I’m Funner Than That Now

When we lived in Denver – around 1999 – Nick and I saw Paul Simon and Bob Dylan in concert. We were huge Paul Simon fans and decided that, so long as Dylan was there too, it might be kind of cool to see such a legend perform – but we definitely didn’t attend the show because of an abiding love for ol’ Bob. When all was said and done, it was kind of cool to see him perform (and kind of fascinating/scary to see his fan base losing their minds when he came on stage), but we still felt the same after the show that we’d felt before going in: he’s one heckuva songwriter, but we could do without having to listen to him.

One of my favorite Dylan songs is titled “My Back Pages” whose chorus contains the lyrics,

Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

When I first heard them in high school, I thought those words were deep and meaningful and poetic, so I latched onto them because it seemed the intellectual, teen-angsty thing to do. As I grew, I learned to appreciate the song lyrics from a different perspective (and lo, I’d thought I was so wise back then… but nay, now realize how foolish I was… IRONIC JUSTICE, MR. DYLAN).

I don’t necessarily feel younger now than I did when I was, well, younger, but in many ways, I do feel more fun.

Case in point: at Emi and Matt’s wedding, I got drunk. I could phrase it nicely and say I was over-served or that I had too much to drink, but if I’m being honest, I got drunk. I was silly and loud and danced in ways that I didn’t know my body could move (and maybe shouldn’t have moved) for hours on end, all the while having an absolute ball. Later, I apologized to my mother-in-law for my nutty dance moves, and remarked that this was the first time she’d ever seen me even a little bit tipsy — the first time in twenty years. (That’s not because I hid my debauchery from her for all those years, but rather because, up until quite recently, I rarely drank at all, and certainly didn’t get drunk.) Her response? “You were having so much fun out there. I loved it!”

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Yep, that’d be me on the floor (in the lei) doing… I have no idea what. But I was having a fabulous time, that’s for sure.

Back in high school, it never crossed my mind to have even a sip of alcohol. This wasn’t some moral or religious stance, nor was it something my friends and I discussed – we didn’t head up the Substance Free committee or sit around denouncing the evils of beer – but it just didn’t happen when we were hanging out. I knew other kids drank, sure, but I wasn’t into it. When I got to college, I had the occasional drink – and even, on very rare occasions, drank enough that I could be considered more than slightly buzzed – but, overall, I really wasn’t interested.

In fact, I was sort of proud of not wanting to have alcohol. I don’t need to drink to have a good time! I can do all of the other absurd and moronic things that college students do without alcohol to fuel it! (And, oh, I did…) But there was more to it than that; although I never said so out loud, I definitely looked down on people who did drink. Oh, you’re getting together and having a few? Hm. Too bad you can’t enjoy one another’s company without it revolving around libations.

And so it continued through my twenties. I drank every so often, became marginally inebriated maybe once every three or four years, and quietly passed judgment on everyone who consumed alcohol – including my family and friends. Certain circumstances warranted the booze, of course – weddings and bachelorette parties, for example, so long as you never drank to excess. It was also acceptable to have the infrequent glass of wine or beer with dinner, provided that you drank it slowly and stopped well before you began to feel the effects. I’d thumb through Hallmark cards for friends’ birthdays and would scoff at how many of them contained casual mention of wine. Is this really the way that people connect? How sad.

Then, around ten years ago, something began to change. Maybe it was the birth of Eleanor, maybe it was just growing up and meeting more people who looked at life differently than I do – but who, I discovered, were (miraculously!) still good, smart, honest, hardworking, likable, trustworthy people… but I no longer began thinking that it was so awful to have a drink every now and again. My knowledge of alcohol was limited to what I’d known in college and shortly thereafter – Boone’s and Natty Lite and wine coolers and frou-frou girly drinks – which tasted like perfumed bath water, so I took it upon myself to become more knowledgable about all manner of spirits.

Nick was really into craft and local beers, so I learned about those. Realizing how woefully ignorant we were about wines, we took a couple of wine courses; we’re hardly experts now, but we have a pretty good idea of how wines are made, what the different varietals taste like, and – most importantly – what we like (and don’t like) and why. We took cooking classes specifically geared toward how to pair alcohol with food, learning how each brings out the goodness of the other (if you pair them correctly). It was… really fun.

As I discovered what alcoholic beverages I enjoyed (no more Bartles and Jaymes, thank God), I began to drink more often, too. A glass with dinner went from a semi-annual occasion to a semi-weekly occasion. I started to find the wine-themed birthday cards funny. I also began to understand how fabulous it could be at the end of the day, when I’d been puked on and broken up three fights and dropped the milk in the checkout line and both girls had a fever, to sit down with a drink. A drink drink.

Necessary? Nope. Delicious and wonderful? Oh heck yes.

