Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Our First Christmas...


Before I begin, I would just like to say that I hope that everyone had a nice Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

I would like to say that our first Christmas was shiny and perfect, but the truth is, I missed celebrating with my family in CA. I've never spent Christmas away from them in 38 years. I guess it wouldn't be normal if I wasn't a little homesick. I think that part of it is that we are all still mourning the loss of our traditional Christmases at my grandparents' house, which ended after they both passed away in 2008.

So, partly because of that, I think I came into the Christmas season a little on the emotional side this year. I am happy, though, that we were able to give a really nice Christmas Eve to Eric's family. My family decided to not do gifts this year, so Eric and I were able to focus our attention on his parents, nieces and nephew, who his parents have raised.

We went to Vancouver, the closest big city (about 40 miles away) about 2 weeks ago and did a marathon shopping day that turned out to be pretty productive and successful. I wrapped everything a few days before Christmas.

His family does things pretty informally, which is the complete opposite of my family. But, since we were hosting and because I have certain high expectations of myself as the hostess, I wanted to set a beautiful Christmas table for them. We used our wedding china for guests for the first time and my grandma's silver, which I'm so thrilled to have inherited.

The dinner was simple: some pizza, and I made BBQ chicken in the oven, Mexican rice, a salad, and my special chocolate chip sherry bundt cake, but we had a nice time. Eric's mom has been in a physical therapy rehab center with a broken foot and she just lost her sister about a week and a half ago, so knowing that we could give her a lovely evening away from the hospital for a few hours helped me to get out of my own pity party.

The evening was nice and comfortable and ended a bit earlier than what I'm used to simply because Eric's dad had to drive his mom back to the hospital (she had gotten leave for a few hours.) Eric and I cleaned up after the dinner and took Bailey for a walk in the rain, looking through windows and seeing other families celebrating their Christmas Eves and counting our own blessings.

Christmas Day was quiet. We only had one gift to open, from Eric's best friends, the Porters, which turned out to be a bean bag tic-tac-toe set up for the family room downstairs. It was a relief to see what was in that box, because we had been guessing for a week and had absolutely no idea what it was. We had fun setting it up and hurling the beanbags through the holes for about half an hour. Next came a quick phone call to my mom, who was at my brother's house, a nice Christmas breakfast, and a little more emotional tears from me followed.

But once again I had an opportunity to put things into perspective. We went and saw his mom at the hospital. If that doesn't make you count your blessings, nothing will. It was the proverbial scene with elderly people lining the hallways, looking a little lost. I tried to smile at the ones whose eyes I met, again counting my blessings, of which we have so, so many.

After the hospital and a quick trip to drop off an old TV/VCR to Eric's dad, we came home, grateful to have a nice warm home, grateful to have each other, and reminded of what Christmas is all about. We ended up snuggling downstairs watching A Christmas Story on TV and laughing uncontrollably at the funny jokes that never made sense when you watch that movie as a kid.

What a day! What lessons learned.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas and its changes...

In this year of multiple life changes, I'll be spending Christmas in WA with Eric and his family this year. Maybe it is because this is the first year in my life that I will not be spending Christmas with my family, but I had the need to have reminders of Christmas all over the house. Fortunately, Eric and I each had trees from our previous houses. Instead of debating which one to use and where, we used them both:

Mine in the living room as the main tree.

Eric's little 5-footer in the kitchen. His mom used to work for Hallmark and every year she would pick one ornament for him and let him pick one himself. There is an interesting assortment of Santa and football-themed (her choices) and religious, Nativity-themed ones (his.) The size is just right for the room.

And, since we spend a lot of time downstairs in the subterranean family room, I thought we needed a tree down there. So we got a white tree and red and gold ornaments to match the crazy carpeting down there, which I admit, is beginning to grow on me. I'm still waiting for that to happen in our very orange kitchen. Although the kitchen itself is awesome.

We are still settling in and deciding which projects to tackle, so, unfortunately our fireplaces will not have any fires this year until a chimney sweep comes out and inspects them. Who knows when they were used last. I do miss the hearth at my house in San Gabriel's living room. It was so pretty. Maybe one day we'll build more of a mantle in this house. All in good time, though.

This nativity is one that I bought at my favorite antique shop down in San Juan Capistrano. My gut tells me that it is not an antique, but I love the figures and the serene looks on all of their faces. It is sitting on my grandparents' console (which I can finally use because of the size of this house) in the dining room.


I saved the best for last. I am thrilled to have inherited this item from my grandparents' house. No one else showed much interest in it. This is a Mexican nativity scene that my grandma bought. Together, she and my grandpa built the diorama around it. It is the blending of the best of their talents...my grandpa, the thinker, the builder, the engineer. My grandma, the artist, the organizer, the decorator. I was able to put all new lights in it and bring it back to its former glory. I love having it set up during this season. It brings back so many great family memories.

Not only will this Christmas be a change for me, but also for the rest of our family as we all continue to adjust to the changes in our lifelong holiday traditions now that my grandparents are gone. Last year we had Christmas Eve at my house, and this year it will be at my mom's. This will also be the smallest gathering, as 6 out of the 7 grandchildren will be unable to attend. 5 are now out of state and my brother as obligations with his in-laws. Happily, my mom and her siblings are determined to be flexible and continue the family Christmas Eve traditions. Next year Eric and I plan to attend.

Lastly, another change this year is that it seems my whole family is doing very little in the gift department. I'm OK with that as long as everyone is agreeable, but as the person who has been in charge of the Christmas Wish Lists for the last several years, it feels weird not to be scrambling around collecting them from everyone.

The great thing about that, though, is that none of us really NEED anything. We're all so fortunate, so blessed, and have such abundance, that Christmas gifts almost feel redundant this year. And, as much as my life has changed this year, so much of it has been changes for the better. Now really, what Christmas present can top that?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Smell of Home...


This week I've been in a little bit of a funk. I think I've been a little homesick for CA, my mom, my nephew, decent shopping, etc. It's annoying how those moments of melancholy creep up on you.

I wanted to do something different with our meals, so I made Mexican rice--a staple in my home growing up--for the first time in about 20 years. It turned out OK, but not as flavorful as I would've liked. It tasted better the next day and with some added salt.

Today I made a second batch of Mexican rice. I used a shallower, but wider pot, more onion, and made it early enough so that it could sit even after it was cooked. It was better! Posting a picture of it on Facebook elicited all sorts of responses and suggestions from friends. There are a million and one ways to tweak the recipe.

And in an attempt to do something different, I wanted to try albondigas (Mexican meatballs) soup. I found a great recipe online, (click HERE for the recipe,) ran to the store to get the things I was missing, and did it. I knew it would be a success because I was making it in my grandma's pot. Anything made in that pot is going to turn out good because she was an amazing cook.

I was so happy that it turned out great! Eric got a great dinner and I got a good sense of satisfaction and a kitchen full of childhood aromas. They are comforting smells that made me feel less homesick. And now we have enough to last 2-3 more meals. Yum!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bill Gates Speech: 11 Rules Your Kids Will Not Learn At School...

I love this! Enough with the spoon feeding attitude that some schools and adults have. The truth is that Life is tough, so best be prepared...

