Monday, October 23, 2006

Greener pastures, not acres...

There has been a mass exodus in effect at work during the past month.

Lately, I feel like I've done nothing but go to "good-bye" parties, and it has left me feeling a bit anxious. No, not anxious; antsy.

One recent departee accepted a much higher paying job in a completely different career field.

Another is leaving overpriced housing in Naples to explore overpriced housing in Washington D.C. with her fiance. A definite adventure in the making.

My brave friend, Shannon, recently took off for a 2-year work experience as a professor in China -- a place where she has never been that uses a language she doesn't speak. Crazy cool.

Another is taking a massive leap of faith, traveling overseas to Spain to find herself, a degree and, hopefully, work. But before she embarks on that completely cool journey, she'll spend time in South America volunteering and brushing up on her already impeccable Spanish.

I am unbelievably jealous.
These people who boldly travel outside their comfort zones amaze me. They will truly reap some of the greatest experiences life has to offer.

I know I have no room to be jealous. I've had tons of adventures, including a crazy internship at Disney World, a study abroad program in Europe and frequent travels all over the country.
But I'm kind of a rare breed. The idea of setting sail for new adventures excites me beyond measure, but the prospect of leaving behind friends and family saddens me to no end.

I guess I just want it all. I want to be married and settled, but only because I've found the right man. If not for Jeremy, I would already have one foot out the door of wherever I happened to be.

It occurred to me, though, marriage isn't the end of adventure. It's really a solution to my seemingly unfixable problem.

I can travel anywhere I want. I can change careers, change homes, change my life if I want to. But now, I won't be afraid to change, to leave my family behind, because my family will be traveling right alongside me.
I can have it all.

Compromise and balance will be important, but Jeremy is the yin to my yang. When I want to run wild and he wants to stand still, we meet somewhere in the middle, and somehow, everything works out.

No matter where we wind up, be it down the road or out of the country, I know any place we travel together will be an adventure. Everything is as good or as bad as you make it out to be.
The choice between adventure and monotony is yours alone. I've already made my decision.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The shame, the debauchery, the memories...

I am one hugely important step closer to getting married.

One bachelorette party (to be followed by at least one more) is under my belt, and what a party it was!

Friends from all over flew down, and groups of friends and family from all different stages of my life blended in Key West, the drinking capital of the southeast. I don't know if it was all the beer or the embarrassing games my maid of horror (I mean, honor) made us play, but my buds seemed to bond instantly, despite their only link being me.

I tried to imagine who would hit it off before we even set off for the Keys, and the combinations were endless. Personalities ranged abundantly, and included:
  • The single party girls in their early-30s, who still throw down better than any college student I've ever known, and are totally up for anything
  • The married and engaged family members, who, despite having settled into monogamy and having toned down their partying significantly, have an obvious wild streak that rears its crazy head each time the occassion calls
  • The local friend, who doesn't know anyone, but makes friends easily and goes with the flow
  • The reformed party girls, who, when they knew each other well, would go nuts every night, but now lead sensible lives and can drink without puke-n-rally (puking, then resuming the party, for those who didn't follow that)

And then there's me -- a combination of all of these personalities, and many more, rolled into one neutral friend, who identifies with everyone.

The pairings suprised me.

  • One family member and one 30-something bonded over their love of Dane Cook and *ahem* substances
  • Two former friends reunited, and spent the majority of the trip bouncing off each other
  • Another reformed partier joined a 30-something, a family member and a new-comer wherever the party took them

The truly amazing thing, however, was the way everyone managed to stay together. We ventured to one drag show, a sunset street party, five bars and one clothing-optional rooftop club throughout the course of one night. We began the night together, and we ended it the same way.

Four days later, I am sitting here reflecting on my favorite moments from the trip. My e-mail inbox is flooded with funny one-liners from one former stranger to another, reminders of the fun we all had during our brief, and probably only, encounter as a group.

