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Expectations don’t always meet reality (if you’re lucky)

17 Oct

Back in July, I evaluated myself on this low-maintenance, chilled-out bride scale. Since I’ve been married for nearly two months now, it’s time to admit just how unchilled I became minutes before I walked down the aisle. It had nothing to do with second thoughts. It was all about crowd control.

The afternoon of my wedding,  I started developing that glazed over look that propelled people to talk to me as though I were a teetering house of cards. It was a combination of not having slept enough plus everyone and my mother asking me to make a decision of some kind. The hairdresser, the photographer, and all former brides spoke to me in soft voices that let me know I seemed delicate. But things were fine; I was just ready for people to get in their seats so we could get this party started.

You know when you’re in a busy restaurant on a Saturday night and you’re ravenously hungry because for some reason you didn’t eat anything but a banana and a handful of granola all day? You still have to wait for a table, wait for your appetizer, and wait for your entree. This makes you anxious and heightens your hunger pains. All you want to do is sit down and eat. You aren’t nervous about your main course: you know you will savor every morsel. But the waiting….it makes you nuts.

On my wedding day, the venue was hosting a symphony performance complete with fireworks the same night so there were an extra hundred or so people mingling on the grounds. No big deal except that I had to walk among them in full wedding dress right before the ceremony for bridal party pictures. While my guests were arriving. Also fine except that people you know want to talk to you.

What they don’t know is that asking you to stop and pose for an impromptu photo and discuss the weather is the opposite of anything that will make you sane. So you are forced to ignore them, knowing that people who love you will understand. Which is absolutely the truth.

Except that I couldn’t get inside the building until said guests submerged themselves into those empty white chairs.

Photo: J. Kingston

I couldn’t get inside the building because guests were swarming the door trying to get outside for the ceremony. The last thing the photographer said to me when he left me was “they won’t start without you.” Here’s where I refrain from expanding on how the photographer and venue wedding planner set me up to fail. He tells me everything’s taken care of and she is…absent.

My bridesmaids formed a protective purple shell around me, trying their best to get me inside the building before the here comes the bride business started. People started gawking. Then smiling and waving and oohing and aahing and just when I think they’ve cleared the door and start to head inside, one bridesmaid warns me in a panic: NOT THIS DOOR!

  • photo: J. Kingston
  • You see, my groom was coming out NOT THIS DOOR. Cue visible symptoms of waxing panic. Moments before this I notice that my bouquet’s pistols (aka pollen Uzis) shot me in the stomach in the shade of mustard yellow. The culprit:

    photo: J. Kingston

    Initially I ignored the flower vomit. Big picture wise, it’s not about my dress. But then I couldn’t escape the well-meaning (rubbernecking) crowd; my attendants looked desperate to protect me from what was clearly about to turn into a full blown attack.

    A depiction of agoraphobia, fear of open or crowded public spaces

    The last thing I expected was to be spooked by a crowd, but my urge to escape was so strong that I felt trapped. Finally the venue wedding coordinator appeared motioning me to enter through her office door farther down the building.

    Where have you been all my panic attack, lady?

    Here’s where she redeems herself: I show her the dress and she reappears with a Shout wipe and bam, I’m an ivory tower once again. (My dress was ivory; I’m six feet tall…that might not work…)

    In the interim period of waiting for the stain cure, my sister (and matron-of-honor) tells me dutifully that I am still beautiful (despite the heavy breathing and panicky tears I’d been fighting). And in her pregnant radiance, I believe her. This is the same sister who found out she was pregnant one week before I told her I was engaged: she didn’t mention until later that she’d be needing a maternity MoH dress. She wanted to give me my moment.

    Bird's eye view of ceremony

    Just married!

    I realized earlier in this post that I’ve inadvertently woven a theme. The guests were swarming the door. My attendants were buzzing around me. Queen bee, anyone?

    Queens have attendants who groom and feed them. My husband tells me they even go on nuptial flights. Even funnier, they fly into drone congregation areas where they mate with 10-20 males.

    That part isn’t so romantic. There’s more I won’t mention other than to say drones die during intercourse.

    My husband is a beekeeper/entomologist and my source for all things insect. We gave in and incorporated this into our wedding:

    Our favors: honey we bottled ourselves

    Back of jars (husband's creativity)

    Bees & green orchids on the cake

    Bees love a flower.