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world doesn't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.


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Friday, November 26, 2010

A Lovely Little Thanksgiving...

In a year of many firsts, Eric and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving together yesterday. It was small, just the two of us, but very nice. Even if I had been in CA, our family is kind of scattered to the 4 winds this year at Thanksgiving...Jonathan with his in-laws and my mom at a family reunion in Mexico, and several cousins out of town.

I'm adjusting to a quieter life now in WA, free of the drama of being a schoolteacher and away from a faster pace of living that has been all I've known. For the most part, I like it, but I am aware that it is requiring adjustment. Still, I'm extremely thankful for the direction my life has taken this year.

Eric had to work from 5am-5pm yesterday, so I planned our dinner to be at 6:30. Enough time for him to come home, shower, and unwind a little. We got to use our wedding china for the first time. And, although Eric teases me about having 10 place settings and others these days are even foregoing having a set of wedding china altogether, to me, it is one of the little perks of getting married. By golly, I was going to have wedding china! Eric, who has great taste, is actually the one who found this pattern, Padova, by Waterford. We went to Portland a few weeks ago and ordered the balance of our set. I make no apologies, I love our wedding china!

I made out the menu for our dinner a few days ago, bought the groceries on Wednesday, and set the table early yesterday morning. Even though it was just the 2 of us, I wanted it to be memorable, so I dressed nice. And, although he usually changes into sweats after working 12 hours, Eric followed my lead when he got home, and was very good about steering clear of the kitchen and dining room until 6:30.

The result was a quiet, intimate, candlelight dinner of chicken thighs (no turkey for just the 2 of us,) stuffing, gravy, salad, asparagus, yams, rolls, cranberry sauce, sparking cider, and pumpkin pie. We said a blessing and dug in, thankful to have food on the table, a great house in which to live, our health, our families, Eric's income, and each other. It was lovely.

Tonight when he gets off work, we are heading over to his parents' house in Kelso, about 2.5 miles away (everything is VERY local here, unless you want to do some serious shopping, then you've got about a 40 mile drive ahead of you.) They are having their Thanksgiving today to accommodate his dad's work schedule. I may even meet his sister for the first time, who lives about 2 hours away, if she joins us.

Next is Christmas! I need to address my Christmas card envelopes, buy stamps, and send those babies off. We also have 3 Christmas trees this year, a large one for the front window, a white one with red decorations for the downstairs family room, and a small one for some extra flair in the dining room somewhere. For me, the music and lights and decorations of Christmas are my favorite part, much more than presents, which will be lean after this incredibly expensive year of wedding, honeymoon, and almost 15 round trip flights back and forth between CA and WA between the 2 of us.

Of course, the real reason for this time of year is to be thankful for all we have, to be extra mindful of others and to remember the blessed event of our Lord's birth. May you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Just livin' life...


Wow, time sure passes quickly. Just a quick update.

The house is done. All furnished. The boxes that were inside the house are all unpacked. Interestingly, the last pile of boxes were in the living in and dining room.

This area gets tons, and I mean TONS of trick or treaters, so I knew that I had until Halloween night to get through those boxes. I literally finished going through them and decorating the fron rooms at about 3pm on Halloween. The last 2 boxes were clothes, so I cheated and hid them in a different room out of sight.

On Halloween we were invited to go to a brief little get together with a few neighbors across the street. There was homemade soup, and they had a pool to see who could guess how many trick or treaters would come to the hosting house. We could only stay for about half an hour because Eric and I would look out the window and see kids go up to our door when we weren't there. So, home we went.

Very quickly, the trick or treating traffic began to pick up. We realized that we couldn't even leave the dining room before the doorbell would ring again. So, we set up our laptops at the dining room table and just camped out for about 3 1/2 hours. We kept a tally of how many kids came to the door and, at 8:30pm, we noticed that the whole neighborhood turned off their lights and stopped answering their doors. We decided to follow. Final tally....526 kids!!!!

That was one big excitement. The other is that my mom came for her first visit last week. She was here from a Monday to a Saturday. We had the guest room all ready, although the shower in the guest bathroom isn't quite ready for use. She loved having her own room and bathroom. She loved our house and, surprisingly, she loved this little city and the dreary weather. I knew that she would like the weather, she has always liked rain and overcast skies.

It was unfortunate that Eric had to work the day shifts when my mom was here, but we made the best of it and I showed her around myself. We stayed local. She loved, loved the lake that is within walking distance of our house.

The day after my mom left I got hit with a cold. My normal autumn cold that lasts about a week. Today is day 5. It is almost gone. I'm looking forward to it being ALL gone!

In the meantime, Eric and I are living a quiet life together as newlyweds. We love our house, we love being together and going on walks and going shopping and eating dinners that we make. We'll be hosting Christmas Eve for his family this year. It will be a small affair, maybe 6 of us all together. I'm used to a big to-do, so I'm still going to decorate the house to the nines. I love Christmastime and all that goes with it.

And that's what we're up to. Just livin' (and lovin') life.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's our 2 week anniversary...

...together in our WA house!

Things are rolling right along, and the work just seems to be never ending.

Eric's 4 days off began on Tuesday, and it is so much nicer having him home. Those 4 12-hour days alone were not too fun, but I guess I'll have to get used to it. His 4 nights of graveyard begin on Saturday night.

On Tuesday we drove the 45 miles to Portland, OR. Just a field trip to spend the day together and get a change of scenery. The first thing we did was find the Portland location of my favorite sushi place: Todai Seafood Buffet. Well, that was a disappointment. They just don't get the huge influx of people as the one in Southern CA, so the food wasn't very fresh. Fortunately, we had a $50 American Express gift card to use that paid for our filling, but not very satisfying lunch. Eric does have a great little sushi place in Vancouver that we've gone to before, so all is not lost. But, we've eaten at home a lot since we've been here.

After that we walked around Pioneer Place mall, which is where Todai is. A lot of stores out of business and empty. But, they did have a nice Eddie Bauer store, which are getting harder and harder to find. When the lady who helped us discovered that I had worked for Eddie Bauer, she even offered me a job, which I would've been tempted to take if there wasn't a 45 mile commute.

Then we drove to the big mall in Portland, the Lloyd Center. With Macy's gift cards in hand, we ordered the remaining pieces of our china and stemware. Ten complete place settings altogether. I know it sounds weird and excessive to want to complete the china when I don't know anyone in our new city, but that won't last forever. And part of the fun of getting married is having wedding china. It's a one-time thing, and I like being the hostess when possible and setting a beautiful table. I never imagined I would even be getting wedding china, so I'm going to enjoy it without apology. =)

We did get held up for almost an hour during the china-ordering process though, because it turns out that one of our gift cards, which was just a card in the stack that had been sitting in the kitchen for weeks--had been used fraudulently. How scary is that? That someone can just somehow find a random gift card number and use it. It has been used about 2-3 days before, online. Thankfully, the Macy's lady took us at our word with no problem and sorted it out. It was time-consuming, but she did it and everything worked out. Our china and stemware should be arriving next week.

