Tag Archives: family

in which planning does not occur in a vacuum

Hey. Hey there. Long time, uh, long time no write.

So I was digging around in the admin area of this blog recently (don’t ask) and came across this draft post from May of 2010. That… was a long time ago! But… it was practically a finished post! That I never got around to publishing! So that’s fun.

You know what’s even more fun than an unpublished post? A published post.

So here it is. Taking you back to the pre-bridal-shower days in three, two, one

My mom called me up the other day. She had some urgent bridal shower business to talk about. I put on my frowny face and readied myself for a serious discussion.1

Wanna know what we talked about? Are you sure? Get ready….


“Maria,2” she said. “What about the dishes and utensils for the picnic lunch?”

“What about them?” I asked, dumbly.

“I am worried the plates you get won’t be heavy duty enough for the food,” she said.

“Uh…” I had no idea what to say to this.

“Because you don’t want the plates to start bending or folding from the weight of the food,” she explained.

“I can… I mean, I can make sure to get some heavy-duty ones,” I mumbled lamely, grasping at straws.

“But you don’t know what kind of food you’re having yet,” she reminded me, stridently. We had already established that she is Worried That I Haven’t Thought About The Food. And now the Plates. My God, will someone please think of the Plates?

Can I take a moment to point out that he bridal shower is over two months away.

Okay, well maybe I would pay extra if the plates looked like THIS. // Image credit paperchase.co.uk via Pinterest

“Have you thought about the color of the napkins?”

Yes, mom. The color of the napkins will be black, in honor of my cynical shower-planning heart.

No, I have to confess, I haven’t thought about any of these bridal shower details. None of them. Not a whit. Because for some crazy reason I was convinced it was as simple as going down to the local Whole Foods, looking in the glass case, pointing out some nice-looking edibles, and paying for them. Then, I’d go and pick out some sturdy-looking plates, utensils, and napkins with an eye toward price, not color.  Then I’d take all my stuff home and put it out on tables at the bridal shower and everyone would dutifully chow down on the grub and proceed to throw away the hand-selected plastic kitchenware and then we’d all, somehow, some way, move on with our lives.

But not my mom. My mom has Thoughts. She has Worries. She has Issues. She has Plans.

Plans about Plates. Plate plans.

And you know what? Sometimes, you just have to play along. Because even though you and your partner are the only ones getting married, you’re not the only ones involved. And the people involved frequently have different priorities than you do.

Sometimes you have to let things go.

Sometimes, you just have to think of the plates.

1 My mother can detect mockery long-distance.

2 She calls me Maria sometimes. No, Maria is not my given name. I’ve learned in these situations that it’s best not to ask.

some words of advice

In the interest of posting something that does not take me 239 hours to compose, I present to you: Things I can simply type from a written source! I’ll have you know that I scored 82 wpm on that typing test I took down at the temp agency. Who knew the keyboarding class I took in 10th grade would provide me with my most valuable career skill to date?

After the beau and I got engaged, my mother got to work scrapbooking. What she came up with was a collection of marriage advice from my family. She presented this book at the engagement party my family threw for us during our trip to Michigan last autumn, but it wasn’t quite done then. This week the finished book finally arrived in the mail, and I want to share with you some highlights.


“My thoughts as you begin your lifetime journey together:
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Things that seem like a crisis at the time often end up being nothing at all or slight bumps in the road. Concentrate on what’s important and always try to roll with the punches.
The most important thing, however, is to always make time to have fun. Doing things together that you both enjoy not only lightens the everyday load, it also keeps you close as a couple.
I’m very happy and excited that you have found each other (thanks Napoleon Dynamite!) and wish you the very best!”

– Mom

“From the kitchen of C&L!
The following ingredients are for the base of your recipe. You can add your own spices depending on your tastes.
C: Caring, Conscientious, Cuddly, Comforting, Cute, Creative, Curious, Crafty, Cozy, Consistent, Clever, Courageous, Crazy, Cheerful, Cocktails at the end of a long day!
L: Love, Laughing, Listening, Learning, Light-hearted, Loyal, Lounge, Lover, Lighting, Lazy, Live every day!
If you work together, and combine all of the ingredients the right way, you will have the recipe of success for your future happiness.”

– Aunt L.

“Communication is the key to great marriage. …  Straight  talk no hinting around.”

– Aunt T.

“Grandpa and Grandma.”

– Grandpa

“A few words of wisdom —
Always make time for each other.
Never allow “acceptable practice” determine how you live. [Ed. note: huh?]
Stay best friends.
Dream a little.

– Aunt J.

“Marriage is a great institution but who the hell heck wants to be in an institution.”

– Papa

“You guys are great together! There’s not much else I can say. And I can’t offer any advice because, hell, I’m still single! Maybe you can offer me some advice?”

– Cousin S.

