout the day I started thinking back to that comment and getting a little ticked off.  And then I got really ticked off.

Retail??!!

Let me be clear, I have nothing against careers in retail. I've worked my share of retail and barista jobs back in the day, and I always treat shopping support and service workers with human respect. Heck, depending on where you work (high end designer stores) the best salespeople can rake in upwards of $60,000 a year on the floor from commissions, making it a viable career-type job. But still, I don't think she was asking if I work at the Tiffany's boutique just down the road.

I'd like to think her comment was related to confusion about my business casual attire (our office embraces California Casual. I was wearing dark jeans with a cute shirt and blazer) contrasted with my discussion of responsibilities. Even better would be if it was some sort of compliment on my incredible fashion sense (bwahahahaha!) possibly related to the amazing gold shoes I picked up at a resale shop for $12. But really, I know her comment was related to my being a woman. I think her default must have been to assume that women work in the service sector or caretaking roles, which might lead to a conclusion that management + late night hours = retail professional.  Yes, it's possible. But it's also possible that I work in a challenging office environment where I've worked my way up the chain and have earned my project management rights... just like she'd be likely to assume of a man. No man working long hours would ever get asked if it was because of "retail."

I am a smart woman with a high-powered job. My hours are long because I have a boatload of responsibilities advising major corporations and not because I'm dealing with inventory shipments at 9pm. My stress is the sort of stress related to impossible levels of multitasking. And if Marriage and Family Therapists in forward-thinking cities are still using bullcrockey gender defaults to frame their understanding of people and their relationship dynamics, then it limits all of us in imagining what our marriages can be and what our particular, healthy relationships might look like.

Overall, I have to say I've truly enjoyed our marriage planning course and think it's provided a lot of real value, especially with the hard questions and topics that we work through as couples and as a class. And the best parts are the conversations that continue at home, when we expand upon the topics from class. But I've noticed a disturbing tendency for the class' two therapists to discuss Men and Women in broad-stroke gender stereotypes and to see communication and challenges as traditionally gendered.  But I don't neatly fit into the gender mold and neither does Jason. And neither do most LGBTQ couples. Nor do a lot of us.

While there are certainly some biological differences between the sexes, I'm convinced that many of our assumed gender-related traits are learned via socialization and gender expectations about what it means to be a "good" girl or "good" boy. "Deviant" behaviors are punished by peers (boys who like art and music are "pussies") and behaviors fitting the prescribed gender narrative are subtly rewarded (Susy is so well-behaved, she gets an A!). That gender narrative is incredibly limiting and narrow, especially for a couple where the man is an artist and musician and where the woman is decidedly not well behaved, and it has no place in our broad-stroke discussions about how partnership functions and communication is enhanced.

I don't think our therapist meant anything specific in her comment, and I think it was probably a subconscious association. But if the people we rely on for help and advice about building healthy marriages are relying on assumptions about gender and interpersonal relationships, I think that's a problem. My marriage won't be built upon stereotypes and their assumptions - we're building it around us and our peculiarities, desires, and individual needs. And in our particular situation, many of the traditional tables have been turned: I'm the one working late, I'm the one currently earning more, I'm the one who's a bit more boorish about her opinions whereas Jason's the one making a home for us when he gets home from work with his garden and his delicious cooking and his household organization.

As our marriage gets closer, I get the uncomfortable sense that I'm about the get subtly punished again because I probably won't fit into the "good" wife narrative. My I-hate-folding-laundry behavior will be seen as unconscionably deviant. My inability to bake a cake (or anything, really) and the associated disinterest in putting a Kitchen Aid mixer on our registry means I'll be a terrible wife (and even worse for broadcasting my domestic shortcomings to our entire guest list.) And, even worse, I'm muddling through the implications of raising children while attempting to balance this high-powered career. Because suddenly my high powered career is no longer seen as good, and no longer assumed to be a point of pride for a bum-kicking career girl. It becomes another way in which I'm failing as a wife and mother, as defined my the standard gender tropes.