Chances are, we'll never have that again. There won't be another opportunity for the nine of us to say "we're all together."

In just two days, we learned each others' secrets, quirks and personalities. We heard stories we could have lived a lifetime without hearing (or telling, Mara), made comments we would never make to strangers and did and saw things that need not be published.

It only took one weekend -- 48 hours -- to freeze ourselves in each others' minds forever.

It must have been the booze.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Red wedding dresses and other nighttime horrors...

If you come across me these days and wonder why there are dark circles under my eyes, blame my impending wedding.

We’re less than six months out. My conscious brain is impatient, counting the days, hours, seconds until my friends and family gather to watch my fiancĂ© become my husband.

My subconscious has other plans, apparently.

My peaceful slumber has been interrupted regularly by nightmares about wedding plans gone awry. I wake up completely confused about what month it is, what I have and haven’t done and in a state of panic. Lately, the nightmares have become more frequent.

At this point, I should mention to my parents who have already written several checks to Signature Grand, and are probably hyperventilating into a brown paper bag, thinking I have cold feet, that my dreams have nothing to do with my fiancé.

At no point in my slumber or my conscious living have I questioned the fact that I’m getting married or the man I’ve chosen. As it often is, the devil is in the details.

What’s funny (not funny ha-ha... more ironic, humorless funny) is that I am totally organized. I have multiple tasks jostling around in my head, and all of them are getting done ahead of schedule. In my conscious state of being, I am totally calm and on top of things.

But here's what's going on in my subconscious:

  • Someone has replaced my wedding dress with a red one.
  • My bridesmaids have decided that royal blue is a better color for my wedding, and have replaced their black dresses accordingly.
  • I have yet to find a hairdresser.
  • The DJ is messing up the ceremony music, because I've forgotten to rehearse it with him.
  • My step-mother is crying, because I'm doing too many non-traditional things (No idea where that came from, Mindy!)
  • My dad is missing when it comes time to walk me down the aisle.
  • Jeremy sees me before the wedding.
  • We have forgotten to tell Jeremy's parents when the wedding is, and we can't find them.
  • (A common, recurring theme) I'm running unbelievably late, and we're losing valuable party time.

Added up, it's enough to make me wake up in a cold sweat.

I know myself well enough to know what is causing these nightmares. The event planner in me always feels the need to be ahead of the curb. The things I'm dreaming about are things that I haven't done yet, because it's not time for them yet. But each time I cross a to-do item off my mental list, the dreams surrounding those ragged edges stop.

The truth of the matter is, none of the pesky details are all that important to me. (Note: parents not showing up is not a pesky detail) Consciously, I am totally together, because I know that all that really matters is that Jeremy and I are married, and our friends and family are with us to celebrate.

Consciously, I am a normal bride, with normal concerns and a workable to-do list.

Subconsciously, I'm a loon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Devil Peddles White...

I'm only getting married once.

After wedding dress shopping last weekend, that statement transformed from being a goal to being a mission. More than a mission; It's a fact.

Let me lay it out for you:

Having been through the experience several times with my friends, I knew not to get my heart set on anything in particular before trying on dresses. You really can only tell so much from a picture in a magazine, so I did some research, and had a vague idea of what I'd like to try on before I went. More than anything, I determined strict rules for what I did not want:

  • Nothing strapless (didn't need to be messing with my top all night)
  • Nothing with sleeves (because, hello, it's not 1985)
  • No elaborate train (too much to deal with)
  • No veil (can't stand the thought of spending $300 for something that's going to annoy me all day)

Keep this list of no-nos in mind. They'll be relevent later.

That being established, my mom, step-mom, flower girl and maid-of-honor travelled to the seventh circle of hell, a.k.a., David's Bridal. It was there that we met the most confused woman in the world. She would have made an excellent addition to the president's cabinet.

We were made to wait for about 15 minutes, even though we had an appointment, but we figured, "No big deal. We've got all day." Thank God.