Finally, I learned that it is sometimes just really damned enjoyable to drink enough to feel it. I’d never understood that before – why on earth would anyone want to lose themselves? To feel wobbly or spinny or crazy? To not be in control (which, quite frankly, seemed scary as hell)? Well… maybe because it’s (wait for it)… fun. It can be incredibly freeing to lose yourself for a couple of hours, to momentarily forget what’s bothering you. It can be wonderful to have your pain temporarily lessened, your heartache soothed, your worry eased. It can be simply marvelous to laugh more quickly, to smile more often, to make connections with everyone around you. It can be delightful to let go of your carefully-constructed control, like releasing an enormous breath you didn’t realize you were holding.

(Lest I give you the wrong impression, I’m not, in any way, saying that I now think you need to drink alcohol in order to have a good time, that drinking to excess on any sort of regular basis is okay, or that relying on alcohol is okay. Drinking problems are not something to be taken lightly; alcoholism is a serious and heartbreaking disease, much like depression. Drinking and driving is never, ever acceptable. Just so we’re clear.)

To many (most?) of you, this is ludicrously obvious. Um, yep. People drink because they enjoy it. People sometimes drink too much on purpose because they like it. You’re just figuring this out now?

Well, not now now, but more or less, yes. I am just figuring it out, and it’s one helluva realization. More importantly than discovering that I like Sauvignon Blanc, however, I have (finally) stopped thinking negatively of everyone else who’s out there enjoying their wine and beer and cocktails. And, as a result, we have a lot more fun together! Not because I drink more often than I used to – the alcohol isn’t really the point – but because I’ve stopped being quite so uptight and judgmental, in general.

For years, I’d been so caught up on Doing The Right Thing and Following The Rules that I didn’t even realize how much those were, ironically, doing just the opposite. By attempting to Do The Right Thing and Follow The Rules, I wound up judging everybody around me about just about everything that differed from my Right Things and Rules. These days, I’m working on taking that judgment out of every single thing (although, I’m not gonna lie, it’s totally still there, just not everywhere). It’s hard and it’s shitty sometimes because, damn it, being all judgey is easy and, in a crazy way, makes me feel good because it’s neat to feel superior (ew). But it’s so worth it because, frankly, living atop that high horse was awfully difficult; the view sucked because I was so far away, and the balancing was exhausting.

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Getting down on my knees and…serenading?… was also exhausting, but for different reasons.

It used to be that Annie and Ella had to eat a certain way, all the time. The Right Way, of course, which included specific amounts of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and an avoidance of nearly all crappy foods. I hid veggies in baked goods and watched them like hawks around relatives (so they couldn’t be slipped anything unsavory). My sisters-in-law still recall how I was so determined to get my kids to eat “right,” I used to call fruit purees “special sauce” so I could trick the girls into eating them. I WAS A TOTAL BLAST, AMIRIGHT?

Then, it became too much. And, in truth, I just plain grew up. So now, yeah, their diets are still pretty darn healthy. They read labels and avoid HFCS and even count grams of sugar. But they also have dessert every single day. They eat anything they want all day long at the Minnesota State Fair each year. They – gasp! – order soda when we go out. And they’re allowed to have full-on junk food days when they’re with their relatives. Screw The Rules! Which, hands down, is a helluva lot more fun.

The girls used to have to go to bed at a certain time; we were militant with our bedtimes and nap times, and I certainly judged anyone who took their still-young-enough-to-be-strapped-into-the-cart child to Target with them at 9 p.m. on a school night. (Well, I guess they just don’t care about instilling proper sleep habits. Tsk tsk.) Now, Ella and Annie still have a bedtime – it’s not just a free-for-all over here – but it’s more fluid. They stay up later some nights and go to bed far earlier on others. And it is FUN, I tell you. FUN! (Except when I allow them to stay up too late reading Harry Potter and they’re emotional disasters the following day; oops.) I don’t even look twice anymore if someone has their infant in the grocery store at midnight (well, maybe I look twice, but that’s mostly because I’m doing a double take wondering what the hell I’m doing in the grocery store at midnight). FUN, FUN, FUN.

I used to be absolutely un-budge-able with our Christmas traditions (nearly all of which I’d adopted from my own childhood, with Nick’s approval). This is how we do it, because it is always how we’ve done it, end of story. The mere thought of altering tradition made me break out in a cold sweat. But then, one year, things weren’t going to plan (Christmas will be ruined!) and Nick suggested another way and I got down off the horse just enough to actually listen to him and, whaddya know, change can be good… and it can make Christmas much more enjoyable for everyone.

I know that I’ll ever stop passing judgment; it’s an all-too-human trait and I accept that about myself, as much as I’m trying to do better. But I do know that it feels really nice to become less uptight and unfaltering, to realize that my perspective isn’t the only one that’s valid (although it usually is pretty fantastic), to try to be a little less narrow-minded. Instead of feeling scary and uncontrolled and wild, it feels freeing and relaxing and fun.

Sometimes, growing up has its perks.

If only I could stop looking down on anyone who misuses “nauseous” or “literally,” or on any kind of reality TV that involves a Kardashian, a bachelor(ette), anything set in New Jersey, or a real housewife, I bet I would be a freaking HOOT.

 

 

 

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So You Think You Can’t Dance?? Try It!