    “Things have a way of working themselves out,” is a thing people say when you’re overwhelmed. The optimist in you agrees but part of you doesn’t believe it can be that simple. That panic attack gave me the chance to see how much support I truly had in my life. That’s what your family and friends do for you: they save you from falling down alone.

    Good luck charms

    At the rehearsal, Aaron found a four leaf clover. It wilted. The day of the wedding, my nephew found another one. Aaron wore it in his jacket pocket during the ceremony. I didn’t know about the second clover; I was too busy freaking out.

    “Things have a way of working themselves out.”

    After moving to Florida during a year of teacher layoffs, I was afraid, even a little lost. Then in the middle of October I got a full time teaching job at a good high school with a friendly staff. That’s the last thing I expected would happen.

    Lucky me.

    I’m a professional noncrafter

    12 Aug

    Before I begin, a little shout out to my regular readers (you know, all 15 of you): thank you for tuning in! It’s easy to blog away being pretty certain only my fiance and my mom are reading this (except I don’t even think my mom reads this; blog-a-what?)

    And I started this as a regular writing exercise with little or no expectations for it to be more than that. Then maybe two weeks ago, unsolicited, a former high school classmate wrote me a message on Facebook to tell me how much she enjoys reading my blog, noting that I still have the same sense of humor as I always did. And I think she’s smart and funny, so this gave me hope. And then last night one of my (almost former) colleagues told me she loves my blog, citing enough specifics that I believed her. When she mentioned my bit about shredding memories she had an “I felt that” expression on her face and this made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    After all, it’s a writing exercise I HOPE resonates with people. Or makes them chuckle, snicker, sigh, eyebrow raise, lean back in shock, or any reaction other than yawning. Unless it’s 6:00 am and you haven’t had coffee (but OMG, you’re reading my blog at 6:00 am? I love you while I’m still sleeping).

    So, comment, yo! Maybe my ego could use it because I have another friend who’s especially good at blogging and being hilarious and I envy her. Lots. And I will copy her as much as possible. Just kidding (not really).

    Now back to the title I’ve been teasing you with. I’m getting married in (gasp) 10 days, so I’m no stranger to wedding blogs and weddings sites. Most of them are ridiculous and are targeted at (as my friend aptly observed) high maintenance people. So I tried to go for the more organic ones for normal people. I found myself at DIY Bride, thinking I’d get some cool ideas; instead a got another dose of crafting insecurity. Khris Cochran (the self-proclaimed DIY Bride herself) started today’s entry (which was a review of the Glue Glider Pro) with “As a professional crafter, I…”

    (Record screeches).

    Did you just say professional crafter?  Let me explain.

    I’m a mover (and a shaker).

    I do things.

    Sometimes I avoid doing things.

    I am things.

    Sometimes I even create things.

    But I do not make things.

    I repeat, Kara doesn’t make things! (When I say this I’m using the intonation of Joey from Friends when he says “Joey doesn’t share food!” You’ve seen that episode, unless you never watch TV because you are reading instead. Or amateur crafting.

    Arts and crafts time at summer camp was the longest hour and a half 8-10-yr old me could imagine. Each minute felt like 10, each hour 100.  The days we weren’t making macrame anklets or candles (okay, I kind of enjoyed that), we got to go swimming. So while I was trapped in that screen porch-style room for 90 minutes making God’s eyes or keepsake lanterns, I daydreamed about the lake: frolicking on the beach, cannonball contests, and sinking the dock (where everyone stands on one corner of the floating dock and um, tries to sink it).

    I loved swimming.

    I hated crafts.

    Attention crafters: I do not hate you. In fact, I’m in awe of you (and always feeling inferior to you). Like most people, I hate stuff I’m really bad at. Math, gardening, painting, crafting.

    Some of you might know about the gardening craft party I was once invited to: talk about insecurity! I was sitting next to my artistic, craftastic, gardenista friend (also a bridesmaid) who is hand-painting an intricately-limbed tree onto a tiny pot while I’m using stamps.  And I couldn’t even do that! I told everyone my niece and nephew made the pot for me, but then I realized even they would not claim my smudged octopus and smeared seaweed.  I faired better in the gardening portion because I am good at following directions (when I’m paying attention and not cracking jokes to fight off my anxiety over failing at both themes of the party). Luckily my friends laugh at my jokes, so I had fun at the party.