The bored salewoman at the front of the store asked for my sizes (why she didn't just take my exact measurements and erase the guesswork, I'll never know). When it finally came time to try things on, I was given a strapless body suit and slip, neither of which were my size.

Right about now you're thinking, "Don't they have your size written down on a piece of paper you just filled out for them?" I know... It gets better.

We asked for a larger size. She brings us a smaller one.

We said no sleeves. No strapless. She brings both.

We said no veil. We argue for 15 minutes about it, before I finally consent to put it on, so I can reitterate my reasons for hating it.

In a room roughly the size of a shoebox, and the approximate temperature of hell's sauna, my mother and I wrestled with dresses that made me look like, if I may borrow a line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a snow beast.

Fortunately, the torture was over quickly, because in the store that boasts the biggest selection in the country, they only had three dresses in my size. THREE.

Luckily, we liked the third one a lot, and ended up purchasing it, even though the train is longer than I would have liked. However, the "Eureka!" moment, the one where the moms get teary-eyed, and the bride says, "Oh my God, I'm really getting married," never came, because we were too busy being pissed off.

We left the store quickly, after reminding them MANY times of the exact size, style and color that I wanted them to order. Knowing my luck, my pale pink, size-zero tutu will arrive shortly.

I'm only getting married once. Mark my words.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My buddy, my buddy...

Last weekend, Jeremy and I faced a moment of truth: The meeting of the parents! (Cue dramatic "dum dum dummmm...")

We weren't nervous at all, but we knew the meeting was a big deal. Jeremy's mom and dad have met my mom and step-dad before, but this was the first time they'd be meeting my dad and step-mom, not to mention the rest of our extended family.

Whether we had anything to be nervous about or not, it was a bit nerve-wracking. After all, first impressions are very important, and difficult to forget.

Much to our delight, our parents got along well. Almost too well. Actually, more like long-lost best friends.

The parents sat out back chatting, having smokes and beers and chit-chatting about everything from the weather to high school. And the conversation never halted. They talked all through our engagement party, all through dinner that night, and even when Jeremy's parents came to pick us up in the morning.

What's funny, though, is that the conversation never seemed to veer towards the one thing bringing us all together: Our wedding. In fact, I don't think I heard mine or Jeremy's names mentioned the entire night.

It was nice to see our parents become friends, not because they had to, or because they felt obligated to accept each other as family, but because they genuinely enjoyed each others' company.

As we go forward with the wedding, and with the rest of our lives, I am not sure how intertwined our lives will all be. But it is nice to know that when we need someone, we'll have not two parents, or even four, but six on our side, all working together for us and for fun.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Every cook will tell you that...

Meshing groups of people who have never met can be a tricky business. By the end of this wedding process, I will either be an absolute master, or a total failure.

My whole life has pretty much been an experiment in juggling eggs. Having visited and lived in so many different places, I have made several groups of friends, each as special as all of the others.

During my bachelorette party in October, one of two things is bound to happen: Either we all make omelets, or I wind up cleaning a lot of broken shells.

So far, the groups I'm dealing with will consist of my Disney friends, family members, Naples friends, Stuart friends and college friends. And, possibly, friends of friends (that addition to the web makes my head ache). This list doesn't even include high school friends, most of whom probably wouldn't even believe who I am now, compared to then, anyway.

First, there's my Disney friends. This is a group of girls who saw me at my absolute wildest. They know me as a party girl. Someone who is always up for action. Someone who probably has no business getting married. (Thankfully, I've changed a bit!)

Then there's the Naples crew. Here, I am often referred to as "Jeremy's girlfriend/fiancee." It's strange for me, because I have always been the dominant person in relationships. Usually, everyone knows me, and I know everyone else, and Jeremy is often along for the ride. But here, I'm sort of quiet and domesticated. The kind of girl who will skip a night at the bar to stay home and cuddle with a significant other.