Over Columbus Day weekend, we had the incredible privilege of attending Nick’s sister’s wedding. We were thrilled to be in Minnesota to celebrate with Emi and her new husband, Matt. It was autumnally beautiful – great weather, lovely temperatures – with warmth and pure joy emanating from absolutely every corner.

The invitation said that the wedding was to begin at 6 p.m. and would be followed by the reception, cocktails, and dinner, with “awkward but enthusiastic dancing” (their wording – how fabulous is that??) to last from 9:00 p.m. until 1 a.m. (which, for the uninitiated, is 2 a.m. EST; I’m not good with The Math but I do time zones quite well). I assumed that Ella and Annie would ace their roles as flower girls (or junior bridesmaids; they insisted they were the latter), that they’d enjoy the party, but that they would start to fade relatively shortly after that. As such, we’d scheduled a babysitter to meet them at our hotel room so that Nick and I could drink without guilt really let loose and celebrate with everyone. I had no idea how I would manage to stay upright until what felt like 2 a.m., but by God I was bound and determined to try.

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Taken sometime after midnight, mostly upright.

I’m not usually much for dancing. I have dragged myself into a dance club (is that what they’re called? Would “club” suffice, or does that not imply dancing?) at the insistence of others exactly twice in my life, and each time I avoided the dance floor as much as possible. It’s not that I’m a terrible dancer… well, okay. I’m a terrible dancer. But it’s more that I typically just don’t have a whole lot of fun dancing. Watching people dance, on the other hand, is something I genuinely love, so I figured that I’d spend much of Emi and Matt’s reception observing from afar, joining in only when it seemed to be bridesmaid-duty necessary.

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The girls, on the other hand, hopped on the dance floor as soon as possible – which, in this case, happened to be during Emi and Matt’s first dance. Ella’s elation and Annie’s twerk-ish expression make me smile.

I hadn’t had opportunity to cut too much of a rug prior to the girls retiring for the night, so once I returned from dropping Annie and Ella off at the hotel, I screwed up my courage and decided that I would make my obligatory appearance on the dance floor. When that dance was over, I thought I’d subtly slip away to one of the nearby tables to rest up and giggle at the other people shakin’ their groove thangs. Instead, I found myself not wanting to leave. It was fun! Nay, it was hilarious! There was laughter! There was exuberance! I was making a complete fool of myself and, for some reason, I did not care one whit! (Part of the reason may have been alcohol, but that’s just a guess.)

After my four-hour frenzy on the dance floor, both participating and carefully observing others, I feel that I am now somewhat of a dancing expert. Or, at least an expert in Almost-40-something White Girl Dance Moves.* In case you have not found yourself on the dance floor in quite some time, or in case you are not an Almost-40-something White Girl, allow me to more fully explain the crackerjack moves that are, apparently, all the rage these days.**

* Given that I am an almost-40-something white girl, I feel that I can make this ridiculous statement. Yes, it’s an obvious over-generalization and is meant to be absurd. Carry on.
** “These days” = at Emi and Matt’s wedding. Which clearly means they are absolutely true for everyone, everywhere. Carry on again.

Because I’ve seen only a few of the photos from Emi and Matt’s shindig with people actually dancing, I cannot provide you with much visual evidence. Knowing that it wouldn’t be much fun to see reenactments of me attempting these steps, I asked Annie and Ella for help and they graciously volunteered to be my models, knowing that I would post the photos here (which is yet another reason why having children was a good idea). And so, I present to you…

Dance Moves That Are All The Rage These Days, At Least If You’re An Almost-40-something White Girl (aka Me) Dancing At A Wedding

0) The Circle

I’ve started with ‘0’ because, as everyone knows, it is illegal for any wedding reception dancing to take place without at least some of the participants first forming a circle. The Circle is an effective tool for being able to dance oneself while simultaneously keeping an eye on the other dancers, especially if someone elects to start a move that is best when copied. The Circle is critical for when one must break out one’s most bodacious moves in the center of said circle (say, for example, The Worm… in your bridesmaid dress… across the reception-hall floor. OH YES, IT HAPPENED). The Circle is also useful for creating a space across which one may strut when one simply must stand next to another dancer at right that very moment. Which brings us to the actual dance moves, starting with…

1) The Squat

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This is the most essential of all the moves, as it is the building block for everything else. You are not attempting to do a full-on squat like you would at CrossFit or during that horrible fitness test in gym class, but rather a half-squat where your knees are just slightly bent and your pelvis is tucked back. For this move to be authentic, you should step side-to-side between both feet as though you are keeping time or are about to start the Funky Chicken.  Be sure to really dig into your heels so you can grind them into the floor later for support.

2. The “Hey Girl!”
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This one is a cinch. While performing The Squat, simply raise one hand in the air to salute a fellow dancer – most likely female – across the circle from you. You may point at her, you may wave your hand in the air, you may hail, you may fist pump – so long as only one hand is in the air and you maintain The Squat, you have affected the “Hey Girl!” properly.

