Saturday, April 30, 2011

Changes Around Here

Over the next few weeks, you may notice some changes around here. It's not a major overhaul, just a bit of a spring cleaning. A freshening up. Making room for new photos, new ideas, and this next phase. I've been hoping to do a full-scale redesign and transfer to wordpress for a long time, but I simply didn't have the energy or resources before the wedding. And now that I'm realizing the scale of the project, I've given myself six months (and the possibility of bringing in help.) But I needed to get started now.  The completely out of date blogroll has been distressing me for a long time. The crowded columns and messy design physically hurt. So now that I can finally breathe again, I've begun moving things around.  I deleted my blog lists while I figure out how to update them and where they should go.  I'm deciding how to organize and add new resource lists. I'm muddling through how to make room for the next-step growth of the blog without tying the structure too closely to weddings.

This is definitely a transition time. I have my wedding recaps, of course. But after that, I have to work through the real changes. I have to figure out what this blog becomes as my focus shifts away from the wedding and towards simply living. I don't want this blog to simply limp on, unsure of what to talk about now that life is more ordinary and as my projects and goals become smaller and less lifecycle-event-universal. Without the wedding as a given topic, with all its intense analysis, the need for an emotional outlet, and the ridiculous stories along the way, I need a new structure and focus. I need a purpose, or at least an outline for weekly topics. I need a new perspective on what this space is and where my life is going. I have a few ideas and initial thoughts, but my guess is I'll have to actually try things out, and possibly flail and stumble a bit, before I find my way. I hope you'll be patient through the growing pains. If you were only here for the wedding musings, I understand and wish you all the best as you move on. It's time for me to move on too. To find new journeys and musings. 

It's big stuff. These are big questions. Today's changes are just a start. A teeny step forward by brushing away the old and making space for something new. The redesign and refocus may take a while, but I wanted to crack things open now. To clean up the dusty corners and stagnant sidebars. To let in the light.  

 Personal photo of a heat cave formed by the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala

Friday, April 29, 2011

Story from the Spanish Royal Wedding

For some reason, the United States gets itself in a tizzy about British royal weddings. I find this odd, since many of my English friends and British family seemingly couldn't care less (I mean, we all like the hats and dresses, but as for the wedding and the royal family... meh). But Americans generally go nuts for it. I think some part of us yearns for the celebration of a wealthy wedding imbued with exquisite blue blood class. For something more than celluloid celebrity weddings covered in People Magazine.  For a hint of the princess playground games of our youth. I'm sure I could find some other fluffy socio-psychobabble rationales, but the truth is I don't understand the obsession myself (except about the hats and dresses. And also the excuse for scones and tea parties). It's not that I hate the royal hubbub - in fact, I'm fascinated by it. However, I'm also not that interested in devouring royal wedding information itself, possibly because princesses were never my cup of tea. (For reference, one of my favorite childhood novels was The Ordinary Princess*, which was about as un-princessy as you could get. But she was still, you know, a princess. So maybe it's that I'm ambivalent?) 

Anyhow. Royal weddings. It turns out the United States doesn't get into a tizzy about all royal weddings, just British ones. I learned this when I lived in Spain, while their prince (Felipe) was also marrying a commoner (Letizia) in 2004. Do you recall that wedding? No? If you're from the United States, that's not surprising. If you're European, it's possibly because you're immune to the parade of royalty and their weddings (it turns out there are a ton of royals. Many are of marriageable age and attractive... or at least of marriageable age. I learned all about them from Vanity Fair articles written in the lead up to the Spanish Royal wedding).

I might have been immune to the Spanish Royal wedding insanity, except for several things:
  • I was an English Language teacher. It was my job to involve students in engaging/controversial conversations that would push them to want to use/practice their English and to force them to write opinion arguments for essay exams. The pro/anti-royalty current events were seemingly tailor made for English teacher speech and essay prompts.
  • Letizia had been a prominent TV journalist before the prince proposed. She had also been married and divorced before meeting the prince (Que horror!) She was also stunningly attractive. The press and public ripped her to shreds over the her divorce and whether she had inappropriately used her looks (and insinuations of more) to her professional advantage. My feminist hackles went into overdrive. My favorite trashy women's magazines were having intense debates about the pro/con of a commoner princess who could relate to their shopping trips at Zara. It was all much more fascinating than posh Catherine Middleton and her boring propriety (that college fashion show dress doesn't count).
  • I lived in the heart of Madrid, less than a kilometer from the procession route.
  • I lived in the heart of Madrid, a city that hadn't seen a royal wedding in about 100 years due to the Royal family's expulsion. It was a royal wedding extravaganza, any possible controversies be damned.