The Stuart group knows a bit of both worlds. They've done shooters with me on Sunday nights before having to go to work Monday. But they've also missed me at parties, because I was over on the other coast visiting Jeremy. They get a glimpse of both sides, and I'm sure it can get pretty confusing for them.

College is another story entirely. My college friends have met Jeremy a few times, and, of course, they think he's perfect for me. But I think some of them still have a hard time picturing me in a settled relationship.

At the last wedding I attended before our engagement, two of my friends were talking about the wedding we were at, and how natural it seemed for our friend to be married. Then they turned the topic to me, and how strange it will be to see me walk down the aisle. It wasn't meant in a mean way at all. They've just known me as an independent, free-floater for so long, and they don't know Jeremy all that well, so it's hard to imagine me on the brink of matrimony.

Plus, early on in our friendships, my friends learned to write down my address in pencil. Staying grounded has never really been "my thing." But as I now have more than one person to consider, it's going to have to become "my thing." Tough beans.

Finally, there's the family unit. These people have seen me through every stage of my life. They loved me when I cried, because I thought my dad was an alcoholic (for having ONE BEER!), and they supported me on my 21st birthday when I didn't know that tequila and vodka don't mix.

They remember me as a shy, little girl, who never wanted to talk to anyone, and they know me as an outgoing friend, who is always eager to talk to a nice person. They've seen the drama, participated in the healing, and, most importantly, they know that I'll be a great wife, because I will have a great husband.

At my bachelorette party, my friends will meet for the first time, which would have come to pass someday anyway, I'm sure. They, like I, will have two choices: omelets as a family, or egg shells on the floor.

Personally, I'd rather crack them, and mix them all together now than walk on them forever.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Normalcy, Any Day Now...

A friend of mine approached me with a question the other day, and my response was so quick that it startled us both.

My friend, K, has a boyfriend living several states away. Her boyfriend has a 7-year-old child. Her question: "How was it having parents in two states when you were a kid?"

Without a moment's hesitation, my response: "Don't do it."

Over drinks we discussed the reality of the situation. K wants her boyfriend to move down to Florida with her, and she feels like she's ready to be a step-mom.

The way she sees it, her boyfriend has two options: 1) Petition for full-custody of the child, or 2) Have the child come down and spend all major holidays and summer break with his father.

The way I see it, she's got only one option.

No court in the country is going to award sole custody to a father if the mother is even remotely stable. The boyfriend's ex is already remarried, which puts a father-figure in the equation as well. K's boyfriend doesn't stand a chance.

Which leaves them with option 2. Less satisfactory, for sure, but truly the only alternative.

Having lived through option 2 myself, I could descriptively depict the hell that awaits them all.

#1: It's never enough time.

Neither parent will ever be satisfied splitting their time with the child, and the child will surely see that. Because the dissatisfaction will be so obvious, the child will spend every moment wondering if he's hurting the feelings of one or both of his parents. He will spend the rest of his life trying to make up for lost time, not because he feels pressured to do so, but because he's just as upset as they are that his childhood was split in two, and he'll always feel like he's missed out on things.

#2: He'll never have normal friendships.

Because he will spend all of his vacation time and summers 2,000 miles away from his school friends, he'll never know the normalcy of what kids do during their time away from school. Every September will feel like starting at a new school all over again, because the other kids will have summer experiences that he'll miss entirely.

#3: Someday, he'll have to make a horrendously difficult decision.

There will come a day when the child has a girlfriend, or a job opportunity, or a chance to take a trip of a lifetime, and he won't know what to do. The experience will obviously cut into his time with one of his parents (most likely, his father's time), and if he chooses to take the experience, it will never be complete, because he'll always feel guilty for letting a parent down.

#4: He will always, ALWAYS miss somebody.

Trust me, it's no way to live, and it doesn't get any easier with age.