“A few thoughts as you start your life together:
Always take the opportunity to make each other laugh. Humor has a way of helping to maintain the proper prospective — I would not recommend this at a funeral, however.
Don’t forget why you fell in love in the first place. Appreciate the truly positive and important attributes that you see in one another because leaving the toilet seat up is not a felony, at least not yet!
As Tolstoy once said, ‘When you love someone, you love the person as they are, and not as you’d like them to be.’
All the best!”



Have you received any marriage advice?

probably the cutest thing that’s happened all year*

I got something from my grandmother in the mail today. Upon tearing open the envelope I pulled out: A thank-you card. What? I hadn’t gotten her anything lately. Her birthday isn’t even until July.

Then I read, in her slanted, cursive handwriting:

“Thank you so much for the magnet, how cute, we have it here on the fridge.”

She sent me a thank-you card. For our save-the-date.

* Except for when the beau said, “I’d better go to the Tuesday market and get flowers.” And I asked why? And he said, “Because your family is coming, and it would be nice to have flowers out for them.”**

** OH MY GOD, he is going to kill me for posting that. I am as good as dead. Sorry. It was nice knowing you guys.

this is the part where the soundtrack of life goes DUN DUN DUN DUNNN

Oh my God. Oh, oh, OH MY GOD. I just realized something.

My mother will be here in two weeks for my bridal shower. Guess who else will be here? The beau’s mom and dad. MY MOM IS GOING TO MEET THE BEAU’S PARENTS.* Yeah. None of my family has ever met any of his family. That’s what you get when one set of parents live in Oregon and the other set live in Virginia.

I asked my mom if she was nervous, and she seemed genuinely confused. No, of course she wasn’t nervous. Why should she be nervous? If they don’t like her, she said, oh well. Their loss.

I don’t know how she can be so cavalier. I’m terrified as hell right now. But maybe that’s because when my parents were introduced to my first long-term boyfriend’s parents, things did not go so well.**

Deep down, I’ve long had this secret fantasy that when they finally meet, his mom and my mom will instantaneously bond and become new BFFs. In reality, I know that it’s not likely that an outdoors-adventure-having, Thai-and-sushi-eating, cat-loving person and an indoors-scrapbook-making, fish-and-spicy-food-avoiding, dog-obsessed person will have much to talk about. At this point I am just crossing my fingers and hoping for civility. And dropping strong hints that perhaps the conversation should steer clear of politics.

When did your parents meet your parents-in-law? And how did THAT go over?


* My dad is staying home for this trip. They didn’t want to have to buy two plane tickets.

** In a word: HAAAAAAAATE. In another word: DESPIIIIIIIIIISE.

it’s a party

The matter of the wedding party has been settled. I still have my three best ladies, and the beau now has his five closest buds. We do not feel compelled to have matching numbers of attendants, but I may still borrow one of his dudes to stand on my side during the ceremony. Yes, he is just that awesome. He wears a bowler hat sometimes, if that is any indication of what awesomeness could aspire to if it just applied itself.

Can I tell you about my best ladies? I realize you don’t know them, so I will forgive you for looking kind of bored. Or for clicking away — NO WAIT DON’T GO! I WILL MAKE YOU COOKIES! *

I have no sisters. I also have no brothers. My parents, I don’t know. My mom got knocked up when she was 20, and then they were done. Fin. I guess I was all they could handle. I grew up daydreaming of a big family, of having lots of siblings like my mother and my grandparents had. I was blessed instead with a family not of blood but choice: A trio of smart, independent ladies without whom I’d be lost.

One lives in the Bay Area. She’s smart as hell and went to grad school and has written actual books. That were published. She sends me texts about Golden Girls in the middle of the night. We like to get together and drink bourbon and fetishize all things Canadian. Don’t ask.

One is incredibly quirky and creative. She makes her own art and lives in Portland, OR. She’s about 15 light years ahead of anyone else in terms of style. I envy her music collection. We can communicate exclusively via high-pitched noises.

The other lives here in Santa Barbara. My local gal. She is the kind of crazy seat-of-her-pants punk-rock lady who would decide on a whim to take a road trip to Las Vegas with a complete stranger. She once challenged Oscar De La Hoya to a game of pool. Now she’s studying to become an EMT.**

I am so glad that they will be a part of our wedding.

Who are you glad for?


* Well, that is just a lie if I ever saw one.

** All of these things, however, are true.

the hunt is on

Hi! How are you? I am fine. I am back from Virginia, and more importantly, I am back with two bridal stores under my belt.*

The first store was rather, erm, traditional. I should have known something was up when I asked the salesgirl to avoid beads and sequins, and she brought out: beads and sequins. This was because there was probably a grand total of three dresses in this store that were not, uh, bedazzled, and those were mother-of-the-bride dresses. Traditional, I said? That doesn’t begin to describe it.