Retail. With one word, it suddenly hit me how hard this wifey gender thing might be. And sometimes, I get tired of fighting back to try and break the mold. And sometimes, I wish I hadn't destroyed my back playing rugby for so many years, so that I could fight back even harder. Yeah, that's right: rugby. So take that and stuff it up your gender-assumption piehole. A piehole which I obviously didn't bake.*


*though, now that I think about it, pieholes are actually mouths, so I definitely didn't bake any. But the line sounded so much better when I thought it referenced bake-able pie that could tie in with the Kitchen Aid mixer line. Mmm pie.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Accessory Overload

I had a realization a while back that I'm a jewelery girl more than I'm a fancy dress girl, and it helped me refocus my wedding style crazies from a perfect perfect dress to a dress that felt right, especially if it allowed for incredible, bold-but-elegant, statement piece jewelery. And since I found that dress, and it  "only" cost $200, I feel like I can treat myself a bit on the jewelery. At which point, I can then decide on the shoes, which are a distant second in accessory land importance. For reference, I find shoe photographs entirely silly, but then I think about asking for a necklace photograph, and it starts to make sense. (Um, I'm not really going to ask for a necklace photograph, but it helps me understand other women's shoe obsessions, even if I still don't love how "stuff" photos are celebrated in wedding recaps.)

So I began internet window browsing for my necklace, full of excitement that I could actually consider a splurge purchase. And then, in much the same way that $1000+ wedding dress prices made me screech like a wounded banshee, necklace prices for the pieces I love did the same.

First of all, I would recommend NEVER setting your browser sights on Neiman Marcus, even for inspiration, unless you're ready to shell out $600+ for a necklace. (I am not.) You can, however, find golden fur necklace equivalents for the bargain price of $370, in case that's your thing.


Second of all, etsy is so entirely difficult to search that, after scrolling through eighteen pages of 1,792 pages worth metalwork necklace options with "turquoise" as a keyword, my eyes glazed over and I could no longer distinguish the subtle qualities of one potential necklace over another. Even my favorites page is visual and mental overload now. So when I found this necklace, I actually sat up and got excited. And when I noticed it was "only" $150 and that the artist is based in Los Angeles, I got even more excited.


But I was only excited until I realized that it's just the bottom strand that's $150 and there's no pricing provided on the combination option that I was actually drawn to. And I'm not paying $150 for this:


Also I was very upset to find myself drawn to this necklace (maybe for the wedding, maybe just for fun)...


...only to discover that it was inspired by a necklace Megan Fox wears, and about eighteen different versions of the knockoff design were all over etsy, along with Megan and her sexyface look photos. Really, I have nothing against Megan Fox (except that she's not really a good actress) but I don't want sexyface images marring my enjoyment of a necklace.

(I'd link to a shop, but there are literally dozens of search "megan fox necklaces" on Etsy.)

And lastly, why must my two favorite necklaces (so far) cost $275 apiece?


 

Guys, I want to support artists here, but I don't want to spend $300 to do it. Also, I want to stop dreaming about that Nicole Miller necklace, but it's very very difficult. On the plus side, I think five months is about how long it will take to scour all the options on etsy, so it's good I'm starting on the accessory process now.

Winner of the Williams-Sonoma Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who entered the Williams-Sonoma giveaway. I wish I could have given each and every one of you a gift card to Williams-Sonoma. Heck, I wish I could have received a gift card to Williams-Sonoma. But instead, I will be very content with getting happy for the giveaway's actual winner: NYC Recessionista!*  NYC Recessionista, please email me so we can coordinate about the prize! 


*For full disclosure, I selected the winner by counting each valid entry (and second entries for registry links), assigning them a number in order that you commented, and using Random.org to select a number from that list.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wedding Wedsite

We are getting into the nitty gritty of wedding planning and (shocker) it's not exactly a walk in the park. Whereas we've already had our share of tiffs (wedding look-and-feel, budget, ipod versus DJ, and guest list, to name a few) for some reason, those tiffs felt important to work through. Those tiffs helped us define a wedding that reflects our true joint vision for the day.