By that time, it was time to start heading home. Bailey had already been in the house waiting for us for several hours, and we were going to stop at Trader Joe's in Vancouver on the way back to Longview. We won't get there too often, but it is good to know that there are Trader Joe's up here. Fortunately, Fred Meyers (love that store!) carries a lot of things found at Trader Joe's, except for their store brand pet supplies, which I like.

Yesterday turned into a lazier day than expected. We bought some paint for the guest bedroom downstairs and some groceries, but Eric and I had a hard time getting going. We needed a slower day.

Today my sweet husband has spent the whole day painting, painting, painting. It is nice to have the "institutional green" color gone from that bedroom. My goal is to basically duplicate the colors and decor of my CA bedroom in that guest bedroom, all starting with the walls, which are the absolute lightest shade of pink. When Eric sleeps off his graveyard shifts this weekend, it will be a good time for me to work downstairs without disturbing him.

At noon I had my first haircut in WA. Scary! I think the lady did a good job, but until I style it myself it will be hard to tell. The rest of the afternoon has been spent unpacking boxes, cutting them down and putting them into the garage so that Eric can fill up the back up his truck tomorrow and run them to the dump. Ah, the glamors of unpacking.

Meanwhile, what started as an absolutely gorgeous sunny and blue-skied day has given way to clouds and a murky sky. Everyone keeps warning me that the rainy weather in only about a week away! Apparently the week before Halloween is when everything turns to full time rain for the next 3 months and all of the leaves will fall off the trees. I'm trying to prepare myself, although I really don't mind chilly, rainy weather. I'd rather be cold than hot. But, only time will tell. I'm more worried about the pets, who will not understand why they can't go outside as often as before.

All in all, we're slowly settling into life in our new house and new city (for me.) This morning I got to talk to my mom for the first time in over a week, so that was nice. She's been on a cruise to the eastern states and Canada and was calling me from Newfoundland. Technology is amazing, isn't it? Point A is Longview, WA and Point B is Corner Brook where my mom was calling me from. I'm glad we got to talk today.


So, happy 2 weeks in WA!

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'm now a Washingtonian...it has been a challenging week!

Hello tiny group of loyal blog readers! Before too much time passes before my next entry, I just wanted to check in and let you know that I've officially moved to WA now. Eric and I did a straight shot up here from CA last Thursday. We left at 6:15am with a car full of pets and luggage and pulled into our driveway in Longview, WA at about 12:45am. The kitties spent the day in a soft crate I had bought in the back of the car. They huddled together the entire day. Having them back there also meant that every time we stopped to let Bailey out, one of us had to stay with the car.

The next couple of days consisted of us getting groceries and helping the kitties acclimate to the new house. The 2 males have spent most of the days under the bed, especially the youngest, Ramius. He's used to sleeping all day and prowling around the neighborhood at night. Right now I'm letting them out one at a time with supervision for a few minutes. However, Ramius especially has enjoyed exploring the ledges and skylights that go across the 12 foot ceilings in our dining room and kitchen. We seem him waayyy up there, happy as can be. The next best thing to climbing a tree, really.

Unfortunately, our move has been overshadowed quite a bit by some major issues with my skin. For 3 weeks now I have had a red, seeping rash around my mouth that has made eating, sleeping, talking, and even kissing my husband painful and uncomfortable. I have been on 2 different antibiotics and have seen my doctor in CA 2 times. Nice lady, but she has done absolutely NOTHING. After $200 worth of visits, creams, and pills with no relief, I went online one night when I couldn't sleep (there have been a lot of sleepless nights lately) and Googled "seeping rash around mouth." I found something called Perioral Dermatitis, with pictures matching what I had been suffering from. I printed up a few articles, all of which determined that I was supposed to be on Tetracycline, then made a 3rd appointment with my doctor and brought her the articles. She thought it "could" be that condition and prescribed Tetracycline.

How scary is that?

She's supposed to be the doctor and I'm the one doing a self-diagnosis. She just prescribed what I asked her for. I asked for some extra refills since I was moving and she did that too. Our health care system is a mess.

2 days later I started to see some real improvement with the rash. Yay for Dr. Kristie and Google, right? (No, the thought still infuriates me.) Then the improvement started to taper off and stop. Plus, there was a rash developing on my chest that was very itchy and uncomfortable. Eric ran to the drug store one night in CA and came back with a buffet of itch relief products. I settled on topical Benedryl, since I was already taking an antibiotic and didn't want to ingest anything else. The relief was sporadic, but relief was relief, so I kept using it.

When we arrived in WA I made an appointment with a doctor at Kaiser, since I'm now on Eric's insurance. The only way to see a dermatologist was to see a general doctor first and get a referral. He prescribed a topical clindamycin with alcohol (OWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and a cream, which I used once and it did nothing. At least I got the derm referral and was impressed with the workings of Kaisers in house pharmacy. Wow, they are efficient!

On Tuesday the movers arrived at 8am with our stuff. Monday night I had had a HORRIBLE night's sleep because my chest was so itchy and my face was completely red and totally seeping from my nose to my chin. I looked like a freak and had to keep dabbing my face with Kleenex. it was getting worse and worse. I made an appointment with the derm at Kaiser for that afternoon. For 3 hours the movers unloaded their huge semi. I stood at the door checking off the box number or item number that they would bring in. Eric led them to different rooms and would take over clipboard duty every few minutes while I would go and splash cold water on my ever burning face.

When the movers left at 11:30, there was nothing to do then but wait for my appointment. Meanwhile, my face was getting WORSE. The right side was now getting swollen and numb. The redness was spreading. This was getting scary. My appointment was at 2:20, but at 1:30 Eric said enough was enough, we had to get this taken care of. We drove to Kaiser, he dragged me to the front of the line of people waiting to check in and demanded that we see the derm at once or we were going to the emergency room. I have to say, in my misery I was really proud of how he took control of that scary situation. The check in nurse could see that this was dire and led us back to a room. Everyone was very nice, the RN attempted to keep me calm, because I was crying at this point because I could not feel the right side of my face. It was like someone had given me a shot of Novocaine.

The derm came in very quickly. No 20 minute wait like in my clinic in CA. He looked at the redness, asked about the history of the rash and products, foods, detergents, soaps, lotions, etc--anything that I could've come in contact with. Because he was fairly certain that this was now a contact allergy. What I had around my mouth before was most likely the Perioral Dermatitis and the Tetracycline was working, but since then, I had developed something else. He actually thinks it is an allergic reaction to the topical Benedryl, which he says is quite common. He even got a little miffed at Eric for bringing it home and not mentioning it immediately when we discussed what the cause could be. Keep in mind that we were flying blind in CA because we were getting no help from the medical profession there.

The good news was that he acted like this was easily treatable. Time to bring in the big gun though: Prednisone. 4 in the morning for a week, then 3 in the morning for a week, then 2, then 1, until all 70 pills are gone. Side effects? Irritability, weight gain, and jitters. On the face I could use water and Vaseline only to help with the burning and dryness.

Thank goodness. Finally! Some answers! I took the first dose of Prednisone as soon as I got home. I took another shower and Eric ran and got a pizza for dinner. By the evening, the redness had gone down about 75% on my chest, and my face was no longer swollen and numb (that had been pretty scary.)