I have nothing insightful to add about the royal wedding talk (What?! It's Friday! Cut me some intense-post slack.). But I DO have a royal wedding story that still makes me giggle. So you know how there's been an explosion of ridiculous and even disturbing Royal Wedding souvenirs? (I can't decide which is worse: the bedsheets or the, um, specialty ring).  Right.  People like souvenirs. I understand that. The classier people buy fancy official china, some buy ashtrays with Will and Kate's faces, and some people want to literally take home a piece of the royal wedding. What you learn, living along the procession route, is that the entire route (and city, quite frankly) is completely refurbished and decorated in preparation for the wedding. Streets are cleaned and repaired. Public signs are repainted. Art installations are added to every light pole. Special lights will illuminate the public fountains. Flowers are planted in every conceivable plant-like receptacle on every public street and park. And someone will try to steal every one of them: signs, art installations, lights, and flowers.

Just as quickly as the flowers were planted, they disappeared. New flowers were planted. Those disappeared. I started seeing extra cops on the streets, but there were too many flowers, too much indifference on the part of cops, and way too many eager royal wedding souvenir thieves. By the week of the wedding, the city was a cemetery of dead flower beds and pots stripped bare of even their original sparse blooms.

It was only then that I realized how extensive the souvenir impulse truly was. Two days before the wedding, I was up early for a private English tutoring lesson before business hours. The normally busy city center was mostly empty (Spaniards aren't known as morning people.) The only other woman on this particular street was an old senora. She was maybe 75-ish, dressed conservatively, walking slowly and with effort. I saw her shuffle over to some now ravaged flower beds, examining each one. No flowers were left. Undaunted, she paused for a moment before pulling a ziplock bag and plastic spoon out of her purse. Her eyes did a quick scan of the street. Convinced the coast was clear, she began to rapidly shovel dirt into her plastic bag, intent on taking home a memory - any memory - related to the royal wedding. Even if it was just dirt that had touched the now-stolen flowers that were supposed to have graced the royal wedding procession.

As she hurried off, grasping tightly at her precious plastic baggie of dirt, I swear I saw her shimmy a bit.

*Princess Amy (nee Amethyst) was transformed from princess-pretty into "ordinary" looking by a scorned fairy, developing mousy brown hair and a snub-nose. But she had more fun than the pretty pretty princesses by climbing the castle walls to have adventures in the forest. She ran away when they tried to force her into marriage. She got a job, hid her princess roots, and was just pretty kick-bum overall. She was the princess after my own heart.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Learn to Say Yes

I had to learn how to say yes. Which is a lot harder than saying no. You may feel like you’re giving a piece of yourself away. Like your wedding is shifting and changing and like your voice isn’t being heard. And those things are both true. Your wedding will change. And your voice won’t always matter, once you give the go-ahead to others. On the important things (you know what those things really and truly are) put your foot down. Hard. And on the other things... the things that make you kind of uncomfortable and don’t really fit with you vision but don’t really matter in the grand scheme... give in. 

I found myself reflexively saying No after working so hard to protect all the important things upfront and after  having to fight for my less traditional wedding. Saying yes had became hard. Yes felt uncomfortable. I had to start asking why I was saying no, because I didn’t always have a good (enough) reason. And I had to learn to give in and give away pieces of my wedding - sometimes in ways I was VERY uncomfortable with (and had good reason to be uncomfortable with) but which were worth it, because something larger was at stake. I had to learn that generosity mattered more.

Let other people contribute. Allow other people to be a part of your wedding, even if it’s not the exact way you would have wanted. People want to be generous, although their generosity may rarely line up with the ways in which you thought you wanted or needed generosity. But generosity is an amazing thing. It gives heart to a wedding. It helps your community feel like they’re part of your day, like they've helped build something special (which they have) and it increases their joy, and therefore your joy, in the wedding. It brings you all together. So learn to say yes. Say no when it matters (we said no a lot) but yes is sometimes harder and more important.

I was predisposed to say no. I got used to saying no, to protecting myself and our wedding in necessary and vital ways. And I couldn’t be more grateful that I also leaned to say yes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Hell of a DIY Wedding is in the Logistics, Not the Crafts

This is what a DIY wedding looks like when it takes over your apartment. And it will take over your apartment. Also note that we had another 16 boxes of wine/beverages/etc hiding in our garage.