Unfortunately, our new tiffs are different. Our new tiffs are all about details that feel vitally important in the moment, even though we're both sensible enough to know better. I mean really, do eco-plastic plates and the color of our paper flowers really matter in the grand scheme of our lives? Apparently they do. But they still don't matter nearly as much as the wording on our wedsite. Obviously.

Oh the wedsite, the focus of all our current frustrations. Honestly, I've never been so irritated that Jason is just as creative as I am when it comes to writing. Trying to get two creatives on the same page about something as emotionally charged as their own wedding... arg. Just ARG. I've heard from other people that their wedsites were unimportant in the end, but  I've been a big fan of using friends' wedsites in the past. Oh, and because save the dates and RSVP cards were a non-priority for us and our budget, we're doing e-save the dates and wedsite-based RSVPs. So I feel like the wedsite might be more utilized, and therefore more important, than in other situations. Oh, and because we're just about six months out and really need to send save-the-date information, we really need to get our wedsite wording, hotel info, and other important information in order NOW, along with finalizing that guest list and tracking down emails.

Oh, and did I mention that we're doing this all on the cheap? Yeah. Cheap. We don't really like the free wedsites we've seen and we're not willing to throw $100+ at a paid option when we can build one ourselves on a blog, use a free email campaign program for the save the dates, and use google forms for online RSVPs. So far, we're tiffing about wording, stressing about hotel block research, trying to learn how to design a pretty and functional save the date in Mailchimp (which offers a free mass-email program if you have less than 500 email addresses, has invitation options that won't look like evite, the mass emails won't get caught in a spam filter, and we can use html and images to make it look very pretty and professional with links to our wedsite), and we're trying to agree on design and wording. Fun. Oh so much freaking fun. If anyone has any free website/save-the-date/RSVP technology or practical advice to help, we're all ears. Please.  

Yay September and that impending six-month-out deadline on October 3. Arg.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Date Night and Quality Time Realizations

I've never been a fan of the terms "date night" and "quality time." I was even a bit smug about it, thinking "I don't need to set aside time for dates. We have fun together all the time. We get out and adventure around LA and the surrounding areas regularly. We hold hands and make fluttery eyes at each other all the time. Date night is for people who find themselves in a rut. Date night is for people who rarely have the privilege of getting to spend so much fun time with such a compatible partner. Date night is for people who have to schedule in reminders for fun and romance. In other words, date night is for other people (the poor saps)."

Can you tell there's a comeuppance coming? 

 It took a while to realize just how little quality romantic time we've been spending together, because we spend so much quality other time together too. Usually, our calendar is booked up months in advance, but we're spending most of those booked weekends together. Unfortunately, those booked weekends together don't mean that we're truly making time for each other over the scheduled activity. And suddenly, during our vacation in Oregon, it hit me just how much I've been missing Jason, even though we see each other all the time.

We've fallen into the patterns that are easy for most couples who are living together: much of our shared time is spent is spent engrossed in our various projects, getting things done around the house, or planning out to-do lists and coordinating schedules. Yes, there are concert nights at the Hollywood Bowl, dinner parties with friends, stories about our week over Thursday night dinner, and hikes in the nearby mountains, but somehow we've been losing sight of the romance.

Despite all the hand-holding and schmoop woven throughout all that weekend and evening time together, we haven't really set aside real chunks of savor-the-relationship time. We haven't had date nights that end the way date nights should. We've had date afternoons that rushed into dinner obligations. We've had dinner obligations that run until midnight and leave us exhausted when we get home. We've shortened our dinner conversations to rush back into side projects, equally worn out by our hectic lives and long workdays. We've allowed ourselves to drink too much wine during at-home Friday night TGIF dinners that lead to collapse in front of our favorite TV shows instead of collapsing elsewhere.