That night I slept for 10 1/2 hours. My poor body had been so, so tired. I had been awake from 2:30am the previous night. The seeping stopped, and the next day my face began to dry out and renew the skin. It got pretty dry, but there was no pain and no itching and burning. I felt human again. It still didn't look great, but at least I wasn't suffering the way I had been.

Yesterday was a little bit of a back slide. My chest and neck were incredibly itchy and parts of my face were kind of itchy. I was very uncomfortable all day, but the more unpacking and sweating I did, the more my skin became irritated. I would take breaks and just sit in front of the fan. When I went outside in the cool air to take out trash, my face felt better. In the evening we took Bailey for a nice long walk in the brisk WA cool air and my face felt the best it had felt all day.

Today it feels better, no itching, and on the mend. As long as I see progress, that is all that matters. I cannot expect miracles in just a few days when I'm supposed to be on Prednisone for a month.

Our challenge last night was insuring that Eric got a good night's sleep because he had to be back to work this morning. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to be the perfect wife and help him get his lunch readt, create a quiet house while he went to bed before me, and make sure the pets didn't hinder his sleep. Sadly, my pets can be pests sometimes, especially right now as we're all adjusting. Last night, my older male, Darcy, decided to be the pest, scratching on the closet door and waking Eric up at 2am. He was frustrated and when I tried to go back to sleep, I guess I was sighing a lot and rustling the covers and keeping him from nodding off and then I was frustrated. I slept from 11pm until 2am, then spent the next 2 hours in the kitchen making sure that nothing interrupted Eric's sleep. His alarm rang at 4am.

I've never shared the house with him before while he's been on day shift, so even though I know his routine, I didn't want to get in the way. It didn't help that I was very emotional and felt very guilty that anything me our my pets had done had hindered his sleep in anyway. We're a 1 income family right now, and I want to be as supportive as I can and pull my weight around the house as much as possible. It was hard not to be a little teary this morning. The lack of sleep didn't help.

I know that this is only the first week and we all have to adjust. I keep telling myself that. I think that what has thrown me is that some of the things I thought would be harder, have been the easier ones, and vice versa. Certainly, all of the problems with my skin have been at unexpected challenge that have really made each day difficult.

I am trying to focus on the positive, count my blessings, and take each day one at a time. My mom has missed me a lot, and I feel guilty every time she tells me this. But the good news is that she finally taking a long overdue vacation with some friends on a cruise around new England. she'll be spending her birthday there, of which I'm glad about. My house in CA is rented to a nice man who seems like he will be a low-maintenance tenant. Now that the movers have delivered my things, we won't have anymore groups of strangers traipsing through the house (2 days of packers and movers last week and one this week--that's a lot.) Our WA neighborhood is lovely and it is so great to be able to take Bailey on walks. This happy dog has gotten two long walks per day. We are 3 houses up from the city's man-made lake and the surrounding park. And, even though our house needs some updating, it is a great house, lots of charm and history, in a fabulous neighborhood with incredibly nice neighbors. I'll post some pictures when I can find my camera cord in one of the boxes.

See? I feel better already. OK, time to start my day. Let's see how my face does when I'm out of the shower. I want to give Eric his wife back. I haven't worn makeup all week and I miss getting all prettied up. Thanks to my new GPS, I'm going to go and get some groceries today and I promised Eric a spaghetti dinner would be waiting for him when he gets home tonight. His first day back to work, I want to do things extra nice.

I just have to keep telling myself, "I am blessed, I am blessed." I am. We are.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hold your loved ones tight...

Yesterday was a draining day. Things are moving along as far as the house and the dishwasher, etc., but it was emotionally draining. The school I used to teach at was hit hard with the news that one of our teachers lost her husband in a tragic, senseless shooting. You can see the local news coverage HERE and an article HERE.

All over Facebook, former coworkers were mentioning it, and lamenting with the many losses that the school and city have suffered recently. One of our vice principals was killed last year in the drug violence in Mexico. Our principal lost her husband to cancer last year. We had more lay-offs than any other district in the San Gabriel Valley. It has been a lot for our staff to digest. This recent tragedy has hit the community very hard.

Sandra Saenz-Urias, the lovely teacher who lost her husband, is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She welcomed me to the school right from the beginning and always made an effort to say hello and give a smile. She teaches kindergarten, and I was always amazed at the way her little ones would behave for her without her ever having to raise her voice. She and her husband, Hector, were in the process of finalizing the adoption of their first child after trying unsuccessfully for 18 years to conceive one of their own.

It is one of those horrible events that just makes you ask WHY. Why did such a lovely couple have to be torn apart by something so violent and senseless?

As we keep Sandy and her family in our prayers, take a moment and think about the loved ones in your life. Make sure you tell them you love them, forgive the little imperfections, and hold them a little tighter. There's someone out there who wants to do the same thing and no longer can...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Weekend Sound Experience...

This weekend I finally got to rest a bit. Now that we have a plan for moving and me going up to WA on Friday, things are not as frenzied for a couple of weeks.

I helped my mom search for a sound system that would suit her needs in her gazebo, which was interesting and fun. She knew she wanted high quality sound, but didn't really know what the final setup would be like. We went to Sears and she ended up getting this ginormous boom box with am 8-inch woofer. Yes, the sound was great, but when we brought it back to her house, it looked huge. We did not unpack it.

You really do get what you pay for. I explained to her that the only way I know to get really high quality sound in a compact unit it to get something from Bose. I have never had anything from Bose before, but I remember years ago housesitting for a couple who had one of the Bose Waves in their kitchen and I was extremely impressed with the sound quality. And, fortunately, our local mall just added a Bose store about a year ago.

Neither of us really knew what to expect, but yesterday we went and were both blown away at the quality. We took our MP3s and connecting cord so that we could test different units using familiar music. Minutes later we had Russell Watson's Funiculi! Funicula! blasting across the store from a unit smaller than my laptop.

We had a great salesman, and after about a half an hour my mom settled on a portable speaker with a retractable iPod dock, Aux Line in to plug in her MP3, rechargable battery or AC adaptor, handle, and additional internal bass. $399 + $10 for the case. In my opinion, totally worth it. So easy to move from room to room or outside and exactly what she needed and was looking for. She gets radio on her MP3, so that's not an issue. Aside from having a CD player, it will virtually replace the little radios that she has all over the house.

I am someone who is very conscious and sensitive to sound and noise. Always have been. It was a lot of fun to hear familiar songs in a whole new way.

I got a little treat too! My mom was so grateful for all of my help that she bought me a pair Bose computer speakers. I love them! They are so compact and not all bulky like my previous ones. They also have better sound without the woofer that I had on my floor.

Now that I'm moving into a much bigger house, I would love to have a portable speaker like the one my mom got, but that is down the road. In the meantime, I can even hook up my TV to the computer speakers. Last night and this morning I watched Angels and Demons for the first time using them. It was like being in Rome with its sights and sounds all around me. Fun! I'll do a review of that movie very soon. It is one of those stories that works its way into you. As a former Catholic, I found it fascinating. I have always loved learning about the Vatican and the papal selection.