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As mentioned, I haven’t yet seen many dance photos from the wedding – but if ever there were an absolutely perfect Almost-40-something White Girl dance example, THIS IS IT.
First, we have formed The Circle (it’s a messy circle, but it’s there). If you look carefully, you will see an additional dance circle in the corner of the photo, just beyond the gentleman in the pinkish shirt.
You will note that one of Emi’s other bridesmaids, K (in the silver sweater and rockin’ blonde hair) and I (yes, I’m wearing a lei; don’t ask) are really feeling The Squat.
Finally, please note that our dear friend H is performing the “Hey Girl!” to K and me, with her right index finger pointed righteously upward.
THREE MOVES IN ONE – BAM!

3. The Power Squat
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Sadly, there are times when the delicacy of The Squat will simply not suffice; you must feel that music and get even lower to the ground. This is where the Power Squat comes in handy. (Note that this is different from how you will get down to the ground when the “a little bit softer now” part of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” is played and everyone flattens themselves onto the dance floor; the Power Squat is far more rhythmic and athletic, obviously.) For added effect, you may do mini fist pumps while in the Power Squat.

4. The Squat Driver
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Part of what makes The Squat such a fantastic building block is that, while in it, you can perform additional classic moves – the Swim, the Sprinkler, the Cabbage Patch, etc. In this case, Annie has incorporated the Bus Driver (complete with mini stank-face, which is totally necessary while performing the Squat Driver in a circle so that you can properly entice the people across the Circle from you).

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It’s a little difficult to see here (unless you have x-ray vision and can see through H’s arm), but I do believe I’m executing a lovely version of the Squat Driver in this photo… 

5. The Phantom Lighter
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Okay, so no one uses lighters anymore at concerts, instead replacing them with cell phones, but the concept is the same: you wave that arm overhead, left to right and back again. While dancing, no cell phone is necessary (although it may certainly be present) and your hand may be empty, but you can still thrust that arm into the air and move it to and fro. Don’t forget to keep your Squat intact; abandoning the Squat is grounds for immediate disqualification (or at least being elected as the person who needs to go get the next round).

6. The Grabwedding dance10

For this, you will need at least two people (more are certainly possible). While still performing The Squat, reach out and clasp the hand (or hands – go on, double up) of a nearby dancer. The Grab is best executed when you look your partner square in the eye and make a stank face. This is not meant to be an elaborately choreographed routine; it is merely to gain physical contact with another dancer. Be careful not to lean back too far, nor to rely solely on the person whose hand you are grasping to hold you up; wedding reception dancers are notoriously unbalanced and depending on anyone for support is a risky proposition.

7. The Shoulder Press
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When you need to get close to another dancer (trust me, you will) and back-to-back moves are unsatisfactory because you cannot see your partner’s face (see also: unbalanced), the Shoulder Press comes in handy. This way, you can continue to perform The Squat (duh) while cozying up to someone else and looking them in the eye. Bonus points for smiling, nodding, and awww yeah eyebrow raising. This move can be carried on for several moments, then can easily segue into the Grab or the Spoon (see below). Or you could decide to separate and rejoin the rest of the dance circle, giving a quick “Hey Girl!” to one of the dancers across the Circle from you; the possibilities are endless.

8. The Spoon
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Sometimes, you’ve just got to get close – I mean really close – to your fellow dancers, and the Shoulder Press simply isn’t cutting it. Enter: the Spoon. The beauty of the Spoon is its simplicity – all you need to do is come up from behind, join your dancing buddy in The Squat, and make your presence known. Nothing complicated or intricate. No need for introductions. In fact, apparently you don’t even need to have met the other person before performing the Spoon. (I’m convinced that, while being Spooned at the reception, I was touched in places that had previously only been seen by my husband, children, or mother – by somebody to whom I hadn’t even been introduced.) You can also perform the Spoon with someone with whom you’re intimately acquainted.
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Look carefully: H’s husband [pinkish shirt] is in the process of starting the Spoon as H performs the “Hey Girl!”).
FOUR MOVES IN ONE! BOOYAH!!
——————-

There are many (many) more moves, of course, but these nine (don’t forget The Circle) should get you through several hours of very happy boogie-ing down. Dancers in situations like these enjoy a shared experience, where everyone loves everybody else, much like communes or cults. While you are dancing, it is beautiful and wonderful; only after you successfully pull yourself away and look back do you realize the slightly bizarre and potentially questionable relationships you had with everyone involved.

The best part about these moves is that they require no formal training and can be performed by absolutely anyone. You need not be an Almost-40-something White Girl, nor attending a wedding, and you certainly don’t need to have even one iota of rhythm or natural dance ability. What you do need is the desire to have a boatload of fun, the willingness to make an absolute ass out of yourself, and a lot of stamina.

(Be forewarned: if you decide to wear your heels for the entire four hours that you are dancing – especially if you do not normally wear shoes with any sort of heel at all – your feet will really not appreciate it.)

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High heels? Nope. But after dancing ALL NIGHT LONG, anything other than slippers was pretty much torture.