Sidebar: You know how, back in the day, cartographers inscribed uncharted areas of nautical maps with Here be monsters? Well, they could have adapted that as a slogan and slapped it up right out front in the store window: Here be gowns. Thick, heavy, long. Out to eat your soul. Or at least make you trip over 20 cubic feet of train.

Being that I was there with my mother, and it was my first bridal store, after all, I embraced the experience wholeheartedly. Anything the salesgirl pulled off the rack, I agreed to try on. I tried on poufy. I tried on super shiny poufy. I tried on bedazzled grecian, and I tried on bedazzled one-strap off-the-shoulder-cape. I tried on a mermaid cut and thought I was going to fall down. I tried on a dress featuring something called rosettes and I thought I was going to start laughing, right there in the store, until I had to lie down on the floor. “Take a picture of this,” I whispered frantically to my mother, so the salesgirl would not overhear my mirth. “Take a picture take a picture now.”

Take a picture, she did.

No, no no. I think I can still squeeze through a doorway. We need to go bigger... bigger.
Rosettes, you say? I have some of those in stock.

After that was over, we headed to my next appointment at Nicole Miller. This was like a ray of white sunshine shooting through the bleak gray winter of my very being. Because these dresses… these dresses were light! These dresses were airy! These dresses enabled movement! These were simpler, and cleaner, and more modern, and, and… and there was nary a bedazzlement in sight!**

Bottom line: these dresses were much, much better. There were a handful I was kinda fond of, including this one:

Eh? Eh. Nice.

But in the end, I had a clear favorite.

Oh hai have u guyz seen my iron?

When I showed this picture to my dad later, he said it looked like I was wearing a Glad trash bag. Which sounds cruel, but I thought it was funny. I subsequently refer to it as my “Glad bag dress.” Sure, sure, it looks like someone crammed it in the back of the closet after a party and then forgot to steam clean it afterwards. But I liked it anyway, wrinkles and all. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. And hell, maybe I will never find a dress that I fall head-over-heels in love with.*** But still, even it had been love, I don’t think it would have been worth spending $1,300 for it. Ouch.

My mother, on the other hand, loved them all. Lesson: mothers are biased. One strapless dress made my armpit fat leap upward from the top as if it were attempting, in terror, to escape. “I don’t like this,” I said, gesturing to the armpit fat. “This is no good.”

“Oh whatev,” my mother said, rolling her eyes like an extra in Clueless. “Nobody would even notice that.”

This is not the kind of feedback you need, when you are shopping for Big Important Dress for Big Important Day. The kind of feedback you need is: “Woman, your armpit fat is trying to flee your body. This is not the right kind of look for you. Next.”

IN CONCLUSION: what an interesting experience.

NEXT MONTH: I will visit Los Angeles and do it all over again. Baby.


* Just… bear with me, here. One day there will be a dress-free post. Promises.

** WELL OK. A slight bit of bedazzle. But it was easily overlooked.

*** I’ve been thinking about this lately. Is this another trapping of the wedding industry? This idea that a dress will complete us, complete our big day?

senses fail, indeed

Source: woodstock.com

So. I was supposed to be out sailing the seas of the internet, looking for a wedding dress. I have not done this. Oh sure, I’ve “looked” at wedding dresses online, in the sense that my retinas have perceived reflected light from photos of wedding dresses featured in the numerous blog posts and wedding sites I read. But yeah, overall, complete fail. Not only have I not stumbled across anything I like, I have not even tried to find anything I like. I am flunking dresses, here.

You may wonder why I haven’t just hauled my happy ass into a store to look at dresses. Or perhaps you are just daydreaming about cheese.* Well, madam, I can’t help you out there (personally, just between us, I’m currently enamored of gouda), but I can tell you there’s a good reason I haven’t actually physically gone to a store yet.** See, Santa Barbara is kind of isolated, here on the elbow of California. We don’t have a Target. We don’t have a Wal-mart.*** We don’t have Olive Garden, or Kohl’s, or Lowe’s. We don’t even have billboard advertisements on the sides of the freeway, because that would cheapen the city’s image. I know, like GASP, right?

It’s nice, in many ways: The fact that I don’t live in just another box-store suburbia. But while strict zoning policies help maintain Santa Barbara’s image as an exclusive vacation town, it also means high-end retail chains are favored over affordable or independent shops. Walk up and down our main street and all you’ll see is Coach, Juicy, Banana Republic, Bebe, Betsey Johnson, Michael Stars, Saks, you get the picture. You’ll also pass a ludicrous number of frozen yogurt stores,**** but that’s beside the point. All this fancypants-ness helps make Santa Barbara a “destination wedding” mecca, replete with all the pricey trappings that industry brings. Accordingly, all the bridal shops I’ve seen here are of the overpriced, poofy ball-gown variety. What’s a fairly sensible girl to do? Where’s a fairly sensible girl to go?