Having said all of this to my horrified friend, I added something that gave her some hope. Whether her boyfriend moves down to Florida with her, or whether he stays put for now, there will come a day when his parents can't live their lives according to the others' schedule. Someday, a decision will have to be made, and, even though it was never his fault, and it wasn't his parents' fault, all of their lives will be torn.

Being a step-parent who has stepped into a situation like this means life, for you, will never be normal again. You'll always be forced to play be someone else's rules, and even though it wasn't your choice to have a child, or to get a divorce, you will have to live with all of the consequences.

It takes sacrifice, bravery, and, most of all, understanding. Being a step-parent means being the bigger person -- ALL of the time. It's accepting that you will ALWAYS be #2 in your spouse's life, and you'll have to be gracious about it. It's never getting to call the shots in your own life without thinking of the lives of several others.

But most of all, being a step-parent means you will do all of these things without the gratitude of your step-child, because he won't think about you and the thankless sacrifices you made for him. He won't see that you've put your life on-hold, because you loved his parent so much that you would do anything for him, including put your entire young life on the shelf.

He'll never say "thank you" for all that you've done for him, and his family, because he won't understand it. He won't understand it, because he'll be too consumed with his own pain to recognize yours.

It won't sink in until he is much older. And by then, if you've done everything right, he'll realize that "thank you" can't even begin to cover his gratitude, and he'll feel horrible that it took him so long.

And one day, down the road, he'll hope that, for his step-parents, the wait was worthwhile.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Heeding Crosby, Stills and Nash (but not Young)...

Jeremy and I had a taste of parenthood last weekend, and we learned one very important lesson:

We're not ready.

My 8-year-old brother and 7-year-old sister stayed with us for five days while my mom and step-dad went on a cruise. While they were on their absolute best behavior, it was still difficult at times.

It wasn't because they were too much to handle. It's the responsibility of caring for two young people 24/7 that proved to be a burden.

Normally, N & J are quite a handful, but this past weekend, they were sweet, attentive and very well-behaved -- for children.

Over the course of five days, we took them swimming and tubing, played video and board games, went strawberry picking, watched countless episodes of The Simpsons, made multiple meals, played at the dog park and watched a show at a planetarium.

It was exhausting!

The conflict came when Jeremy and I had plans to go to a concert Friday night. We actually had to hire a babysitter for the babysitters!

In short, we couldn't even go a few days without needing some alone time.

Many of my friends have already dipped their toes in the lake of parenthood, and I applaud them all. It's hard work caring for someone else all the time. It's selfless; it's foregoing all of your own plans; it's forgetting all the things you want to do with your time.

It's not us.

Not yet, anyway.

At 26, I suppose I could be a bit more mature. I could wake up earlier than noon on weekends. I could make meals at appropriate times and limit my television intake. I could halt my many weekend trips and party plans.

But I don't have to. Not yet, anyway.

Jeremy and I both work hard. We're enjoying our time together, and we're selfish about it. It's not something we're ashamed of, and it's not something we should have to compromise.

I definitely want to have a child someday. And as much as I would like to be a young mother, spending as much time with my kid as possible, it's more important for me to just be me right now.

I learned something else this weekend, too. I learned that when the time comes for Jeremy and I to be parents, we'll be ready.

I discovered that little lesson during our dinnertime conversations with the kids, and the walks we took and games we played. In essence, in the quality time we spent bonding with the kids.

One day, God willing, we'll be parents. And when we're are, I know we'll be great. We'll love our kid(s); treat them well; raise them right. We'll be the adults that we need to be, so that we can mold him/her into the adult he/she needs to be.

When the time comes.

Just not right now.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play...

Anyone who has a minute should click on the Web site below, and read Jeremy's fantastic story about the relationship he has with his identical twin brother. It will truly bring a tear to your eye.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Common knowledge...

I'm getting married.