    I think the swimming/crafting debate perfectly summarizes me as a person. Crafting requires a great deal of patience and fine motor skills. A patience I have only for words and people, and the kind of fine motor skills I have only for…opening a bottle of wine? I’m drawing a blank, here. See?

    This is a good time to point out that I failed the fine motor skill portion of  the ‘are-you-ready-for-kindergarten-at-age-4′ test. I blew it with block building. I could read but I couldn’t craft to save my life. Even at age 4, the experts knew I was doomed.

    So I went to private kindergarten at age 4, made some terrible art projects throughout my childhood, and then arrived at the sewing portion of middle school home economics. Humiliation ensued. While I wasn’t looking my parents threw away my “basketball,” because really, no one needs to see that.

    But I’ve made peace with my craft deficiency.

    To this day, I still dive into the pool, lake, ocean (well maybe not ocean). I almost never do the “ease in, not going to get my hair wet” method. It’s just not me.

    If I was a t-shirt I would say:

    “Life is short: Jump in!”

    This explains why I’m moving to SoFlo to meet new people and have a new life. Oh and marry someone who is very into arts and crafts. Comes from a family of crafters, in fact. He made his own beehive equipment. In high school, he made his dates’ corsages for dances. No, really, he was that cuter-than-cute guy. And I get to marry him!

    I told him my sister became extremely crafty upon having her children and he said “maybe you’ll do the same!”

    I wish I could be as crafty as my sister. Or his sister. Or his mom. Or anyone who is not me.

    Alas, I am the antithesis of the DIY Bride: Professional noncrafter, that’s me.

    Low-maintenance, chilled out bride?

    29 Jul

    With just over 4 months to plan our wedding, I didn’t think there was room for being high-maintenance. However, with all the crazy stories I’ve heard from friends and read online, I worried I would join the fray of bridezillas to whom so many cable TV shows are devoted. Shelia O’Malley’s blog post on this topic allayed my fears a bit. “Low-maintenance, chilled out bride,” she repeats. I tested myself on O’Malley’s qualifiers:

    1. “They want their wedding day to be a fun day for all.”

    I’m a people-pleaser. I’m also very “why can’t we all just get along?”  I will sacrifice my own comfort for everyone else’s fun (if I’m not careful).  Constantly revise the seating chart to maximize happiness for all? The RSVPs aren’t all in and I’m already doing that.  I constantly need intervention to stop trying to make everyone happy. So check plus on this one.

    2. “They want their bridesmaids to be comfortable.”

    As a former bridesmaid, I cared very much about this. It is impossible to find one dress that looks good on everyone. Possibly an A-line, but the trend always veers towards strapless satin sheath in the wedding world, and satin is not a forgiving fabric. One of my bridesmaids wore a previous BM dress as a Miss America costume for my Halloween party a couple of years ago. In gazing upon the powder blue, lace-laden two piece ensemble, I thought to myself: there must be a better way. After picking my colors from a t-shirt I own, I set out thinking my bridesmaids could all find green or purple dresses in their style, their preference. Then the questions on fabric and shades of purple arose and I realized “going it alone” may not be as laid back as I originally thought. So we ended up at Alfred Angelo for the sake of matching the color, and if you’re going that route, I highly recommend them. Not only do they have an endless number of styles, but they disguise themselves nicely as human beings unlike the sheep-herding salesman fare of David’s Bridal (who also spam you heavily). It’s to be decided if my ladies actually are comfortable, but this was 100% my goal. A for effort?

    3. “They want to make sure that everyone has a rocking good time.

    As mentioned in item #1, I live to ensure others are comfortable/having fun. So staying up until 3:00 am trying to make a DJ request list varied enough to please everyone’s tastes on the dance floor and not offend any guests made perfect sense to me. We did upset my 11-yr-old niece by banning the Electric Slide, but she’ll recover by dancing to literally everything else. Ah, resilient youth. Rock On.