As an added bonus, dancing like this is tremendous exercise. Turns out, maintaining The Squat for such an extended period of time puts a surprising amount of strain on your quads. Unless you’re an ultra-marathoner or the stunt double for The Hulk, you’ll likely awaken the following morning to discover that you can hardly walk and your entire body below your armpits will ache for a minimum of three days… which makes these Almost-40-something White Girl Moves both a cardio workout and a strength workout.

Fun, laughter, incredible memories, and you can scratch Going To The Gym off your calendar?? Sign me UP!

Two-and-a-half weeks post-reception, I’m no longer in pain (save for the agony caused by the emotional humiliation). Looking back on that night, I can’t quite believe it was me out there – but I’m damn glad I decided not to be an observer. Yeah, when the rest of the photos appear (there were an awful lot of people taking an awful lot of pictures), my quads may grumble all over again, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be giggling.

In the meantime, I have these sweet new moves to practice. After all, I am an expert now; that reputation was hard-earned and I’m not about to let it go any time soon.

Lucky Thirteen

Thirteen years ago today, Nick and I were married and – if I may be so bold – our wedding was pretty freakin’ awesome. I’ve already written here several times about what it means to be married, about how our relationships has grown and changed over the years, about Nick himself and who he is. So today, as promised, I want to talk about our wedding itself and why it still makes me smile after all these years.

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I have no idea why we’re laughing, but it pretty accurately sums up the tenor of the evening.

If I got married today, I’d be all over Pinterest – Ooooh, let’s serve those at the reception! These are fabulous invitations! Who knew you could do that with a ball of twine and some feathers?!  When Nick and I were planning our wedding, there was no Pinterest. The internet, although definitely part of our lives, was not the place to go to get information and ideas about your upcoming nuptials. The sources that were available – gen-you-wine old-fashioned books and magazines – provided us with bunch of ideas, a few of which we adapted, but mostly we were on our own.

Which suited us fine, because we knew only three things for sure about our wedding: we really wanted to get married to one another, so that was, you know, kind of the focal point; we wanted our guests to have a kick-ass good time; and we wanted the wedding to really represent who we were. Meaning it would be musical, fun, geeky, loud, joy-filled, a little different, and enormous portions of delicious food would be plentiful.

Knowing that the musical aspects of the wedding were really important to us, we got started early by arranging two songs to be sung a cappella (see: geeky), recording the different parts and burning them onto CDs (again, not so easy to just email the files; and also again: geeky), and mailing the CDs to our extremely good-natured and supportive friends – members of the a cappella groups Nick and I had been part of in college – who’d agreed to sing with us over the course of the weekend. To their credit, every single one of ’em learned those parts; when we got together to rehearse for the first time (less than an hour before performing), it was like turning on a stereo.us wedding11
I Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” by Smash Mouth, what else?

For the rehearsal dinner itself, which was hosted by Nick’s family, we decided to bring a little Minnesota flare into our New York festivities. Nick’s mom and aunts hand-dyed the tablecloths and created the table centerpieces themselves, using preserved local Minnesota flowers and cattails and then shipping the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle all the way out to the Big Apple. It felt homey and warm and special and I was so grateful to them for putting so much effort and love into every detail. Nick’s dad created a slideshow of photos of Nick growing up, while my mom created a video of photos of me growing up, and the whole night felt like the perfect combination of his family and mine.

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That there would be the hand-dyed tablecloth and really cool Minnesota flowers.

Naturally, there was singing. We sang a cappella with our friends – a mix of old songs (including an old-school ditty called “Daddy” whose lyrics begin, “Daddy, let me stay up late… for tomorrow is my wedding date…” I know!) and the ones that Nick and I had arranged. Nick performed on his guitar, I sang with my forever BFF, Kiki, and Nick and I did a few songs together, welcoming everyone into this crazy world of ours.

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The morning of big day dawned cloudy and rainy, but the skies had cleared by the time the festivities began. I’d asked my singing pals to join me and my bridal party just prior to entering the church so that we could sing “Going to the Chapel” (in harmony, duh).

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Going to the chapel… literally.

The wedding ceremony itself was lovely and vibrant, nodding to tradition while turning things on their ends. Although we got married in a church, I refused to walk down the aisle to the organ because I think organs sound like something out of a horror movie (and yes, I was a music major and studied Bach and all that jazz [pun intended!] and I still can’t stand the organ; hey, you like what you like), instead choosing Offenbach’s “Barcarolle” from The Tales of Hoffman (after falling in love with it in the movie Life is Beautiful) for the processional and Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” (yes, the march, like you’d hear on the Fourth of July) for the recessional.

At the reception, we wanted everyone to have an absolute blast, to dance and eat themselves silly and enjoy the hell out of the whole affair (in part because, c’mon, how often are we going to do this? and in part because of the timing of the event). To begin, we had our first dance; nowadays, I’d be scouring YouTube for fun and charming First Dance Videos, but then, YouTube wasn’t even a blink in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye (I know he didn’t invent YouTube – Google tells me that it was created by three former PayPal employees – but it’s the first name I came up with, so there) – so it was just up to us to come up with something a little unusual. Ultimately, we decided to add a bit of whimsy to the dance (“The Way You Look Tonight”, a longtime favorite of ours) and incorporate a “choreographed” section complete with pat-a-cake clapping and doing “the swim”; it was very dignified.