I can't think of a better opener than that. It is the ultimate beginning to this column -- which is my favorite way to communicate with friends, family and maybe even a few strangers who like to check in.

I kicked around ideas. I could say something about how I've waited my whole life for this day. How this announcement is one I've daydreamed about making since I first laid eyes on my fiance. How strangely wonderful it is to use the word "fiance" in reference to Jeremy.

But when it comes down to it, there are few things more exciting than saying those three words in a row: "I'm getting married."

I thought for years (nearly 2 1/2, actually) about how thrilling it would be to tell everyone that I am engaged. How ecstatic my friends and family would be to hear the news, and how shocked all those who always considered me to be stubbornly independent would be to hear me say those words.

But when I called people to tell them, things didn't go as they always had in my head. Sure, there was some shrieking, and certainly loads of cheers and congratulations. But the first comment most people made upon hearing my fabulous news was: "I knew it!"

At first I was bored by that response. OK, so everyone just knew what was coming, and it's no big surprise. Ho hum.

But then, I thought about what they knew, and it's what Jeremy and I have known all along. And that's exciting stuff.

They didn't know when it was coming, or how (sunset on the beach on March 21). But they knew to expect it, because they saw it brewing within us.

I knew when I met Jeremy that he was the one for me. He knew when he first held my hand that he didn't want to let go.

I knew every car trip was worth the effort, and every mile put on my brand new car was just one that brought me closer to him. He knew that I was worth leaving work early for almost every Friday.

He knew when to ask me the biggest question of our shared life. I knew that the answer was so obvious that I don't even remember saying it.

And now, everyone knows. But apparently, they've been in on it for awhile.

Realizing that, I can't think of a better response to my news than: "I knew it!" Because I saw what has been so obvious to us for so long was clear to the rest of the world, too. And it was absolutely, 100 percent right all along.

As I picked up the phone again and again to call people and share the wonderful news, I recognized that the phrase "I'm getting married" wasn't the one that sent flutters through my stomach. It just didn't capture the excitement I was feeling.

What makes me smile the most, I determined, is to say "I'm marrying Jeremy." Without his name in that pronouncement, the phrase doesn't mean that much at all.

Because what good is a wedding, an engagement or a lifetime commitment without the man of your dreams?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

At Least the Weather Was Nice...

I learned a lot about love last weekend, and it's a lesson I'll hold onto forever.

My friends -- we'll call them M & C -- got married, but not without many mishaps and obstacles along the way.

Gentlemen, in case you weren't aware, most girls spend their entire young lives fantasizing about their wedding day: Who will be there, what she'll wear, what songs they'll dance to. Such was especially the case in M's life, as it took her and C seven years to walk down the aisle.

Yet, a myriad of challenges unbelievably presented themselves on the "happiest day of their lives" that threatened to shake both M & C to the core.

Some were small problems -- a baked beans fiasco, a misplaced marriage license, a cheese ball that turned out too salty.

Others were much bigger -- missing bridesmaids, a missing deejay, missing guests.

And others, still, were caused more by people than events -- an inexperienced pastor, a bumbling wedding director, a pushy family member.

Here's how it all went down (in very rushed, limited detail):

The day began with a family fight, resulting in M locking the keys inside of her car. C had to come unlock the car while M hid inside, so they could avoid contact before the ceremony. The morning incidents resulted in both being behind schedule.

The baked beans fiasco occurred shortly thereafter, when a catering facility claimed to never have received the order. After an ugly confrontation, during which time M left her check card on the counter, M and a friend were left to jot back and forth between two food places multiple times to get the order right.

At this point, we've also managed to lose and locate the marriage license. The marriage would not have been legal without it.

Even more behind schedule, M narrowly avoided getting a speeding ticket as we hurried to the location of the wedding.

With T-minus one hour until the wedding, one bridesmaid was missing in action, and hadn't been heard from all day. Another was sent to another city to pick up a forgotten cheese platter. And the entire wedding party, including M herself, was downstairs -- not dressed -- putting centerpieces on the tables.