If you're planning a DIY wedding, expect to not sleep much in the month beforehand. Expect to cry a lot. Expect to be frayed to the edge of your limits. It can be more than worth it, when you add up the savings: my rough back-of-the-envelope calculations say I saved at least $10,000 planning our wedding the way we did, over a comparable 150 person Los Angeles wedding. And since we didn’t have another $10,000 to spend, and because we made our spendy(ish) decisions for important reasons, our DIY choices were necessary. But we paid for them in blood, sweat, tears, and time. This wedding took ahold of our sanity and shook it hard. We fought more than we ever have before, often at 10pm while looking ahead to a week's worth of wedding tasks on our to-do list, and stupidly making a frustrated offhand emotional-blackmail comment about the wedding (possibly related to the guest list. Or ongoing bitterness about how expensive this stuff is. Or how one of us didn’t feel supported. Or something related to a conversation with a family member. Or anything, really.)

The truth is that a DIY wedding is hard. Really really hard. I had the benefit of having planned large corporate events and tradeshows, but this was harder. This was done without staff, without fancy event management tools, in the late night hours, after a full day at work. This was done with a layer of emotional volatility that never gets invested in my job's alternative fuel events. This was done without the benefit of trying to bring on more sponsors to expand the budget. In fact, this was done in a way where I had to freak out about every penny and find more ways (read: more time) to do even things ourselves to make this feasible.

We didn’t set out to have a handcrafted wedding because of aesthetics. That's what we ended up with, but  it was primarily a budgetary decision that ended up teaching us that "handcrafted" goes well beyond crafts and into the forged-in-fire nature of the day itself (especially because we chose a  non-traditional venue.) We had to work hard as hell so we had money for the things that mattered (a Jewish wedding, an amazing DJ, catered dinner, cleanup staff, shuttles because the venue didn’t have parking). Of course, we also decided on a few Projects That Mattered (which were probably a bit nuts, but oh-so-worth it in the end). Overall, we had to be really smart about what we undertook, making our choices by asking:
  1. Is it cheaper than hiring someone?
  2. Do we have time and ability/skills to do this?
  3. Are there any time-saving shortcuts we can take, even if it costs a little bit more (at some point, time became more valuable than money, but our bottom-line budget was always important)
  4. If none of the above apply, is there an important emotional reason to undertake this project?
Here’s a quick rundown of the physical make-it projects we undertook.
  • Chuppah (designing, painting, constructing)
  • Candle Jars (cleaning and painting)
  • Flower Jars (cleaning and painting)
  • Program (Research Jewish traditions. Write program text. Design it. Let Staples print and fold it.)
  • Centerpieces (Determining centerpiece cluster design, planting succulents, printing table numbers with important prose and poetry, getting flowers at the flower mart, arranging flowers the morning-of)
  • Sangria
  • Placecards (this was a huge project I'll discuss in a different post)
  • Invitation labels and stamping
  • Designing and Making our Return Address Stamp (via Vistaprint)
  • Welcome Packets (with wedding weekend info, timelines, addresses, and around-town info)
  • Website (visual design, content)
  • Save the Date email
  • Ceremony