At the start of this whole wedding planning thing, when I asked my mom how she’d like to be involved, she said all she really wanted was to go dress shopping with me. Good deal. Difficult to pull off, however, when your mom lives on the opposite coast. But next week. Next week. I will be in northern Virginia, with the beau, visiting my parents for Christmas. My mom and I have set aside a day to go out dress shopping together.

I’m not really sure what my mother has in mind, here. I’m kind of picturing us going to, you know, bridal salons. Or boutiques. Which is not necessarily what I want, but then again I’m not sure what I want. Are they called by a certain name? Do certain types have certain names? Do I have to make appointments in advance at most of them? How can I differentiate between the crappy ones and the cool ones? How can I know which shops are super spendy and which are budget-friendly? And oh god, wait. What do I even want? I need to look at things to know what I want, but how am I supposed to know what I want without looking first? I don’t want to waste the saleslady’s time, you know? Which is why I need to research ahead of time, if only I would ACTUALLY DO IT instead of just fretting about it and sweet Jesus I don’t even know which stores to go to in the Washington D.C. area, there has got to be about five million so how can I even choose among them, and maybe they will throw me out when they find out I don’t actually live there since I’m less likely to buy a dress there, but what the hell, I could always buy a dress there and then have it altered somewhere else, like hello, I’m a potential customer after all, why do they have to be so rude.

*deep breathing*

I just feel completely lost. I have no clue how this works. What I need is someone to take my hand and say, “Come with me, this is what we’re going to do.” But I have no sisters. Well, I have no siblings at all, really. I have no family nearby. I am the first of my closest friends to get married. There’s no one I know who’s done this before, you feel me?

That’s OK. I can figure it out. I will figure it out. And the bright side of knowing no one who’s been through this before, of course, is that no one can push their opinion on me of how exactly it ought to be done. Which means I can go my own way, unimpeded.

Not that I will be going anywhere without this cheese.


* Come on. Spill it. Which one? Brie? Rochefort? Perhaps a nice gruyere?

** Outside of the fact that I hate going to stores, even.

*** Not that I’m complaining about this.

**** L.A. people: Pinkberry?? Yeah, we have one of those here now. But anyway, what’s with this froyo trend? People are acting like it’s the first one, evar, but I seem to recall there was a wave of froyo sometime around the start of the nineties. Right? Am I making this up? R.I.P. Penguins.

we gonna party on like it’s your birfday

boot time
1961. The aunt in question is experiencing difficulty pulling on her boots. My mother is, for now, the youngest of her sisters.

I have five aunts, and one of them has a birthday on September 18th. That’s right. On the day the beau and I get married, my mom’s oldest sister will turn 55.

I want to do something to recognize her, of course. At first I thought of getting her a special little cake (inscribed with Sorry I Messed Up Your Birthday Plans in flowery script?), but the beau pointed out that there will be plenty of dessert already, and she may not want to deal with the sugar overload or the trouble of carrying the leftovers back to the hotel later.

So… what then?

A toast? A rousing rendition of Happy Birthday To You? No. I would feel incredibly embarrassed to be suddenly pointed out in a crowd, and so I wouldn’t want to inflict that on someone else.

A bottle of wine? Again with the carrying thing, though.

The best thing I’ve come up with so far is to recognize my aunt with a small sign wishing her a happy birthday and some pictures creatively arranged on a table. This would probably be set up near the collection of old pictures of the beau and I that we may or may not put out to amuse our guests. Perhaps I can also give her a special corsage or her own vase of flowers at her dinner table spot, provided we predetermine the seating arrangements.

Thoughts? Advice? Criticism? Encouragement? Heartwarming anecdotes?

ALSO, in a somewhat related development. I just found out — in one of the more surreal moments of my day — that this very same aunt recently got a new puppy and decided to name her Casey Lyn, because the dog has my “fine and delicate features.”

I do not have any fine and delicate features. Sturdy and square features, maybe. Nutty family members, obviously. To that end, I’d like to point out that this brings the total count of Dogs Who Have My First Name As Their Middle Names up to two.*


* Pepper Lyn is the other one, although nobody ever filled me in on what about that dog, exactly, reminded them of me.


I was wondering whether my maternal grandparents would be able to make it to the hitchin’. They’re not so old (mid 70s) but they’ve definitely slowed down in the past few years. My grandfather is Not So Much into driving these days, for example, especially at night. And they never ever fly, because despite (or perhaps due to) the fact that my grandfather spent most of the Korean war in an airplane, he developed a case of claustrophobia and he can’t abide being in confined spaces from which he can’t easily escape.

But it turns out they’re already planning to make a cross-country drive from Michigan to attend their annual Air Force reunion in California next year. And guess when that’s going to be held? Oh yeah. In September 2010. Looks like that worked out perfectly.