As guests began arriving, M's daughter, the flower girl, was pitching an unholy fit, and had to be removed from the wedding party. Missing bridesmaids finally arrived, and, with 10 minutes to go, it appeared the wedding would go on as scheduled.

Until we realized there was no music playing.

The deejay, who was supposed to have arrived at 2 p.m. for the 4 p.m. wedding, was nowhere to be found. And nobody realized it until it was almost show time.

After spending several minutes tracking down his phone number, the matron of honor reached him, and, following some harsh words and near death threats, the clod was said to be on his way.
Though 45 minutes behind schedule, the wedding began. The bride looked radiant; the groom, glowing.

Somewhere in between the botched song and the pastor's accidental missteps, the bride and groom recognized that the number of people that RSVPed to the wedding did not equal the number occupying the chairs.

After the couple was wed, a few other calamities presented themselves. The director removed the tin foil from on top of the food without lighting the burners below, causing the food to turn ice cold. Plus, in the middle of this madness, it became noticeable that the beautiful cake was beginning to lean uncomfortably to the left.

Rearranging the order of things aided the warming of the food, and the cake was cut and enjoyed by all. The evening was spent among close friends and family, and a good time was had by all.

Until the end.

Our unintelligent friend, the deejay, decided to ask M for his payment, prompting a furious response from all. After he refused to negociate with the matron of honor and the groom, the deejay got to deal with M, who screamed at him and offered him half of his payment or nothing at all (more than fair). The reception ended then and there.

As this was going on, the old couple who owned the wedding site was taking the decorations off of the getaway car, for some unknown reason.

M & C, along with their closest friends, were left to clean up the hall, before they escaped for what we all pray has been an amazing honeymoon.

If you've ever been in a wedding, or if the wedding was yours, this story probably made your skin crawl. It could have been enough to ruin the happiest day of their lives. It might have even been enough to cause tension between the bride and groom, or send both into depression and anxiety.

But it wasn't. Not even close.

Whether there were 2 people there or 200, M & C were married. They have the rest of their lives to find the "happiest day ever."

And they know it.

Throughout the day, anyone could have fallen apart. But not M & C. They were rocks -- not for themselves, or for friends and family -- but for each other.

They left their wedding smiling, with hopes of spending the rest of their lives feeling the exact same way they did at that moment. A day like that, they realized, could only make their bond stronger, and it would make for an interesting story to tell.

Someday. Many years from now.

When my time comes to walk down the aisle, I know I'll think of M & C. I'll think about the commitment they share and their unbelievable strength. I'll think of all they had to endure, and the fact that they have the rest of their lives to spend together, overcoming new challenges and succeeding.

And I'll think back to their wedding day and know, if mine goes anything like theirs did, the man I marry will need to be strong enough to carry me out of the looney bin.

Best of luck M & C, even though you've already proved you can survive without it.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

** A quick update before getting to it: Nana made it through surgery, and, despite some difficulties early on, is recovering well. Way to go, Nana!

Sunshine gal...

When my clothes are sticking to me in the dead of winter, I hate Florida.

When my air-conditioning bill is just as high in January as it is in June, I hate Florida.

When the ocean is so warm, it feels like bath water, and ice cubes down my back fee refreshing, I hate Florida.

But when I spend the first weekend of March sunbathing by the pool and waterskiing and speedboating around a lake, beneath a cloudless sky, I remember why it is I came back here in the first place.

It's a trade-off -- Snow skis for water skis. Fortunately, falling face-first in water is a lot more pleasant than catching a mouthful of packed snow.

Sometimes during the winter, I get grouchy and nostalgic. I long for the days of turtleneck sweaters, hot chocolate and warm, sweet-smelling logs burning in the fireplace, all of which I came to know very well during my years in North Carolina.