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What? You didn’t rock ’50s and ’60s hand motions during your first dance? Pity.

Since this was, we figured, our one shot at sharing a bit of ourselves with this collection of charming guests who made their way across the country to join us, we wanted to include some of our favorite family traditions – including Christmas crackers (you know, the kind with exploding snaps at each end that are filled with a paper crown, a small slip of paper containing a joke or bit of trivia, and an itty bitty toy), which my family has opened at special dinners since I was a kid. Except that any old Christmas crackers wouldn’t do, so we – along with my mom – spent hours upon hours filling empty crackers with music-themed items: piano erasers, quarter note pins, and the like.

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The crackers, ready to go at at the tables…

us wedding3 Naturally, we put the crowns on as soon as we opened the crackers. Duh.

Our love of music was woven into all areas of the reception. Our band had told us they’d learn one song of our choosing – and so we chose a relative unknown, “Oh Babe, What Would You Say?” by Hurricane Smith, because it was one of my grandfather’s favorite songs and we used to listen to it while roasting marshmallows at the bonfires along the lake; we invited our entire families to join us for the dance. Our seating cards were written on music staves, sending people to a table not named by number but by a place that was important to Nick and me (Denver, Disney World, Canandaigua…).

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My cousin, looking to figure out which table he was at. (Hint: he was with us.)

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Dramatic reenactment; you get the idea.

Our a cappella friends joined us once more for a performance. Our wedding favors were CDs featuring our favorite songs. And, of course, there was the whole sing-a-song-with-the-word-‘love’-in-it thing, which turned out to be one of the best aspects of the entire day.

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We oh-so-cleverly did a mashup of Lyle Lovett’s “She’s No Lady (She’s My Wife)” and the George Gershwin classic, “Boy! What Love Has Done To Me!” (as sung by the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald). #MusicGeeks
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Yep, our buddy B is still wearing his crown. Because he rocks.

In short, everything was just as we’d hoped it would be; we had the perfect wedding (for us). I realize that not everyone can say that their wedding was everything they wanted, and that ours was makes me tremendously grateful. (Grateful, as well, to my – and Nick’s – parents, who never played the role of overbearing in-laws, instead deferring all important decisions to us so that the day could go exactly as we’d imagined.)

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The first few shots were staged – no actual plunging – but then we really did jump in at the end, which scared the heck out of my stepdad, who was taking the photos.

We wanted the food and drinks to be abundant and delicious; it was. We wanted the band to play songs that everyone would get up and dance to; they did. We wanted people to come together to sing and be silly; they did. We wanted autumn to be fully incorporated into the wedding – the decor, the food, the colors, the flowers (I believe that I’d asked for the reception locale to be “dripping with flowers,” a statement that, in hindsight, might have been just a bit overboard – but, gee, they sure were pretty!); it was.

We wanted to share our love of our home states with our guests; we did. We hoped they would join us in celebrating some of our families’ most cherished traditions; they did. We tried to ensure that music, and its importance to us, was felt at every turn; I believe that it was. We wanted everyone to feel welcome and happy, to be able to relax and just kick back and enjoy themselves, to know how grateful we were that they were there; I think they did.

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Laughing about something different this time; yes, Nick is wearing his crown, and yes, I’ve got a yellow plastic treble clef pinned to my wedding dress.

Even now, thirteen years later, people who attended our wedding tell us that it was one of the best weddings they’ve ever been to. Although that’s certainly a kind and flattering sentiment, I believe that it wasn’t so much the wedding itself that was memorable; it was that, for one day, we put ourselves wholly out there: this is who we are. We love music. We love our families. We adore our friends. We live for good food and laughter. Traditions matter. Levity is a must. Humor is essential. Laughter is the best. We really, really dig one another’s company. We believe in fun. And we are so, so glad that you’re joining us.

Our wedding wasn’t a one-off celebration that marked a complete departure from our personalities; it well and truly started our lives together because it was a representation of who we are as individuals and as a couple. Today, we’re still living by those values, right down to the geeky a cappella love and the continued use of Christmas crackers.

I feel so thankful – and lucky – that our marriage started off the way it did, with a wedding that was everything we’d dreamed of. I’m even more thankful – and feel even luckier – that our marriage itself is only somewhat like what I’d imagined; actually, it’s better.

Happy baker’s dozen anniversary, Nick! Here’s to dozens more – and to more laughter, more singing, and more cake and wine.