That calendar full of do-it-together activities distracted us from what's really important about setting aside time. We were reminded that an uninterrupted stretch of nothing whatsoever can feel divine as we held hands while exploring the Alberta District in Portland, trying to decide on a restaurant for dinner. We shared something more important than a must-see concert while drinking wine and eating cheese at Kings Estate winery outside Eugene. We reconnected during a wordless afternoon as we sat on a seaside cliff in Yachtas, taking in the view of the beach below, reading books under the late summer sun. We promised ourselves that we need to remember what our vacation felt like, and that we're going to take a little bit of our vacation home.

So we're scheduling in a once-a-month date night/afternoon. It's like a mini-vacation from our everyday. It's a time to remember and reconnect and savor. We're not really picky about whether it's a dinner, a street fair, or a simple walk through a park, so long as we give ourselves a real stretch of uninterrupted time and - this is key - we have to promise not to schedule anything afterwards. Our time can't be bookended by work, projects, wedding talk, family talk, or stress and to-do list obligations. Because date night is about "quality time" and I finally get it now.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Post-Vacation Thoughts

We just arrived back from a trip to Oregon late last night, and I think it's going to take a few days to readjust to our post-vacation to-do lists and overloaded email inboxes. Added to that is tonight's start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, so forgive me if posting is light for the next few days. Any thoughts about weddings have been crowded out about much more important musings on future vacations, how to better live for today, and my goals for the next year. We have a lot of big, scary, wonderful changes coming our way in the next few months, and I'm just trying to take it all in right now.

So, while I sort myself out, please remember to sign up for the $150 Williams Sonoma giveaway. The contest ends tonight at 6pm PST, so head on over here to enter.

And to all my Jewish readers, L'Shana Tova. And to everyone, I wish you an amazing next year.

Yachats Beach on the Oregon Coast

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Combating the Photo Crazies

The crazies have been hitting full-force lately. Wedding crazies. Life crazies. And, for me, the I’m-not-pretty crazies. I didn’t realize it until all the self-deprecating language crept back in, despite working so hard to move beyond it and keep it at bay. The “I’ve gained ten pounds” panics have been making headway, which only hit me when Meg left this comment on my engagement picture post the other day. 

“I'm going to make you officially shut up about ever saying anything bad about your looks ever again. CROWS FEET? Whatareyoueventalkingabout? That's face scrunching. ALL THAT OTHER STUFF YOU SAY ABOUT YOUR LOOKS? WHAT? Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? Sof*ckingprettytheend.”

Um, yes. And, if I remember correctly, I sent a very similar wake-up message to my soc*ckingprettytheend girlfriend a few months back. And I ended my email with the line “Now I'm going to save this email to remind myself when the inevitable crazies hit on my end.” 

Well, the crazies have hit and I went to re-read that email. And it helped. It was a reminder that I was braver and smarter about things after my boudoir photo shoot in which I (very privately) pranced around in unmentionables and felt beautiful. It was a reminder that I am still this brave and smart, when I let myself believe it. So, as some of you head into wedding season and as I continue to battle with general life demons, I thought that sharing this “shut up you’re awesome” email and photo-prep advice from my wiser six-months-ago self might be helpful for someone other than just me. Just replace the word “boudoir” with “wedding” and I think there are a few glimmers of wedding-crazy truths for a few of us. 

This is saddest line I will ever type - I've felt fat every single day of my life. Period, end of story. I will always be a fat girl, even though I'm healthy now. It's sick, and it’s the mental battle I fight each and every day. Somehow, I put it so far out of my mind at the boudoir shoot that it didn't register. But I'm still "fat." Which is insane. You've seen me. I'm not fat anymore. I just have a sick leftover mentality. So starve the sickness on your wedding - not by literally starving yourself, but by treating yourself well and therefore shutting it out. By appreciating you and giving yourself (non-food) presents and taking care of your health. I swear, in combination with your partner and wedding day joy, that's all you'll need to feel like the best version of yourself that has ever lived.
I want to shake you until you see how beautiful you are, even though I know it probably won't work. It shouldn't surprise me any more that beautiful women don't see themselves clearly, but you're so pretty. Really and truly. At the enviable weight you are. When I met you, all I could think was how stunning you looked. Not five pounds from now, not with different hair, not with different makeup - just now. Stunning, just now. 