But when my friends call me and complain about high heat bills, chipping ice from their windshields and dreary frozen rain, I remember just how good I've got it.

The truth is, you always want what you can't have. I want snow when it's sunny, whine for warmth when I'm chilly and yearn for palm trees or autumn leaves whenever I'm in the presence of the other.

I can't help it. I've tasted both, and now I reap the seasonal misery of desiring what is undesirable to everyone else.

I look at all the northern transplants around here, and, unlike other natural Floridians, I understand them. They bask in the 90-degree sun, while the rest of us pine for the slightest hint of winter. It's like they are still thawing out from years spent in Ohio, New York and Indiana.

I feel that.

Four-and-a-half years in the frosty Appalachian mountains, waiting for the bus while bearing inhumanly icy temperatures taught me a lot, as did my annual slip and fall on a patch of black ice (of course, right in the middle of a packed sidewalk).

But 3-and-a-half years away has taught me a lot too. Showing up for work with sweat marks all over my clothes is almost, if not just, as embarrassing as falling in front of your peers. Neither way works well for me.

So when you think of me lounging on a pool raft or cutting through waves behind a wicked-cool speed boat while you're bundling up in layers just to check the mail, you can hate me, if you must. But don't forget, I've been on your side of the weather front -- and I miss it, too.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Alright, alright. At the urging of my few loyal readers, I will continue to do my blogging (especially since I've been temporarily reassigned to boring night cops reporting). At the request of a certain hospital patient, I will begin with this:

A Toast to Old People:

My grandmother is going under the knife tomorrow morning for very invasive back surgery.

It will be a long, somewhat risky, assuredly painful surgery that will require months of recovery, and does not even promise a complete cure for her back problems.

My grandmother, who most enjoys being called "Nana West," is a frequent hospital patient, and is no stranger to the knife. So then why is everyone who knows her so nervous?

Normally, I am kept completely out-of-the-loop about the goings-on in my paternal family. Only months after the fact do I usually receive calls regarding familial disputes, get-together plans or minor and major health problems.

But not this time. This time, I've received phone calls from three people involved, and on multiple occasions. Everyone's worried, and, judging by the number and urgency of the phone calls, I should be too.
But I'm not.

Each time my aunt (who is actually more like my sister, given our minor, 5-year age difference) and I get together to enjoy some wine and conversation, the evening always begins the same way. We raise our glasses and give a toast: "To old friends and new beginnings."

It's our little nod to each other. Having known each other my entire life, the toast represents our constant quests to better our lives and ourselves with a recognition that we will always have each other to lean on, even when our "new beginnings" result in old problems.

Shortly after the creation of the toast, my grandmother made a major alteration. At the tail end of the toast, after recognizing our continuous hope for the future and renewing our pledge to each other, Nana made a funky face and hand gesture and added "and to old people!"

We began to tack on the new ending (hand gesture included) as a joke, laughing at my grandmother's goofiness. Now, it comes out naturally, as if it had always been there and no regard had ever been given to striking her portion of the toast.

"To old people" is a nod to the wisdom Nana has brought us, and, more importantly, to the fact that, like it or not, she's always going to be a presence in our duo-turned-trio and in our family.

She's tough as nails, constantly involved in everyone's lives, sometimes by invitation, sometimes not. She's stubborn as hell. Once you've picked a fight, there's no throwing in the towel. Whether you feel like you're right or not, you will not leave the battle until she, even if it's only in her mind, has come out the victor.

It's what we all love, and often hate, about Nana. Her ability to place herself in the middle of a situation and her inability to leave it until she is satisfied.

We couldn't remove the line from our toast, even if we tried.

And this surgery, try as it may, could never remove Nana. For in good times and bad, no matter who or what interferes, her place at our toasting table will be secured solely by her for a very, very long time.

She wouldn't have it any other way. And anyone who tries to tell her differently is seriously wasting their breath.

"To old friends, new beginnings AND old people."