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Throwback Thursday: I remember the love

Whenever I think of September 11th, 2001, I am – like everyone else – immediately transported back to that morning. Nick and I had recently moved to New York from Colorado, and our apartment was absolutely fantastic. With its two bedrooms and two baths, it was pricey by any standard other than those found around enormous metropolises, but man, did we get bang for our buck — parking, storage, hilarious and helpful old-school Italian landladies, a washer/dryer right in the apartment (those stacking miniatures that could hold three socks and a sweatshirt without overloading), and best of all, it was in a tremendous location thirty minutes from Manhattan in the heart of a darling little village right on the train tracks.

I do mean right on the train tracks. When a Metro-North train pulled into the station, we could be inside the apartment and still make it out the door, down the stairs, onto the platform, and into the train on time. This did mean that there were commuter trains going past our windows at nearly all hours of the day and night but really, it didn’t bother us. In fact, we scarcely even registered that they were there.

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That Tuesday began like any other, except that Nick was preparing for a job fair so he was getting all gussied up. It was, of course, a picture-perfect September morning, topaz blue skies unblemished by clouds, warmish but not hot, the just-right segue from summer into fall. (It still strikes me as odd that I took stock of the weather at all. I can’t recall what the weather was on other important days, but I so vividly remember staring at the expanse of blue later in the afternoon that day and being dumbfounded that the world had fallen apart on such a beautiful day.)

We were going about our routine when my mom called around 9:00 – unusual for her, as she is truly a night owl – to ask if we’d heard the news that there was an accident and a plane had struck the World Trade Tower. In an attempt to save money, Nick and I didn’t have a television (and internet news wasn’t really happening yet), so we turned on the radio in an attempt to get more information. There was confusion – was it a small, personal plane? How had the pilot not seen the tower? – until the second plane hit, and then we all knew that this was no accident; something was terribly wrong.

Although we didn’t have a regular television, we did have a miniature one that fit right in your hand, so I pulled out its antenna as far as it would go until I was finally able to find – and keep – a televised broadcast of the unfolding attack. It was on that itty bitty set, no more than 3 inches across, that we watched the towers fall, disappearing into enormous gray clouds at the bottom of the screen.

I remember covering my mouth in shock and horror. I remember crying. I remember the desperation and frenzy as we attempted to make contact with the great number of people we knew who lived and worked in the City – including my father and stepfather – only to be met with maddening recordings informing us that all lines were busy. I remember the relief and hysteria upon finally hearing their voices, which was echoed by the relief and gratitude that we heard in the voices of our out-of-town friends and family who had been desperately trying to reach us to see if we were okay.

I remember the silence; for the first and only time during our tenure in that apartment, the trains stopped running.

Twenty five days later, Nick and I were married in a small, charming stone church thirty minutes from Manhattan. In the few weeks since the attacks, the United States had – understandably – discussed little else, and we had briefly considered marrying privately and celebrating more formally later. Ultimately, we decided to go ahead with the big day as planned; it would be a shame to change things up so late in the game, we reasoned, but more importantly, we figured that we could really use a reason to celebrate.

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That everyone came is the most humbling experience I’ve ever known. On one level, it’s always pretty amazing that people are willing to show up and support you. But this? This was different.

We all remember those This Can’t Be Happening weeks following September 11th – the omnipresent sense of uncertainty and fear that crept into every area of life, unfurling like fog in the night. We were on edge, tense, scared. For many of us, the mere thought of pursuing “normal” life was overwhelming; traveling – by plane – was inconceivable. And yet, that’s what our guests did. Very few of our friends and family lived locally. To get to us, they had to travel – a good 80% of them, nearly half by air. That they had the courage and strength to get on those airplanes and highways remains utterly awe-inspiring to me.

As for those who were local? Well, these were the folks who lived and worked in Manhattan, the ones who could smell the still-smoldering ruins from their apartments, the ones whose vistas were now missing two anchors, the ones with apartments on the train lines like us, the ones who were surrounded, every minute of the day, by the aftermath of the attacks.

So, yeah. Our wedding guests pretty much kicked ass.

We didn’t talk about September 11th during the wedding, deciding instead to focus on why everyone had so generously come together, but we didn’t have to. It was everywhere – the faces of the people we had lost or who were still missing, the news “crawl” that began on CNN, the feeling that nothing would be quite the same again. But at the wedding, there was joy. There was music (lots and lots of music). There was laughter.  There was seriously delicious food and seriously raucous dancing.

Maybe it was because we’d all been followed around by clouds for the past twenty-five days, but we were here and it was fun and we were celebrating and there was singing and eating and alcohol and holy crap did everyone let go and have a freakin’ blast.

The most poignant moment of the night didn’t come during the ceremony, however, nor during any of the letting-loose afterward. Instead, it was a surprise moment that perfectly honored the somber-but-celebratory mood, forever linking our wedding with September 11th in the most wonderful way possible.

Given the musical theme running through the wedding, Nick and I had informed our guests that we would not kiss if glasses were clinked but rather when an entire table stood up and – in unison – sang a song containing the word “love.” It didn’t take long for people to get into the spirit of things and we found ourselves serenaded by the likes of The Beatles’ “She Loves You” and David Cassidy’s “I Think I Love You” – all cute, all light, all sweet.