That list doesn't seem so bad. In fact, it seemed like a sane number of DIY projects when we committed to them. But the truth is, THIS is the rundown of the true DIY work that went into making our wedding happen:
  • Become a wedding-fashion-self-stylist with no training whatsoever. Buy, sell, return way too many dresses, shoes, shrugs, and necklaces along the way. Learn more about fashion and your own personal style than you ever knew before this started.
  • Become an event stylist with no training whatsoever. Pour through blogs for inexpensive design inspiration, feel inadequate, run in the other direction, panic, and finally make do.
  • Develop a ceremony (pouring through the New Jewish Wedding, meet with our Rabbi multiple times to craft a traditional-but-egalitarian ceremony that resonated with us, find readings we loved, find ways to honor marriage equality, write personal statements to each other)
  • Take marriage preparation classes
  • Research venues, drive around town to look at venues, cry into wine because venues are waaaaaay too expensive in Los Angeles. Spend months trying to find decent options and decide nothing exists.
  • Somehow find an affordable, beautiful, flexible venue and realize that it is useless at communication and consistency but you can’t afford anything else. Gamble that the stress is worth the low-cost-and-beautiful payoff. Nearly give up on venue when contracting takes six months. Start reassessing venue search and cry again. Cry with joy when useless venue finally comes through. Cry with frustration when useless venue displays its utter uselessness in the weeks and days before the wedding.
  • Research affordable catering. Give up and head to a Food Truck Festival to find a tasty-but-affordable taco truck instead. Sigh with relief that the Border Grill Taco truck also has access to the Border Grill Restaurant's full-event catering staff and splurge on wait staff (for cleaning up) and a bartender.
  • Begin making ipod playlist. Give up when future husband finally convinces you that a DJ is the Splurge That Matters to him. Freak out about budget. Shuffle things and make it work.
  • Try out first dance songs. Pour through lists of options and your own relationship history, getting increasingly frantic. Finally find one by random chance on the radio as you drive away from a meeting with your rabbi. Refuse to rehearse any dances.
  • Agonize over ceremony music.
  • Arrange ceremony music and rehearse arrangements with awesome musician friends.
  • Try to figure out the plates/glasses/tables/equipment we needed to rent. Try to find an affordable equipment rental company (ha.) Miraculously find one on the far side of the city and visit so you can pick linen colors because the two of you can’t agree and need to see it in person.
  • Research every vendor on the black hole of the internet (venue, catering, photographer, shuttle, DJ, hair/makeup)
  • Interview multiple vendors and make decisions
  • Schedule vendor payments and reminders in the calendar
  • Follow up with all vendors for day-of contact info and logistics confirmations
  • Coordinate friend-help for cake, ceremony music, videography, sound, appetizers, set up, engagement photos, heavy lifting, and general wedding stuff.
  • Coordinate with friend to bake cookies for out of town guests. Research gift bags and recipes for cookies. Give up and go with future mother-in-law's pretzels instead. 
  • Coordinate with other friend for DIY appetizers. Research recipes and layout options. Get thwarted by conflicting work schedules, Costco's frustratingly early hours, and logistics. Consider hiring Border Grill for appetizers and get frustrated by costs. Research and make a salsa bar instead.
  • Make a chips-and-salsa buffet for appetizers so there’s something to eat during cocktail hour. Find a great hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant on Chowhound and order twenty pounds of salsa (six varieties). Buy organic chips at Costco. Find affordable, reusable, attractive servingware for said appetizer buffet
  • Guest list battles
  • Make e-save-the-date
  • Make wedding website (on wordpress. Free but time consuming when you have two writers in a relationship)
  • Set up online RSVPs with Google Docs (seriously, I need to write a separate post about how Google Docs is the best wedding planning software in the entire world.)
  • Update the budget obsessively
  • Make a Los Angeles Guide for out out of town guests (because I love playing hostess and showing off the non-obvious joys of Los Angeles. And because I’m clearly masochistic)
  • Consider DIY invitations, collect tons of design ideas, freak out about time/effort and find affordable, eco-friendly invitations we both liked instead
  • Find a cute flower stamp for invitation envelopes and other event paper goods
  • Stamp and label every invitation (Though in a moment of sanity, you decide to screw handwritten addresses or printing-on-envelopes in favor of easy, attractive, clear labels.)
  • Design return address stamp with BOTH our last names and purchase from Vistaprint after realizing no one makes address stamps for families with different last names. Grr.
  • Find a ketubah we both love, the first time you look for one. Find you are unable to trust your gut and therefore continue scouring ketubah options for days. Eventually buy the first one you fell in love with, from the first hour of the first day of your search.
  • Find a convenient, affordable, nice hotel and arrange a room block (affordable, nice hotels are a challenge in Los Angeles)
  • Research quantities of liquor, non-alcoholic drinks, and sangria recipes for large parties. Get conflicting advice from internet sources and various real people on quantities. Overbuy at Trader Joes and Costco (Costco took 2 trips).
  • 4 trips to Ikea for decor research, centerpiece items, signage frames, returns (I wish I were kidding)
  • 5 trips to Costco (This was especially fun when combined with Ikea shopping.)
  • 1 trip to BevMo before deciding Costco was cheaper for booze
  • Watch wedding stuff slowly seep out from the wedding storage closet into your living room, slowly taking over your apartment. Realize piles of wedding stuff can be a little bit claustrophobic and stress-inducing.
  • Start organizing wedding boxes in your apartment and realize you need to rent a uhaul.
  • Enlist friends to assist with uhaul loading, unloading, and next-day return (since you’re going to be on a honeymoon)
  • Two trips to buy succulents (which turned out to be an amazing experience, but was still two trips across town)
  • Plant succulents
  • Multiple trips to Staples and Paper Source upon realizing we hadn’t bought enough labels, we needed more recycled escort cards, and because our stamp ink was left open overnight and dried out.
  • Multiple trips to Party City (for photobooth props, napkins, appetizer servingware, white lights, unused pinata)
  • Buy honeymoon gear for backpacking travel
  • Research and buy Thank You gifts. Then realize you have even more thank yous and buy even more gifts.
  • Stamp, label, and write a personal note on every placecard
  • Send reminder emails (for the people who hadn’t RSVPed, to send shuttle info)
  • Make all logistics lists (to discuss more in a future post)
  • Make personalized wedding timelines for all important players
  • Make info packets for all Out of Town guests with important phone numbers, addresses, driving directions, times.
  • Coordinate with Jason’s Mom who is making her famous homedipped pretzels to give out at hotel.
  • Coordinate with my Mom to deliver packets and prezels
  • Figure out all tips and cash payments. Work out correct breakdown of $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills. Go to bank and drive home terrified with giant pile of money. Organize tips into labeled envelopes. Attach to day-of-clipboard
  • Figure out the seating charts (Grr. Arg. Ack. I found Martha Stewart’s tool just slightly less useless than the Knot’s. We needed to use software to play with options in our limited physical space/dimensions)
  • Rental car coordination after figuring out it would be cheaper and easier to rent the car than get a taxi to the airport for our honeymoon
  • Prepare for and run the rehearsal (including bringing copies of timelines, directions, readings, prayers, everything else)
  • Help Mom with planning family brunch, Friday night temple dinner, and welcome BBQ. Thank the deities for your amazing mother who is doing the majority of the planning/implementation for all of these peripheral events. Thank all of the family members who are helping to plan/pay for these events, because it would be out of your capacity otherwise.
  • Pack up your cats and bring them to Mom’s house
  • Pack for honeymoon
  • Pack for wedding
  • Obsessively check weather reports and lay out rain plan due to months of downpours
  • Lay out event clothes for: Brunch, Temple, Errand day, Welcome BBQ, set-up day.
  • Deal with useless venue being useless at the last possible moment and sending you into panic about your wedding being shut down. Thank the deities that you have electronic records of payments.
  • Try to get marriage license. Fail
  • Deal with hysterical cats
  • Get the Marriage License, for real this time.
  • Saturday morning 8am trip to the Flower Mart
  • Saturday trips to: pick up rental car, pick up uhaul, pick up B&B keys, drop off booze at venue.
  • Set up site on Sunday.
  • Get married