And now, back to moving forward on the interstate move. My new dishwasher was delivered about an hour ago. The handyman I hired is on his way to cut a space in my kitchen to house it. I found this handyman's ad in a menu at a restaurant, and it turns out he is married to a lady who grew up next door to my mom when they were kids. Small world!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A plan, a plan, my kingdom for a plan...

It still boggles my mind the way my life has changed during the course of this year, and it's not over yet!

After meeting with 4 moving agents last week, we have picked a moving company, picked the dates, and signed the contract. What an ordeal. I've learned a lot. A lot. There are some common denominators with the way all of the agents work, but there are some definite differences too. Those differences are what I used to determine who got the job.

BEKINS MOVING CO.
The Bekins guy was the first guy I had come over. He was about an hour late, reeked of cigarette smoke, and did everything on paper using tally marks as we went around the house taking an inventory of what would be packed and moved. His estimated weight of the total amount of items was 6400lbs.
Estimate for packing and transit: $3368 (after tax, but before insurance, which is normal)
Pros: Price is within our budget, fairly accurate on weight (I learned this after speaking w/ another agent
Cons: Late, smelled like cigarettes, SUPER opinionated and almost overly familiar instead of respectful. He gave his 2 cents on everything he saw in my house.

ACCLAIMED MOVERS
I had never heard of Acclaimed Movers, but I thought I would give them a chance and see how they stack up against the other, more well-known companies. One thing I learned with them is that most moving companies are smaller, independently owned franchises working under the umbrella of the larger, more well-known companies. Acclaimed was proud of the fact that they are their own company, with no parent company over them. They are also proud of the fact that they base their price on cubic feet, not weight. This is the only company I met with that does that. They feel it is more accurate and a better way to protect the customer from extra charges. But....when all is said and done and the truck on the road, how does one measure the accuracy of the cubic foot estimate? There are only weigh stations, not cubic foot stations.
Estimate for packing and transit: I'm not really sure. He didn't give me a final all-inclusive number. The transit price alone came to $2400, which is about what the others said. The cubic feet price = a 5200lb estimate.
Pros: Very nice, respectful agent. Didn't smell like cigarettes. He explained things well. Used technology (iPad) to take inventory. The final estimate was emailed to me from his iPad while the agent was still there.
Cons: Agent was late. Did not give a final, all-inclusive packing/transit estimate. Both the lady I spoke to on the phone and the agent--although nice--dissed other companies, which I don't feel is a good sales tactic.

MAYFLOWER (VIP TRANSPORT)
By the time the 3rd agent, the Mayflower guy, was late, I was getting pretty used to it. My house is not super easy to find because it is on a small street, the last street in the city where 3 cities meet, but it isn't like its impossible to find. They all have GPS. The Mayflower guy gave the impression of being a lot more professional, despite the fact that, like the Bekins guy he too came in reeking like cigarettes. He had a nice, impressive notebook of laminated pages and gave me a little sales presentation before walking around the house. I felt like this was a little overdone, like he was trying too hard, but I let him go through his motions. He took inventory on a PDA, and was probably the most thorough, so the inventory time look longer with him than with the 2 previous agents. At the end of the inventory, we sat in the living room and he pulled out a small case with a portable, wireless printer. The PDA sent the inventory and estimate to the printer, and he printed up my estimate. By the end of our time together I was very impressed, and, even though the price was more than Bekins, I felt really confident and Mayflower jumped to the top of my list of who to hire, until the next day.....
Estimate for packing and transit: $7049!!!!!!!!!! HUH? Yes, the Mayflower guy tried to pull a fast one, and it was the United Van Lines guy and I who figured it out together. For one thing, the Mayflower guy came up with a weight of over 9000lbs. Then, when all was said and done, he NEVER directed my attention on the estimate to the final number of $7000+. He only directed my attention to the transit price. I didn't realize this until the next day.
Pros: Respectful and very thorough. Inspired a lot of confidence (I thought.) Told me that about 75% of his estimate calls evolve into being hired, which I thought was impressive. (I thought.)
Cons: SNEAKY!! I learned about the term "dishpacks" this week. Dishpacks are boxes that are sectioned off and used for packing breakables. I have an above average amount of breakables in my small house, a combination of wedding china and stemware, and things that I have inherited from my grandparents' house. Still, despite that fact, the Mayflower guy estimated 30 dishpacks would be needed (which ups the price) whereas the Bekins and United guys estimated around 12-16. The Mayflower guy also wanted to crate the glasstop for my rattan table--another great expense--despite the fact that even he admitted that the circumference was smaller than the ones they usually crate. But the clincher that made him lose my business was never directing me to the final all-inclusive estimate of $7049. That is $3000 more than any of the other companies. Shameful. And I almost hired him!

UNITED VAN LINES (McCollister Moving Company)
When the United Van Lines guy arrived, I felt like I was being charitable, because in my mind I felt like Mayflower had already won me over. I am SO glad that I let the United guy come over. United Van Lines and Mayflower are cousins, working under the same parent company. But, under those well-known names we are dealing with independently owned franchises VIP Transport (Mayflower) and McCollister Moving Company (United.) There were some definite similarities in that both agents used the same software to take inventory on their PDAs and printed everything up at the end on their little wireless printers. And, even though the United guy was late, I appreciated that he didn't smell like cigarettes, didn't give me the hard sell like the Mayflower guy, didn't diss other companies like the Acclaimed guy, and was very professional. I also liked that he made adjustments on the weights because he actually picked things up, like my piano, and tables and chairs, realizing that they probably came in lower than what his inventory software would estimate. His final weight came in at about 6400lbs, like the Bekins guy.
Estimate for packing and transit: $4600 (once we added insurance it went up to $4900)
Pros: Was respectful, very thorough in the inventory, adjusting the weights, explaining everything on his estimate, and helped me to make the final decision once we realized what the Mayflower guy had done. It all began with my question,"How is it that you are $300 more than Mayflower and yet 3000lbs under?" Both of us poured over the estimate of the 2 companies and he was very helpful. At first I was wary about showing him a competitor's estimate, but then I realized that I needed help making sense of this very obvious discrepancy, and, hey, I didn't owe Mayflower anything. All this time I was thinking that Mayflower's price was $4300, until I saw there, plain as day, in bold on the 2nd page, TOTAL: $7049. I was shocked, and I felt stupid. I don't like being made to feel stupid. In one fell swoop, Mayflower lost my business. Lying by omission is the same as lying to your face, in my book, and that is what the Mayflower guy did.
Cons: Agent was late, would occasionally go off on tangents during the conversation about things that were irrelevant to what we were talking about. Not really a big deal.

And the winner is.....United Van Lines (McCollister Moving Co.) Their combination of professionalism, price, thoroughness was the best. We hired them, signed the papers, and everything is set. I should be getting a phone call on Tuesday from their moving coordinator to go over everything again. On the loading day, they will send a quality control guy out to observe how everything is going and who will interview me on my impressions of their company.

The bottom line...
Moving is very overwhelming, emotional, and expensive no matter which company you choose. You just have to shop around and go with your gut. You have to know what you want and still stay one step ahead of the agent as you talk to them to make sure they are being straight with you. The last thing you want in a task this huge is to feel like someone has taken advantage of you. What these companies really need to remind their agents about is that they are the face of the company. They are our first contact with the company. Maybe Mayflower has other agents that work differently than the guy I got, but to me, his sneakiness will make me look at Mayflower negatively from now on.