I know you know it. But I also know there's a difference between knowing and knowing in your core. You said you exercise and eat healthy food and it shows. And dieting deprivation only leads to binging and unhealthiness later, so you know you’re on the right track with healthy choices. And some days you’re happy with yourself and some days, without any seeming change in context, you’re not at all. I just wish there were a way to make the "happy with yourself" stick during all the contexts.

I don't have any earthshattering advice here as you prepare for wedding-looks fears and wedding photo fears. But I do know the panic I had to face down before going into my photo shoot. You've seen my Facebook photos. You've seen that they, um, aren't really all that flattering. Even at my slimmest, I'm not usually photogenic. When I gain weight, my features get lost. I'm not one of those women who can be large but pretty. [Ed note-to-self: shut up Becca, you’re sof*ckingprettytheend]

I'm better now than I have in a while, but all the issues are still here, ready to rear their ugly head. And I knew that, so I used the boudoir shoot to try and combat those issues and calm me the f*ck down about the wedding. And it worked. So here's my "wedding routine" advice via my boudoir-shoot prep experience. It's nothing special, just sensible living and a few tiny boosts that made me FEEL amazing going in. No dieting. No self-hatred. No nothing special. Just a focus on feeling great.

I started my process by searching out a ton of boudoir photos and found that the best ones were all where the women felt confident - even at reaaaaaally heavy weights. Not kidding. 100% true, cross my heart. The best set of photos I found were of a strong, confident, larger women who rocked it. And so, I started chasing confidence and not a perfect body or crazy dieting. Just me, as I am, but at my best. It made all the difference in the world.
  • I was pretty strict about my long-term Weight Watchers monitoring for the two months before. I stuck with simple non-processed, non-hormone foods in sensible portions during the week, and allowed myself either one splurge night on the weekend (dinner and drinks) or two nights of drinks. Yeah, you get splurges on Weight Watchers and I used them all and loooooved them. I think the splurges were key.
  • I exercised 4x/wk, bumping up my toning. Not a big shift (ok, maybe a shift from 2 or 3x per week)
  • I cut alcohol and sodium for five days before the shoot (Monday - Friday). The sodium near killed me, but the steamed veggies, garlic, and basic chicken thing was do-able for a few days.
  • Facial 10 days before. My skin is always problematic, and I splurged. Yes I did, because it gave me confidence. I also had my eyebrows waxed, so there.
  • I gave myself a mani/pedi the night before and stayed in with tea and a movie and snuggles. It felt nice.
  • I got fake eyelashes. Turns out, I can't apply them worth sh*t, but my hairstylist could.
  • Yeah, I got a hairstyle that day. Whatever. It was worth it to not mess with my nervous blowdrying attempts with my fine finicky hair and the eyelash application was a free bonus.
  • My girlfriend did my makeup that morning while I drank wine and listened to Jason's mix CD. It was divine and I relaxed into the moment.
  • I decided I didn't give a damn and wanted to have fun. And I did.
  • I had another glass of wine.

I looked amazing. I've never looked like this before or after, and it wasn't because my body rapidly shed weight and became “perfect.” In fact, it didn’t change all that much at all.  But I felt better, and so I looked better. It was just the feeling of treating myself well, treating myself with a few not-super-expensive niceties, and some non-deprivation, healthy eating in the weeks beforehand.