There’s probably a lot missing from this list. Oh well. We’re married. I don't want to think about it anymore.

There’s a reason people hire wedding planners. It’s because these tasks took over our weekends and evenings for the last year. In contrast, paid wedding planners take care of this. Wedding planners may cost a lot, but a great planner is worth their weight in gold, if you can afford it. We couldn’t afford a planner, so I had to learn all of this from scratch. I spent a lot of time chasing down information on internet rabbit holes, getting lost in wedding “shoulds,” in the emotions of inadequacy (my budget was too small, I’m not stylish enough, my wedding is too weird, I’m not thin/pretty/whatever enough) in the reactionary rage.  I got lost sorting through the conflicting information I found on rental order needs, alcohol needs, seating chart /spacing recommendations, and food orders. After haltingly making semi-informed decisions, I then had to overschedule our lives to actually get things done.

The other dirty secret of DIY wedding planning is the way STUFF takes over your life. We had to live in the middle of our horrendous, stressful wedding for the last month. I mean we physically had to live in the middle of all the boxes and piles and bags of stuff, which added another layer of mess-induced claustrophobia to the stress. It made us realize there's a reason people pay $25 a head for full bar service: it's so they don't need to do three shopping trips for booze and then figure out a way to store and transport 14 cases of beer, 11 cases of wine, 1 case of sparkling water, 3 cases of sparkling juice, and miscellaneous sodas.(and that's just the beverages. Let's not talk about the appetizers, decor, ceremony items, or everything else). If you're planning a DIY wedding, you either need a friend with a truck or you need to rent a uhaul (we got a cargo van. It was the right size.)