The dates and the PLAN:
What seemed a near-impossible task to pack up my house and get it moved up to Washington in a few weeks is now not only a possibility, but what is going to happen. Eric flies in on the 26th of September. United will come and spend the day packing up the house on the 28th. The 29th they will return and load everything onto the truck. Thankfully they don't pack the bed and mattresses until the loading day, so we'll only have to spend one night on an air mattress (surrounded by bewildered pets in an empty house.) We will leave on September 30th and arrive in Longview, WA on October 1st. The plan includes Eric renting a car down here, in which we will pack 3 big plants and the suitcases. I will get to be in charge of the pets (lucky me) and their supplies. I bought a big soft crate for the kitties and they will have to all fit in there for the 2 day trip. And, although there are hotel rooms that take animals, we have yet to find one that will take 4, so we might get stuck having to get 2 hotel rooms. Either that, or maybe we can convince a hotel to take us and the pet menagerie in 1 room with an extra deposit. I'll have to do more research.

What I also learned about moving companies is their transit times and our choices of delivery days. United told me that it would take about 3 days for our things to get up to WA. "Day 1" is the first day of transit, which is the day after loading day. We get to pick a 3 day window for our things to arrive, starting on Day 3 (October 2nd.) We opted for Days 3-4-5, knowing full well that it is unlikely that the things will arrive the day after we do. It also gives us more days in the house together before Eric has to go back to work on October 8th. Sometimes his "4 on/4 off" schedule is a hassle, but in cases like this, it is actually a blessing. Taking one "week" off work actually gives him 12 days.

What an amazing ride. If anyone had told me a year ago that right now I'd be married and preparing an interstate move, I would've thought they were crazy. But that is the turn that life has taken.
Eric has now spent 2 nights in the new house and I will be flying up to WA on Friday (6am flight!! EEK!) for a short 4-day visit and to look at the house again before we move in the bulk of our stuff (which is mostly coming from my house.) This whole married-but-separated thing is getting really old, and 5 1/2 weeks apart was just too much. So we bit the bullet, and I got the last seat on a flight Friday morning.

And that my friends, is the plan! There is still much to be done, and I am still expecting some wash of emotions to come over me as I leave Southern California for the Pacific Northwest, but I've gotten pretty good at dealing with life's changes lately and this is the final chapter in 2010. The thing that I'm finding out as a married person is that when you do these huge things alongside someone you love, they don't feel nearly as huge as if you were to do them yourself. You feel much more powerful. This is definitely a case of 1+1=so much more than 2. And having a plan feels great!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Decisions...

Another day of moving agents and decisions. Again, feeling like being a grownup isn't so hot.

And everyone--everyone--has been late. When I have an appointment I get completely ready and then go into "freeze mode." I wait, I'm ready, and I wait some more. Time ticks by and I'm still waiting. Then I think, "Well, should I do something else productive to pass the time while I wait? What if I go work in the garage or cleaning something out and then the person arrives, knocks, I don't hear them and then I miss them and they leave?"

Voice in my head. We have a lot of fun together.

I have now met with 3 moving agents. One more to go. The range in prices has been about $1000, but you really do get what you pay for. I was most impressed with the most expensive, which is still below the cap that my husband and I discussed. I'd rather have an agent give me an estimate and tell me "It can only go down from this number," then have one tell me, "This is the basic estimate, with surcharge and packing added on."

Then there is the added fun of this dishwasher craziness. I had a handyman come over today and give me an estimate on creating a space for the blasted thing. $800-$900. The dishwasher alone was almost $700. OY. I never would do this if the potential renters didn't keep mentioning it. It is either install the dishwasher or risk having the house continue to go vacant for added months. We're *this* close to getting renters. All they want is...you guessed it.

The good news is that Eric's and my house in Longview is officially our house. He got the keys today and gets to move a few things in tomorrow. Lucky!

I miss my husband. I miss the support he gives me when we're in the same room together. He's wonderful over the phone, but it isn't the same. A few more weeks to go.

Still, I have a lot to be thankful for, and this daunting task of moving is seeming less daunting (just pricey) as we zero in on making a decision on a moving company that can pack everything for me.

So that's what's happening. I'm going to leave you with some good music. Relax and enjoy.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Dishwasher, Smishwasher...Moving, Shmoving...


After a sluggish, trying-to-convince-myself-that-I-was-being-productive-week, it is time to start working on the next chapter: MOVING.

What a daunting task. I've never done a move like this before. And even though I'm now half of a married team, I kind of have to do this myself while Eric is up in WA working and moving a few things into the new house. (Lucky guy only has to move about 3 miles, not 1000...) He will take some vacation time to come down here for the actual move.

This morning I went into "tornado mode." That is what I call it when I get all focused and get-out-of-my-way-I'm-in-the-middle-of-a-task-and-I'll-knock-you-down. I made numerous phone calls to moving companies--trying to stick with the more reputable, well-known ones, to set up appointments for them to send an agent out to my house. Two appointments tomorrow, and two Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to get someone to rent my house. My agent is awesome and a real go-getter, but the fly in the ointment is that everyone wants a dishwasher. I didn't realize that would be such a big deal, but it has come up again and again as people have looked at the house. So today I bought a dishwasher (after receiving a very timely wedding present from an aunt and uncle that nearly covered the cost of the machine.)

Next step is finding someone to prepare a space for the dishwasher. I bought one of those small ones--only 18" wide--but there is no space in my kitchen for it yet. I have not had great luck finding someone to cut out the cabinet and handle the plumbing and electricity issues. People don't call back or don't seem interested. I thought offering jobs was a good thing.

I'm having some dim memories of things that would happen during the wedding planning, where there were lots of possible options, and then one would emerge and lead the pack. I'm hoping that happens in this case.

As far as the houses in Washington, Eric's house is officially sold and we are the official owners of the one we found together in Longview's Old West Side, really the best neighborhood in the city. We got so, so lucky, and this house is just oozing charm. It needs some updating, but there is a great homey feeling to it. I much prefer older houses to new ones. We're still trying to make it work so that I can be up there within the first week of October. We'll know a lot more after meeting with the moving companies.

Onward and upward! To adventure, and beyond!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The OFFICIAL Wedding Photos!!!

Again I'm going to give major props to our wedding photographer, Nick Charrow, (please visit his site!) who did the most amazing job with our pictures. If you live in, or plan to visit Southern CA, I highly, highly recommend this talented man.

Yesterday 4 dvds of pictures arrived in the mail. A total of approx 3000 pictures. Somehow, Eric and I will have to narrow them down to the top 50 for Nick to put into an album. I've already begun, narrowing down to the top 375, then top 167, which I posted on Facebook. I've made that album available for everyone to see, so all you have to do is click HERE, and you can enjoy our memories of the day too!

It wasn't easy, but here are a few of my very favorites.:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And MORE wedding photos!