Little old ordinary me was transformed with basic prep and the simple feeling of believing in myself and being willing to have fun. That's it. And that’s how I know that you'll be transformed on your wedding too. I didn't even have the emotion of a wedding behind me, just a sensible approach and a great photographer. Please believe me. You're beautiful already. And on your wedding day, your have the added bonus of joy that will transform any ordinary bits into their most extraordinary beauty, lit up from the outside in.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Celebrations: I F*cking Rule

Jason and I have a personal ritual. At the end of the day, all snuggled up together in bed, we have to tell each other the best moment of our day. It might have been an average day. It might have been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. And it might have been stupendously awesome day (fingers crossed.) Regardless, there's always a best moment. A moment that, if you search for it long enough and if you focus your mental energies on that bright spot, can turn a day around and welcome in the serenity of good sleep. It can remind you that the terrible horribleness doesn't have to win.

So I've decided I need to do that with weddings planning. And I've decided that wedding planning needs something stronger than a snugglable reflective moment. It needs a H*ll Yeah! moment. Or, to use a phrase from our house, an "I F*cking Rule" moment. Just imagine cheering "I f*cking rule!" while pointing at yourself and doing a mini victory dance for your wedding accomplishments.  Maybe you finally finished making, addressing, and stamping your invitations and getting them in the mail. Maybe you finally told an insistent family member "No" and they finally heard you. Maybe you finally realized that saying "Yes" was a better idea than "No" because the X doesn't really matter to you anyhow, and your soul is now lighter for letting it go. Yeah. You f*cking rule.

And, in taking a cue from the brilliant blog about body image acceptance journeys called Eat The Damn Cake (oh trust me, I do), I'm going to add a weekly "I F*cking Rule" moment about self-image too. In Kate's words, this would be an "unroast, aka something I like about the way I look that day, and why I like it." Because, as she points out, "it’s absolutely absurd that I, or any other woman, should have to waste time feeling unattractive" And yet, somehow weddings in all their absurdity create all sorts of time-wasting obsessions about attractiveness. (Because clearly, that's the important part about a day in which you're publicly committing to your partner for life.) So no more. Because you f*cking rule.

Goodness knows, this wedding cr*p can weigh us down with both stress for the mounting to-dos (that we're all obviously doing "wrong," or at least not "right" enough for someone else) and self-hatred for not being enough.  The wedding is a constant slew of not-enoughs: not enough money, not enough weight loss, not enough time, not enough creativity, not enough energy, not enough seats in the venue, and generally just not good enough at all. Well, enough with all that. I f*cking rule and so do you. So let's take a few moments to celebrate it.

Here's why I f*cking rule this week:
  • I contacted an important family member to ask for more involvement in the wedding. I think this family member wants it, and I want it, but neither of us were bringing it up. So instead of sitting here wondering, I finally contacted this person to open a dialogue.
  • I'm on vacation right now. I'm savoring a real, honest-to-goodness vacation in someplace neither of us have ever been (Oregon). And we're taking an honest-to-goodness vacation from any and all wedding talk during these five days. It is glorious.
  • Yes, I have crows feet. Most of you got very upset with me in the comments on Monday for discussing my crows feet by exclaiming "WHAT? You don't have crows feet? Those are smile lines! I don't see what you're talking about. I wouldn't have noticed them if you didn't say anything." And so on. But here's the thing: I like my lines. Call them crows feet or whatever, but they are very clearly lines that mark years of smiles. I didn't mention them on Monday to be self-deprecating, but because they genuinely surprised me. I could swear my skin was smoother last week. And yet, how can I complain? They are my proof of a life well-lived and a life worth living. For those of us who are wary of botox, these sorts of lines are an inevitable part of aging and proof that I've made it here. That I've left behind those challenging years in my 20s and that I'm closer to who I want to be. That I've hopefully learned from a bit too much sun, a few too many late nights, and an unfortunate ex-smoking habit. But they are mostly just proof that I like to smile through it all. And posting my honest, unretouched photo, with my smile lines front and center, was strangely powerful. For someone who hates photos of herself, let alone prominently imperfect photos, this was a big moment in admitting that I can like myself, imperfections and all. 
How about you? Feel free to go anon if it's safer, but also feel free to let it out so we can all cheer for your I F*cking Rule accomplishments.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sponsorships, Thank Yous, and Explanations