By several hours in, one of the few tables not yet to stand was the one at which my grandparents were seated. This was reasonable, perhaps even expected – requesting octogenarian participation was maybe reaching a bit. But then my grandfather stood and, in his booming voice, began to sing “God Bless America”.

God bless America
Land that I love

Within a few words, his table had joined in. Within a line, the entire room sang together. By the end, everyone was standing, hands on hearts, as the band accompanied us. It was, quite simply, one of the most moving and beautiful things I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of.

———–

No other tables stood after that.

When we decided to go ahead with the wedding, I knew that it would be somehow joined with September 11th. I never anticipated that one of my strongest memories of one of our country’s darkest days would come from our wedding reception, nor that it would be so lovely.

Despite our collective haze and shock, there was something special about the place we found ourselves immediately post-9/11, something connecting and almost comforting. While I certainly wouldn’t wish for another terrorist attack to bring us all together, there are times when I wish we still could feel that camaraderie, unity, and collective determination to rise, rebuild, and heal.

I will never forget, but I will also always remember. I will remember the sky and the silence, the “Missing” posters and the fighter jets overhead. I will remember the way so many people joined together, at Ground Zero, at makeshift triages, across bridges and over dinner. I will remember those incredible family members and friends who chose strength over fear, joy over sadness. I will remember the hope we shared, the laughter, the hugs.

I will remember the singing.
I will remember the love.

A dozen

Twelve years ago today, I married my best friend. We’d already been together for seven-and-a-half years, and living together (totally in sin) for almost four, so perhaps it might seem that the actual wedding wouldn’t have meant all that much… but it did.

For starters, I loved the wedding itself. We wanted to make it really “us,” so that we could share what meant the most to us with our guests – while also having a rockin’ kickass good time. And, from the a cappella singing to the Minnesota-themed centerpieces, from the autumn colors to the seating cards with the names written on treble clef staves, it was exactly what we’d hoped it would be. That everyone had braved the airlines and set aside their apprehensions to join us – only thirty miles outside of New York City – less than four weeks after September 11th, made it all the more humbling and incredible.

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But the best part was actually marrying this guy I’d fallen in love with so many years ago. We were making it official, this commitment thing. Nick was mine and I was his and now we were each other’s, this new unit. We were getting married. It was just what I’d hoped it would be, plus cake. WIN-WIN.

I’ve already talked about how being married has both fulfilled and defied my expectations – in surprising but good ways. For me, though, what’s gotten us this far – and what I hope will take us much farther – is that I did, truly, marry my best friend, and that friendship is at the center of everything we do.

I have other best friends, of course. Nick may be the guy I wake up beside, the one who knows me better than anyone, the one who makes me laugh each day, but I don’t share everything with him, nor does he meet every one of my needs. That’s why I have Kiki, who’s known me since birth (quite literally), and Sarah, my sister-wife (sorry, but you know it’s true), and the handful of high school and college friends (miss you, Jill and Jessica!) and new but fantastic ladies (you know who you are, Karina). They, too, are best friends, and I love them to pieces.

With Nick, it’s different. We share this whole, nutty life thing – not to mention the kids and the dogs and the house and our families and Homeland (Dana, with the sexting… Come on, girl!) – and that, by its very nature, connects us in ways that no other relationship can. But still, at the core of the connection, is a deeply-seated friendship. Wrapped up in all kinds of love stuff, ’cause my heart still skips a beat after all these years.

We could pretend that this anniversary is like all the others. We could just talk about how lucky and grateful we are, how we love each other more now than before, how much fun we’ve had, how wild the journey has been, how we wouldn’t have had it any other way. But we’d be lying. It is different this year… because Bill isn’t here.

When we lost him, I lost a dear friend – and Nick lost a best friend. His absence colors everything we do, subconsciously and purposefully, even a day that’s about us. Do I wish that it didn’t? That he wasn’t always on our minds? Sure. I don’t mean that I’m tired of thinking about him, but rather that I wish we didn’t need to be thinking of him like this in the first place… because I wish he were cancer-free, still here, calling us today to wish us well. He isn’t, though… but we continue forward, together.

At our wedding reception, Bill made a short, simple, beautiful toast:

“I wish you the optimism to transcend difficult times
The authenticy to pursue your dreams
The flexibility to learn and adapt to a changing world
The charity to connect with others
And the expanding love to continue to embrace each other and all of us.”

I’d like to think that we’re fulfilling his wishes. Or, at least, that we’re trying.

This twelfth year has been a doozy. That whole “for better or for worse” part has been tested time and time again. It’s a long, winding, challenging, exhausting journey… But still, through it all, I’ve found that there’s no one I’d rather be walking – and laughing – beside than Nick. I can’t wait to see what the next dozen years bring us.

Happy 12th anniversary, babe. Now and forever.
(BTW – next time you want to push that “in sickness and in health” stuff to the limit, I propose some yoga. Or a walking tour of a winery. Or a bike ride to Starbucks. Juicing just wasn’t in the marriage vows.)

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