“If you have one parent who loves you…”

“If you have one parent who loves you, even if they can’t buy you clothes, they’re so poor and they make all kinds of mistakes and maybe sometimes they even give you awful advice, but never for one moment do you doubt their love for you–if you have this, you have incredibly good fortune.

If you have two parents who love you? You have won life’s Lotto.

If you do not have parents, or if the parents you have are so broken and so, frankly, terrible that they are no improvement over nothing, this is fine.

It’s not ideal because it’s harder without adults who love you more than they love themselves. But harder is just harder, that’s all.” -Augusten Burroughs, This is How

I have not one, not two, but FIVE parents. Three of whom are steps; all of whom are floating around California in these last weeks before the wedding. My Baba and his wife landed on Friday; this morning they’re rolling towards Yosemite in a tour bus.

One of the first things we did after they arrived was to take them to the library so they could borrow some books and DVDs to enjoy while we were at work. My Baba left the library with biographies of Mao Zedong and other Chinese political figures, positively delighted that he would be able to read some banned/censored/unavailable histories while he’s here. The nerdiness runs deep in our family.

There is a lot to say but I am running on fumes at this point. Onwards.


“A broad spectrum of things alive.”

Life has a truth to it, and it’s complicated—it’s love and it’s hatred. Love and hatred don’t take turns; they exist side by side at the same time. And one’s duty, one’s obligation every day, is to choose to follow the nobler one. And if the nobler one is something one can’t pursue, then the lesser, the ignoble one, is what is left. It’s there. It’s present. There are things that make us choose, on certain days, on certain nights, the opposite of love, in all its variations. But I want to acknowledge that with love and hate it’s not simply one or the other. It’s at least two, three, four, five different emotions existing at once, side by side, a broad spectrum of things alive. -Jamaica Kincaid

This beautiful backyard wedding cost over $36,000. Wowzers. I mention this because seeing the budget helped me see my own wedding in rather clearer perspective; not that I think mine will be objectively “better” or “worse” (words that should never be applied in a comparative sense to different couples’ weddings), but because it made me think: there is no perfect solution to any problem.

A wedding is not a problem per se, but it ignites a dizzying chain of problems. Is it expensive enough? Cheap enough? Local enough? Exotic enough? Pre-fab, or handmade? Intimate, or inclusive? Everyone has an opinion. And women are held responsible both for the making and execution of weddings, and thus women usually find themselves in a very uncomfortable but familiar place: that of a rock and a hard place.

Continue reading ““A broad spectrum of things alive.””

“The arbitrariness of the constraint only serves to obtain precision of execution.”

draft sketch no. 1

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit… the arbitrariness of the constraint only serves to obtain precision of execution.” — Igor Stravinsky

We are ascending. When we were first engaged, the realization that beautiful weddings involve (1) money, (2) time, which is money or (3) both made it brilliantly clear that I would not be having one of the charming DIY fetes scattered across Pinterest like so much wistful confetti. Truth: the standard hotel ballroom wedding is cheaper than the deceptively handmade ones with burlap and mason jars everywhere, unless you have a vast bevy of crafty aunts.

Continue reading ““The arbitrariness of the constraint only serves to obtain precision of execution.””

“Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone.”

“Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone.” – Wendell Berry

Saturday the florist came by the house, dropping off a jarful of flowers from the wedding of the day. The little jar was filled with sweet peas, lisianthus, Icelandic poppies, ferns, myrtle, and peonies. She applies floriography to her designs, and so arranged into that glass jar are success, sincerity, appreciation, and happy marriage. She asked me if I had any particular wishes for the floriography of my own wedding, and I said “the usual stuff.”

That’s where my mind’s at these days: a bit filmy, foggy, and teeming with tasks that seem to have bred and multiplied vast generations in the unquiet swamp of my hindbrain. I couldn’t summon any more will or energy to reach for anything specific when yet another question was applied to me by a kind and well-meaning wedding vendor.

The go-to question for office colleagues and acquaintances these days is “how’s wedding planning going?” And I waffle between saying fine and moving on, or doing the beleaguered-but-happy shrug and saying it’s a lot of work but I’m sure it’ll be worth it in the end! To friends, and everyone else who actually gives a damn, I say it’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.

What caught me unawares were all the feelings and expectations that reared their heads over the past months. What I thought would happen was: we would find a nice place, wear nice clothing, have family and friends there, have a good party and be done. Simply put, it was not so simple.

Wedding planning has thrown into sharp relief a real flaw in my character: I am indecisive. Full of lip-chewing doubts and second guesses. It serves me well in my work life, where mistakes are unacceptable and costly, and constant reviewing and re-reviewing is par for the course. But it makes event planning hellish. Moreover I find that  planning my own wedding resurrects some old demons for me, where family, self-esteem, and obligation intersect.  I never perceived of myself as a chronic worrywart, but here I sit. There is so much to do, and so many expectations–others’ and my own.

I suspect that I’m inching more and more into that beige, pleasant land of I don’t give a shit anymore. Step 8 of my mood cycle. The good news is that the end is in sight.