Some of you may have noticed I had a sponsored post yesterday. Given that this was my first ever sponsored post, from a blog that is mostly personal and not really about selling stuff at all, you all deserve an explanation. And context, because context is always nice. So, to clarify and contextualize: I've been offered sponsorship opportunities before that I've turned down, so I had to think long and hard about taking on yesterday's sponsored post. I ultimately decided to go for it for two main reasons:

1. I genuinely love Williams-Sonoma. Like, in an unhealthy way. The giveaway was something I personally would have loved to win, so promoting them on this site feels honest. Should I decide to take on any sponsored posts in the future, I can promise you I will only ever promote companies and products that feel right to me.

2. I was excited to offer something great back to you. You guys stop by here regularly to comment on my wedding/life-planning musings. You email me when I'm down. And you all voted like crazy in the recent Wedding Channel contest in a way that still makes me a bit weepy with joy and gratitude. I jumped at the chance to offer something amazing back to you, after all the support you've given me. If I ever take on any sponsored posts again, you can be sure that I'm thinking about whether it's worthwhile for you guys.

And that's it. I kinda like that this is a personal space and I don't have to think about whether my blog content might rile up potential advertisers. It's entirely possible to be ethical in choosing advertisers who you support and who entirely support you, but it's a hard line to walk. I know a few people out here in blogland who do it incredibly well, but it takes a ton of hard work. And so, I promise you that, on any future sponsored posts, I will continue to monitor that line. I will only promote opportunities/products/companies/artists that I love too. I will only have sponsored posts of things or people that I would lovelovelove to have at my own wedding. And I'm not going out of my way to find those sponsored posts, because that's not really what this blog is about. If great things come my/our way, then great. And if not, then that's great too, and I'll continue to talk about opportunities/products/companies/artists that I love simply because I love them, and not because they paid me. I will always distinguish a paid-for-but-honest-love by designating it as a "Sponsored Post." Anything else, you can assume it's just an honest-love-without-pay situation, which is generally where I feel most comfortable anyhow. This is a personal blog, above all else, and not a business. 

In a similar vein, some of you have asked me about the "sponsors" on my sidebar. And so, I need to clarify something about those pretty logos and images: they aren't sponsorships, they are links to our fabulous wedding team that I lovelovelove. Have I received discounts?  Yes and no. We paid full price for our photographer (though we were lucky to book Kelly Prizel before her 2010 rate increase, back when she was waaaay underpriced for her talent. But that's a "discount" any savvy shopper could have secured.)  We received a discount for our fabulous DJ, the Michael the Human Jukebox of The Flashdance wedding collective, but we're still paying more than the going rate for most Los Angeles DJs and I'm pretty sure the discount was only possible because we're getting married on a Sunday.  We also received a discount from Sweet Emilia Jane because she's a friend and she refused to properly price her talent back when we first started talking about DOC stuff (again, this was before the wedding world got smart to how amazing she is, so we're getting a steal of a deal. And I'm tipping her heavily, because DOC-ing is haaaaaard work.)

In other words, I'm not blogging here for the money and so this blog will never just take any old sponsorship. And I will continue to promote our Wedding Team members, every one one of which we chose because we lovelovelove them and not because they were inexpensive. I'm pretty insistent on paying a fair rate and promoting our wedding team talent, because I know how hard it is to make it as a small business owner and I believe in how great they are.

So in conclusion, this is a personal blog with occasional gushing about wedding folk I lovelovelove, and possibly some occasional gushing about wedding folk I lovelovelove who have ALSO have paid or discounted me some nominal amount. That's it. Thanks for reading. And now I really hope you can go and benefit from the amazingness over at the Williams-Sonoma giveaway or by wasting entirely too much time over at Kelly, Michael or Emilia's sites. Because it's entirely worth it, I promise. Because I couldn't feel good about myself if I didn't believe in the people supporting my wedding or my site.