    4. They themselves want to have a rocking good time.”

    I wanted to say ‘duh’ to this one. Who doesn’t want to have a ‘rocking good time’ on his/her wedding day? Apparently lots of people (see qualifier #4). No matter what goes right/wrong on the big day, when there is music, I will dance. When funny things happen, I will laugh. When a guest makes an inappropriate comment via microphone, I will also laugh. Honestly, if my dress ripped right in half, I’d still laugh. I am not worried about not having fun. Check plus plus.

    5. “They do not want to have a nervous breakdown because the flowers are salmon-pink instead of fuschia.”

    I’d love to make fun of this, but I had a moment of eggplant vs. grape anxiety. I picked eggplant purple from the fabric swatches, but most of the dresses my gals tried on were grape. And they were lovely. Then viewing those same dresses in ‘online eggplant’ gave me color choice remorse.  Computer monitors added an unnecessary blue tint to the purple. And then of course once I saw real dresses with real fabric? Freak out removed. Being on the 4-month plan, it was easy to write off any hue regret as frivolous, but I cannot tell a lie: sighs of relief over real life eggplant were real. And I heaved them. Check, please?

    Final Analysis: Low-maintenance? Yes. Chilled out? Only slightly.

    Wedding registry = ideal life, not real life

    7 Jul

    The iconic KitchenAid stand mixer

    Wedding registries aren’t for the life we actually live, but the life we wish to live. There’s something about getting married that makes us think we are going to become the next Julia Child. Take for example this Smithsonianized staple of the legendary chef’s kitchen.

    Now I know Julia Child discovered the art of French cooking late in life and made an entire career out of it, but I am not in this much denial. We elected not to register for this ‘must have’ item, as I know it will be a stylish reminder of how inadequate I am as a baker.  We always have the option to purchase our own later once we get heavy into pots de creme making. But in our real life, the only thing we bake starts with a mix.

    But here are a few things from our list that might be delusional.

    OXO Salad Spinner

    When I’ve gone to buy wedding gifts from a registry, this is the one I always laugh about. It makes sense, no one wants soggy lettuce. But to buy a device that spins the water off always seemed excessive to me–what’s wrong with good old-fashioned shaking? It’s so easy to buy the prewashed greens these days (and I’m a sucker for easy in the kitchen). But of course in my ideal life I’ll be growing my own greens in an organic garden and will need to wash and dry them in large quantities. Plus it does look fun to use, I’ll admit. Too much fun, I fear. I tend to get over zealous about new kitchen gadgets: I’ll start researching Spinner’s Anonymous in Florida just in case.

    Body Glove Snorkel Set

    For those of you who aren’t up to speed, we are moving to South Florida, so this isn’t a someday-when-we-take-a-honeymoon kind of gift. We could drive a few miles in any direction and arrive at the ocean. There are snorkel boats by the dozen. We could take a weekend trip to the Keys and see schools of blue tang surgeon fish, eagle rays and the like. We could get underwater cameras and document our aquatic finds on our very own snorkel blog!  That’s the great thing about ideal life, you can be that awesome. Or you can sit in the beach chairs we also registered for (which boast five positions, color me relaxed).

    Oster Flip Waffle Maker

    In my life before I met my fiance, this would have been the biggest delusion of them all. While the idea of strawberry waffles lightly brushed with powdered sugar sounds delicious and something I should serve at brunch with mimosas, I usually stick with fancy omelets. I used the  Belgian waffle maker in the dining hall at college, sure, but until I met my almost-husband, I hadn’t even made pancakes at home!  I love the taste of carbs drenched in maple syrup, but it’s a lot of effort for that many calories I guess. And I hate to use up all my carbs at breakfast, as I cherish eating them throughout the day. But my betrothed would eat pancakes or waffles every morning if he could (he’s a type I diabetic, so he has to plan ahead to eat them). And in our ideal life, I too will make stacks of perfectly browned waffles. I’m the one who requested we get the flip handle model (because it looks more fun to use). Plus we can always serve them with a tropical fruit salad (tasted my first lychee last week) and as I write this, Aaron is growing borajo seeds he ordered online to one day plant a tree. See, in ideal life we own a little SoFlo bungalow with a borajo tree growing outside that we gaze at while eating waffles from our lanai (just like they did on The Golden Girls, just exchange the waffles for cheesecake).

    Golden Girls on the lanai. RIP Bea, Estelle, and Rue.