Was it worth it? It was, in the end. We made our DIY and splurge choices for well-thought-out reasons. We were lucky enough to be in a position to throw some money at the wedding and to be organized enough to compensate for the rest. That didn’t remotely make it easy or mean I wish we hadn’t received a fairy godmother gift of $10,000 to make the problems go away (though I would have been too cheap/stubborn to use it on a wedding anyhow). But in the end, we earned our wedding, a wedding that we ultimately loved and was really important for our families and our future, without spending any more money. Given how everything turned out, I'm starting to forgive and (sometimes) appreciate the challenges in getting here. I loved our wedding, for reasons that are much bigger and more important than a single day, and I feel like the hard DIY process was intimately bound up in the personality and joy of the resulting celebration. We - and our community - were so invested in each of our decisions that the success felt even sweeter.

I think we all need to find ways to justify our choices, especially when they caused so much pain and stress along the way. I wish things had been easier, but they weren’t.  But the wedding day itself was easy. And the glow from a day brimming with so much love, support, and enthusiasm is already dulling the pre-wedding pains and fuzzing the edges of those challenges.

Please Help a Friend. Get Delicious Recipes Too

My family knows something about hospitals. Jason's family knows something about hospitals. Watching how Jason's family responded, as a unit and as individuals, to a family member's illness helped me trust Jason and his commitment to marriage, in sickness and in health. It helped me believe that he understood what marriage really meant, long beyond the (presumed) health of youth and a happy wedding day and into the dark times like long hospital stretches. It made me understand that he and his family face adversity with humor and courage. It helped me see who they are, at their core.

So for all these reasons, I am putting out a special request today: please support a friend and fellow blogger, Dana of the Brokeass Bride, as she works to manage her particular autoimmune disease.

Here's a bit about Dana's problem:
♥  When she was 19, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Uveitis.
♥  Her immune system doggedly attacks her eyes causing inflammation, visual disturbances and blurriness. It is incurable and will cause blindness if left untreated.
♥  She also has a very rare deep-tissue form of a disease called Granuloma Annulare, causing a different type of inflammation in er foot, for which she had surgery last year. It is so rare, she is unable to find a doctor who knows how to treat it moving forward.
♥  She's had 11 surgeries (8 of them in just the past 5 years), to control her diseases and their side effects.
♥  Last month her left eye came out of remission and she'll be having a 12th surgery.
Her surgeries and ongoing care (even with health insurance) have left piles of bills in their wake, and she is now at a point where, without help, she cannot pay for her medical care.

The amazing part about Dana is how little she is defined by her illness or the struggles to conquer them. She lights up a room with the sheer force of her warmth and personality. Dana was the first LA wedding blogger I found, waaaay back when we were first talking about getting engaged, who had actually planned an LA wedding on a teeny budget. And it wasn't a standard wedding - it was a celebration bursting with creativity, enthusiasm, and style due to Dana's incredible knack for turning obstacles into creative opportunities. I was inspired by her colorful, joyous, authentic wedding. And then I was even more inspired by Dana-the-woman and the way she generally approaches life with color, joy and authenticity. (Not to mention generosity and kindness too.)

I know something about illness and how it can make you stronger and more vibrant, even as it tears you apart. And I know something about Dana's vibrancy, both in her writing and in person. And I desperately want to help her afford to pay for her twelfth surgery so we can keep this illness from taking anything more from her and her family. I want her back again for her smart and sassy writing about living a stylish and fun life on a teeny budget (it's all in the attitude, yo.) And selfishly, I want her back for vegan pizza and wine nights. 

So Here's What Dana's Doing to Solve her Problem
♥  She’s compiling beloved comfort food recipes and the stories behind them from the most bad-ass bloggers and beyond… available in varying forms, in exchange for donations to her medical care.
♥  There are incentives for varying levels of donation, which you can learn about here.
♥  The recipes, photos and stories will be teased here on her Dishing for Dana blog, and once a donation is processed, a password to access the full recipes will be released to each donor.

The Goal
♥  $13,000 to cover her current medical bills
♥  $6,032 to cover her health insurance premiums for the remainder of 2011
♥  $2,000 to donate to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association toward helping others with autoimmune disease
For a total minimum of $22,000. 

Note that this does not include the costs that will be related to Dana's upcoming surger(ies) and ongoing care, nor for prescriptions or post-surgical supplies such as gauze and tape for her eye patch, or prescribed drugs to aid the healing process and protect from further inflammation and prevent infection, etc. 