Hello all. Yesterday I received an envelope of pictures that my Aunt Gloria took at our wedding. I scanned them all into my computer to keep. Here are few favorites: (IF YOU CLICK ON EACH PHOTO TWICE, YOU'LL SEE THEM FULL SIZED.)

My mom's backyard. Last summer she had it totally redone, built the gazebo, sod throughout the yard, and she propagated a bunch of my late grandma's rose bushes into her yard. Little did she know that we would be using it for my wedding a year later. The flowers were just bursting. It was perfect!

My brother, Jonathan, walking my mom down the aisle. Eric and his mom are in the background waiting for their turn. My cousin, Ari, one of our ushers, is to the right of my mom.

I love this picture of Steve, our best man and Eric's lifelong friend, and Laura, my cousin and maid of honor, as they walk down the aisle. The lighting, the colors, their expressions--this is a great picture.

My Uncle Beto walking me down the aisle. As I mentioned before, he was really a trooper that day. He took his role very seriously, knowing that he was taking the place of my grandpa. He also detailed my grandparents' Cadillac and chauffeured Eric and me all over town. At the end of the night he gave us an envelope with a generous gift, that we were able to use for spending money throughout our honeymoon.

My bridesmaids, Kristie P. (Steve's wife,) my cousins Monica, and Laura, looked absolutely beautiful in their dark purple gowns. Monica did everyone's makeup. Laura did everyone's hair. Kristie P. was on the floor in my sunroom before the ceremony painting Cassidy's nails and Laura fixed her hair beautifully. We had a very fun time at my house during the 3 hours we were all getting ready. The sound of my girls chatting, laughing, munching on the goodies I bought them, was very comforting and fun.

Eric was very emotional during the ceremony. I just couldn't stop smiling. We held hands the whole time. I jumped in with "I will" during the vows a little early and everyone laughed. After we kissed, we brought the marriage certificate out on a little table and our witnesses, Laura and Steve, and the Bishop signed it in front of everyone.

My Aunt Gloria, who took this set of pictures and sent them to me, and my Grandma Elinor. Gloria is my dad's first cousin. She and my uncle are so nice! We don't get to see them very often, so we were very grateful they attended the wedding.

Gloria's picture of my grandma as she was getting her photo taken in Cliques Photo Booth. My cousin, Dov, owns this business. Originally, I had asked him to be our wedding photographer. He agreed, then backed out because he had never photographed a wedding professionally before. So instead, he offered us his photo booth free of charge for the night, which became our wedding favors and the big hit of the evening. He also recommended his good friend, Nick Charrow, who he had gone to school with, for our wedding photographer. The arrangement turned out to be perfect. Everyone loved the photo booth and Nick's pictures are amazing.

Our head table. We also got lucky on a florist. The lady that manages the restaurant where we had the reception had recently gotten married and she recommended a great florist in Pasadena, name Matt Duran, who owns The Flower Garden. His designs were great, and they cost only about half of what we expected to pay for flowers. I love the way he wraps the bottom of the centerpieces in thick, matching bows.

I love this picture of my mom and me. Both of us labored over our dresses for the day. Finding a sleeved wedding dress in Southern CA is a near-impossible task. My mom and I found her dress at Drapers & Damons in Pasadena. We walked in and there it was, in my wedding colors and everything! It was a no-brainer! And she looked great in it.

Thanks for enjoying another round of photos! Today's agenda includes picking up a very neglected house because a potential renter will be looking at it tomorrow. I also need to go and price dishwashers. Several potential renters have commented on my house not having one, and if that is going to be the one thing that stands between my house getting rented soon or a few months from now, I'll do what I have to do and put one in. I have got to get someone to rent my house. It's essential!





Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The trials and tribulations of Angelique

My little niece, Angelique, turned 4 months old on August 22. Isn't she cute? And she is the most good-natured baby I've ever seen. She is always happy and observant, much like her brother, Alexander, was at her age. Sibling jealousy has been minimal and Alexander has done really well adjusting to his new role of big brother.

Unfortunately, after being on maternity leave for several months, my sister-in-law, Quyen (pronounced "Quinn,) had to go back to work on August 9. Angelique has been a champion breast feeder since she was born, but has refused to take the bottle. The poor thing has even cried herself hoarse when my mom and brother have tried to feed her using bottles, cups, sippy cups, etc. The past week has been especially challenging.

This morning we received an email from my brother saying that they made a break-through yesterday. He had the day off and spent the entire day (one of many) working with Angelique to take the bottle or sippy cup. Alexander spent the day with my mom. Finally, at night, Angelique started to drink from the bottle. Let's hope it continues!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Gratitude Dance

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook. When you watch it you'll understand why it needs to be passed on. If you have a blog, I encourage you to post it there too. Pass on the joy!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More wedding photos!

Tonight my good friend, Bobby, sent me 88 pictures that he took of the wedding. I picked a few favorites and loaded them into a slideshow. He did a great job of capturing much of the day! Thanks, Bobby!!

Greetings from the new married lady!

Hello to my little group of faithful readers. Eric and I returned home from our honeymoon on Tuesday and celebrate our 2 week anniversary today. These last 2 weeks have been an absolute blur!

It's a little anti-climactic, but Eric had to fly back to WA on Thursday so he could return to work today, finalize the sale and purchase of his house and our new house, and move. He has to be out by 9pm on Wednesday while working 12 hour shifts these next 4 days. I'll start packing my house in a few days after a little break.

Naturally I cannot go into every little detail of our wedding day because there is just too much, but I will say that it was beautiful. The glitches, which every wedding can expect, were very minor (lost flower girl basket, ring bearer running off down the aisle.) Overall the day was perfect.

Here are a few pictures that our wedding photographer, Nick, posted on his website's blog. These are the only ones I've seen, and I'm already thrilled that my cousin, Dov, recommended Nick to us. His ideas are so imaginative and I love the way his pictures come out. He did our engagement photos too. You can visit the pictures, along with some of his comments about the day, HERE.



We also had my cousin, Dov, running his Cliques Photo Booth. You can click on the link to see all of the pictures taken that night, but here are a few of my favorites:
Our first picture with the whole family:
(l-r) Quyen, Angelique, Eric, Mom, me, Alexander, Jonathan

Eric and me with his parents, Bob and Sparkle

My mom and her siblings.
(l-r) Ruben, Irene, Mom Lucie, and Gilbert

My sweet, 92-year-old Grandma Elinor, who was the first in the photo booth and opted to use some of the props too. What a great sport! I was so glad that she could be there.

Eric and me with Amy and Bishop Besaw, who officiated at our ceremony and said some beautiful words with lots of clever musical references.

Me and my friend, Gail, who I met at BYU on the first day I moved in back in 1989. I knew it was a long-shot to invite my out-of-state BYU friends, so I was very touched that Gail arranged to leave her 6 kids behind and make the trip from Utah to Southern California. It was great to see her!

Eric and me with his best friends, the Porters. Steve was his best man and Kristie was one of my bridesmaids. They are so great. You meet them once and feel like you've known them forever! We were so glad they could be a part of our special day!