“Foolish modesty lags behind while brazen impudence goes forth and eats the pudding.” – Eleanor Brackenridge

A rejected wedding gown from the weekend

“Foolish modesty lags behind while brazen impudence goes forth and eats the pudding.” – Eleanor Brackenridge

Okay. So, I’d been told stories before about it. I’d always (impudently) brushed them off–couldn’t be completely true, I told myself. When the time comes, I can handle it. I’ve got a college degree, graduate degree, and a year of 60+ hour workweeks behind me. What can’t I handle?

And the time has come, and I am handling it…something akin to a puppy trying to take down a moose on her own. Wedding planning. It is as much a crazy, foaming-at-the-mouth moose as everyone warned that it would be.

I knew that an elopement was never in the cards (I’m an only, Carter’s family is v. traditional), so we got off to a flying start with pinning down venue, photographer, makeup artist, and coordinator within a month of engagement. And now, I am slogging through it. Decision fatigue is hitting me. I don’t want to really do it anymore.

But now some of the more aesthetic decisions are coming up, and I’m in charge of those more than Carter is. Wedding gown, bridesmaid dresses, colors, flowers, invitations, etc. I feel like I’m losing my mind a little bit. There are too many damn options, and the sheer multitude of options puts a strange hot pressure on me to make my wedding reflect “us”…what does that even mean? Anyway, I am fluctuating between total apathy and total internet-shredding bridezilla-ing.

I’m trying to rustle up some strength for this next round of decisions (the dress! the dress! the dress!). Upon reflection, I think here I need to keep in mind to carry me through this:

  1. Assertiveness. I am not by nature a terrifically assertive person. On most decisions, I tend towards apathy–I can make almost anything work for me. There are a few things, however, that I care a great deal about. Caring a lot + natural passivity = a bad bad time in wedding planning world. So far wedding planning has forced me to increase my assertiveness and decisiveness, such as rejecting a photographer that I loved but was wrong for us, and choosing a venue that wasn’t everything I wanted but was most things I wanted. Negotiating with/choosing catering companies and other vendors has pushed me to be more direct and forceful than I’m accustomed to being, which is overall a good thing. I guess. I don’t like it though.
  2. People pleasing: I need to keep this under control. In group work situations in the past I’ve been the diplomatic one–something of an assuager of sore feelings and a cushion between the more dynamic personalities on a team. This is good sometimes but other times my own wants get trampled on a bit. This is a bad remnant of my childhood. In negotiations with vendors now, I catch myself when I am trying to make things easier for them. No. That’s not what these business relationships are about.
  3. The end in sight! The point is to get married in a nice place with family and friends. Everything else is secondary.

We’ll see if this sticks…

“Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen.”

“The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open. / Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen.” -Robert Lowell, To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage

In the whirl of the past two weeks, I’ve learned a lot about wedding planning. There have been so many big and little decisions. It’s so easy to see how this could get out of control emotionally, financially, and socially. So we are doing are best to rein it in, get the big decisions made, and then go about life–engaged, happy, but no radically different than we were before. Because it was our life before that makes it wonderful that we are now engaged.

We are having a late summer wedding and we will have the people we love there and it will be lovely. That’s all.

A beach, a dog, two airplanes, a sunset, and…

…a ring!

On Saturday I attended my design class (late) as usual, and then Carter picked me up for lunch at chipotle. He’d spent the morning at the office so he seemed a little distracted, and he told me he’d spilt his coffee all over his pants. We went home and he changed; afterwards we were both ravenous and went to grab burritos at Chipotle. We planned out the rest of the day as usual: Target and Costco for groceries, then a trip to Fort Funston with Beast. I planned to cook chicken piccata in the evening.

We got to Costco late, maybe around 3:30; being that the sun sets early these days, I suggested that we delay our trip to Sunday so we could go home early and cook. Carter waffled a bit but finally decided that yes, he still wanted to go to the beach. We got home from shopping and I readied the beach accoutrements: ball, tossing stick, treat bag, a sturdy jacket for me. As we were about to leave, Carter asked me where the camera was. Being that the sky was already beginning to darken, I was a little skeptical, but he was insistent. So, I found the phone and we were off.

At the beach, Carter decided not to bring his hiking bag, which we usually do. We headed down towards the sand. It was dusk and there were little clouds of plovers skimming the tops of the waves, and Beast predictably lost his mind and raced after them like a maniac. We watched him and enjoyed; Carter took a short video of Beast sprinting across the sand.

We reached the middle of the beach and paused to look at the airplanes ascending from San Francisco airport. There was one that climbed steeply, and then banked out towards the ocean; Carter said it was heavy, and so was probably headed towards Asia. Another airplane looped around and headed back inland.

In the middle of our lovely pause I noticed that Beast was taking a poop near the cliff. I started to head for him but Carter said–I’m not picking that up right now. We leaned against each other for a few minutes while the sunset reddened over the water, and then Carter turned to me. I started suspecting something when he dropped Beast’s ball and throwing stick. He said he had an early Christmas present for me, and bent down on one knee, and asked me to marry him.

I said yes, and smooched him soundly. He smooched me back. I seem to remember my hair flying everywhere in the wind. So I kissed him through my hair.

He slipped the ring on my finger as I bounced up and down. We recruited a pair of passersby to take our photo. We look ridiculously giddy, or at least I do. There was a brief debate about which finger the ring was supposed to go on–left or right? (We settled correctly on right, as we live in these United States.)

We climbed the wood-and-sand stairs back up the cliff and I told Carter that this place would always be special for us.