The Details
♥  You can donate any amount you choose, no minimum, no rules. Because every quarter is a quarter more than they had yesterday. It all adds up.
♥  Dana will donate 10% of all proceeds up to her goal, to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, so every dollar contributed not only goes toward Dana's medical care, but also toward researching a cure to benefit everyone with autoimmune disease.
♥  Anything raised in excess of the goal will be split 50/50 with the AARDA – Dana's portion of which will be saved in a dedicated, interest-bearing account toward any future surgeries and ongoing medical care.

As of today, Dana's raised $8,320.96. She's almost halfway there. One month from today, she's having her next surgery. So it would be great it you could dig deep, find an extra $10, $25, $50 or more at the end of the month to help her tackle this surgery. Please take a look through the Dishing for Dana site, learn about the recipes (and the stories behind them) that her amazing friends in the blog community have shared… and please consider making a donation to this cause. And feel especially good when you cook up a batch of this mac n cheese. Or red-wine beef stew.

Thank you! 

What I Learned, or a Snippet Thereof

I learned a lot from planning this wedding. I learned that I'm stronger and more organized than I often allow myself to be. I learned new ways in which Jason and I are an amazing couple and areas we'll continue to work on for the long term. And yes, I learned a lot about weddings. Things I thought I knew, but which now are bone-deep knowledge. Things I had to really learn from experience. Answers that were just more clearly illuminated via this process.  

As I wait for all of our photos, instead of recaps, I've decided I'm going to write about these snippets of knowledge gained, and perhaps just share a few fun moments that happened along the way. This is my truth. Perhaps it won't be yours, or perhaps it will feel a bit familiar to you as well. But regardless, after this journey, these stories are the ones I have to share about our wedding.  

Photo by the immensely talented Kelly Prizel

Friday, April 22, 2011


One week ago, we were in Flores, Guatemala. The oppressive humid heat was finally tempering off, and the golden sunset over the lake allowing us to forgive the island's loss of electricity (and therefore cold drinks) during the terrible midday temperatures. We were about to head out for seafood, mango smoothies, and card games on a rooftop terraza as we planned for our trip to Tikal the next day.

The transition home - to everyday life - has been a bit rough, and yet entirely seamless. Rough, because I wasn't quite ready to walk back into late nights at the office. And seamless, because life with Jason has always been comfortable and easy. We're home, easing back into a life we lovingly built together  over the last several years. We're starting to fill our calendar with promises we made on the honeymoon instead of wedding to-dos (except for the thank you cards. Those are actually a pretty giant to-do) and it feels right. We're happy to be home. We're happy to have had our adventures and thinking time throughout Guatemala. We're excited to begin living our promises to each other as we ease back into everyday, but now married, life.

The wedding recaps will come, I promise. But stumbling over the wedding words is harder than I thought. And I'm still waiting for the full set of photos from Kelly, which I think will help illustrate exactly what I'm trying to say. In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


We're settling in after the honeymoon, with the wedding glow still warming our hearts as we start to navigate this new-old life together.  I'm sorting through what to write and share but, at the moment, I can say that our wedding was worth it. That doesn't mean the wedding can gloss over or completely wipe clean the challenges, because getting here was harder and more painful than I ever expected and the month leading up to the wedding was... difficult. Without any exaggeration, that month was an excruciating tangle of stretched-past-the-limit stress, loneliness, under-addressed irritations, heart-hurts, and compromises that left me doubting the value of wedding (but never the marriage), all the way until I fell asleep the night before. (Some of the hard stuff was wedding-related and some was life-related, but the particular combination was simply toxic). 

And yet, from the first waking moments of our wedding day, there was true magic in the air. I'm not someone who believes in the intangibles and indefinables of fairy-dust magic but, really and truly, it was there, shimmering as it filled in the cracks and leaving a sparkle-sheen on everything it touched. Over the course of that joy-filled day, our wedding somehow became everything I'd ever hoped it could be.  And then it became more.  

Our wedding was vitally important.  It helped heal the wounds of the month before and it built something new and stronger that goes much deeper than a marriage license, a public ceremony, or an incredible wild-joy party. Our wedding mattered - both the process and the actual day itself - in ways I could never have anticipated and that I feel truly lucky to have experienced.

Our wedding was worth it. And now we're home, excited for the adventure that married life has already become, looking forward to the next challenges and joys.

Photo taken by my mother on her old point-and-shoot camera. And really, this simple image says everything that matters.