The Porters and the Bunches. Brady was Eric's groomsman. Julie was a great help watching Henry during the ceremony and reception

The Prestons...Cousins Monica and Laura were my bridesmaids, Cassidy was our flower girl, Christina was our "coordinator and runner for the day," and Robby (top left) was our emcee during the reception. (top row: Robby, Irene, Christina, Monica, Mike, Laura. bottom row: Cassidy, Bill)

Eric and me with my friends, Tracey and Bobby. We always go out to eat, see musicals, and go to Disneyland together.

There are tons of other pictures, of course, that I look forward to posting, but this will do for now. I loved our wedding day and am so thankful to everyone who made it beautiful!











Friday, August 6, 2010

Rehearsal Dinner Day!!

What a day. My last day as a single woman. It is wonderful and surreal at the same time. After all of the hustle bustle today I'm home alone in a dark quiet house. The calm before tomorrow when Eric and I get married.

This morning I picked him up at his hotel at 8:30am and the day flew from that moment on. At 9:40 the chair rental company came and set up 125 chairs in my mom's backyard. They did a great job. After that Eric went to get his mani pedi...my man likes mani pedis! I think it's cool! Then we came home and were able to eat lunch and rest for about 2 hours. Miracle. Then I had my mani pedi. Kathy, my favorite manicurist, and in my opinion, the best manicurist, put a bunch of jewels all over my big toes, did a beautiful job with french tips on my fingers, and then wouldn't let me pay her. A gift for me she said. I was very touched.

Then I zipped home, said a quick hello to my 2 aunts who flew in from Mexico, and ran back to my house to shower again and get all ready for the evening.

Everyone started descending on my mom's house at around the same time and were standing out in the street getting to know each other. It was very fun. Then they herded into my mom's backyard and continued with the introductions as our stragglers arrived.

We gathered everyone up, seated those who were not proceeding down the aisle, and did a few run throughs, discussing ideas and working out the kinks. Everyone was great.

Then we drove in a caravan over to The Beckham Grill in Pasadena to our private loft room and had a wonderful dinner of chicken or salmon. Eric and I just looked around, pleased as could be that everyone was having such a great time. Between dinner and dessert we handed out the gifts and said a few words, and the evening wound down. The rehearsal and dinner lasted about 4 hours.

All in all, a great, great day. Eric and I drove back to my house, consolidated a few of his things because he will be leaving the hotel tomorrow and turning his room over to the best man, and then I drove him back to his hotel and drove home.

And now? I'm just feeling introspective. Grateful to have met this wonderful man whose only mission in life is to love me and take care of me. Blessed to love someone who loves me too. Humbled at the family and friends who are flying and driving in from all over the country to share this special day with us.

Tomorrow will be great. I cannot wait to be Mrs. William Eric Cooley. How I found such a gem of a man I will never know, but it happened. I cannot imagine a man better suited for me to be my husband.

And now, time for some beauty sleep, because I'm getting married in about 16 hours!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Two days left!!


Yes, two more days! I don't have a lot of time for a new post, as you can imagine, but I'll do a little updating.

First of all, I cannot believe that it is already Thursday. It was just Sunday night! That was a day that I was incredibly tired, but I sat on my bed at about 10:30pm with a bunch of sample reception time lines all fanned out in front of me. Getting that done was on my To Do list for that day and I still hadn't gotten to it. After reading through the samples, I hammered one out in about 30 minutes. Yesterday I mailed it to the manager of the banquet hall (Athena, she has been so awesome!) and copies to all of the most important people involved in the wedding.

On Monday, Eric came into town. His family had arrived the day before. I picked up his niece, Vanessa, who is 20, from their hotel in Pasadena, and we went to collect Eric from the airport. Then we drove out to Griffith Park to meet Eric's friends and groomsmen, Steve and Brady. Brady's wife works for Disney and was able to get 4 passes to Disneyland for Eric's family.

Tuesday was more errands. I had to be out of my house for 3 hours because a caravan of realtors with clients looking to lease a house were coming by. Same thing today, except I have to be out of the house for 4 hours this time! Tuesday was also this nail-biting phone call from EDD (our unemployment office.) They wanted to discuss why I haven't been looking for work, even though I've told them in 2 previous phone calls and a letter that I'm getting married and moving to Washington.

So, Eric and I went back to his hotel room and sat and chatted for 2 hours, the window of time I was told they would call....and nothing. They really get you by the throat because there is no way to reach them if they don't reach you. The window of time was 10-12. At 12:10, the lady called. She was very nice, but I was a wreck. Basically, my claim is suspended until I move and get settled in WA, then I can reopen it while I look for work there. It is very doubtful that I will return to teaching or even have a full time job, but I'll do whatever I have to do to get my $450/week for 6 months.

After the call, we went for sushi and then came back to my house to relax. We had sat down in front of the TV for 5 min when a realtor came by with a client to see my house. They are supposed to give us 2 hours notice, not 2 seconds. So I left them at the door for a moment while I put Bailey into the backyard and Eric and I took a walk. Never a dull moment!

Yesterday Eric and I drove out to Orange County to pick up my wedding dress. Don't worry, he didn't see it. :-) The lady I bought it from and runs a boutique out of her home has a room upstairs where she does all of her business. So Eric stayed downstairs and I did a final fitting. I must have dropped a couple of pounds, because it fit better than last time and the new length was perfect. I'm so thrilled with my wedding dress, and Donna Anderson, who runs A Dressy Occasion business for those of us who want modest, non-strapless dress is a life saver!!

The trip out to Orange County took all morning, because it is about an hour and a half each way. We stopped for lunch at Ruby's Diner on the way home and then hung out for a while at my house. Then a call came in that someone wanted to see the house at 6pm, then it was changed to 5:15. Dishes, tidying up, and putting Bailey outside again was rushed. We left and went back to the hotel and hung out with Eric's dad and niece by the pool, while his 6 year old nephew, Ashton, swam and swam. Then we had dinner at Acapulco, a local Mexican restaurant that I had never been to. Then home. Whew! Another long busy day.

Today I have to be out of the house again for the realtors. I also have to take some things to Athena at the Monrovian for her to have out at the reception. Some personalized napkins, the seating chart, and pictures of my grandparents that we are putting at a small "memorial table." Their absence has really been felt throughout the wedding planning process. I also have a facial at 1:00 and another realtor will be bringing a client to the house at 3pm. Any downtime I'll just spend in Eric's hotel room, although he won't be there. Steve and Brady wanted to have a "guys day" with him today. So they are kidnapping him around noon to pick up tuxes and go do "guy stuff." Who knows what that means? Eric promises me that I have nothing to worry about!

And, sometime this afternoon when I'm allowed back into my house I must start packing for the honeymoon, which will be here before we know it!

What a wild ride this week has been!

P.S. Things with the houses in WA are moving along fine. We are getting an appraisal on the house we want today. And the man that is buying Eric's house is keeping everything moving forward. And, get this, Eric's realtor is so nice that he even offered his own home--which is empty because he lives with his girlfriend--for Eric to stay in (rent free) for that 2 weeks between the time that his house closes and the one we are buying closes. (See if you understand that!) Anyway, it was a very generous offer. I have to say again that we have had some FANTASTIC people working for us. Eric's realtor, Larry, and all of my vendors for the wedding have been absolutely top notch. With everything going on, we have been very, very lucky.