Saturday, May 22, 2010

All the puzzle pieces competing for brain space...

It is strange how I can feel a chapter of my life ending as another begins. I'm feeling it a lot at school. End of year tests, looking around my classroom and deciding what to keep or toss or give away, the kids' files that require so many hours...all of these things fill my mind each day. And of course there are the day to day things like keeping the kids on task and not letting summer crazies set in quite yet.

Meanwhile, my district feels like it is coming apart at the seams. After several days of negotiations between our union and the district, they are still at an impasse on several issues. Every day the numbers change on how many teachers could possibly be let go. June 3rd is the cutoff date for the decisions. Teachers who have taught there 30 years say that they have never seen anything like this before. The tension is palpable.

RIFed teachers like myself are in limbo and waiting to see what happens with our jobs. Non-RIFed teachers are waiting to see what happens with other things. If jobs are lost, class sizes will increase. Teachers will get transferred. Everyone will suffer and the main goals--teaching the kids and getting their scores up--will be lost in the shuffle of all the politics and hard feelings.

I'm in an odd position. If this had been last year and my life and livelihood depended on that decision, I would probably be a basket case. But things are a little different for me because I'm leaving anyway. Right now I feel like I'm in my own category. I'm not retiring, I'm not staying, I'm just waiting to see how things play out so I know whether to apply for unemployment or not.

It is also interesting what this kind of situation does to the staff overall. The fighters rise to the surface, the passive ones carry on and react as things unfold. Then there are the optimists, the fatalists, and the apathetic ones.

One of our "fighters" mentioned the other day that too many of our teachers are passive. Perhaps an easy thing for a fighter to say. I thought about that. I don't really know what I am. I know I'm not a fighter. Going to meetings and rallies and passing out fliers gets me more worried and depressed about the situation. I'm not an optimist, because there are going to be layoffs. I'm not a fatalist because the number of layoffs seems to decrease slightly so there is slightly better news. And I don't think I'm apathetic because I do care about what happens to my colleagues and kids I've taught.

Again, it is an odd situation. I guess the most accurate term is that I'm a realist. I feel a little bit like a selfish realist, but it isn't out of lack of concern for what is happening, it is just that what is on the horizon for my own life is so huge and different and life-changing, that my poor brain can only process so much at a time. What is happening at school is only part of it.

SO...this is what life is like lately. Planning a wedding, planning a lifetime, planning a huge move to another state away from my family, leaving my job and colleagues, wondering what the future holds for my district, packing and leaving my house, and the day to day things like keeping my students in check and dealing with the many weeks of separation between time with my fiancee.

It's a lot. No wonder I need a lot of sleep these days.

Yet, despite it all, I still feel a lot of peace with all the life decisions I've made recently. I know there will be tears and some second-guessing, but I know it is for the best. Some changes are good, and I know that this is the good kind.

I just wish I had a crystal ball to see how everything will unfold. But what would be the fun in that, right?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Everything you wanted to know about Kristie and Eric's wedding...and maybe some things you didn't...

What's this? A new post? No way! WAY! And it is a long one, so get a snack and get comfy!

Yes, the guilt of not blogging for months finally got to me and I decided to update and give my blog a color make-over. I guess I can use wedding planning as a excuse. We're down to 2 1/2 months before the big day, so I had better use this excuse while I can!

SO many things have been happening in this little nook of Southern CA, it is hard to know where to begin. So, I'll begin with the fun stuff, the wedding plans. (Someone mentioned that I was giving everything away by showing a few pictures. I removed a few and made the others much smaller. You can click on them to see them bigger, or not. I just know that we are inviting several people from out of town who will probably not be able to come, so I thought I'd share. Whether you want to see a few things ahead of time is completely up you.)
Here is a picture of me and my fiancee, Eric, taken on Valentine's Day, as we headed to an incredibly romantic dinner at Descanso Gardens in La Canada. I love this man so much.

OK, yes, plans, here they are...with accompanying links for fun!

Date: Saturday, August 7th

Ceremony Location: My mom's garden, which she had redone last summer. Her new gazebo will be the focal point where the ceremony will take place. The ceremony will be at 4pm.

Reception Location: The Monrovian Restaurant Banquet Hall at 6pm. My family has been eating at this restaurant for years and only recently did we visit the banquet hall upstairs. It is simply lovely, all inclusive with everything we need, and perfect for the size of our wedding.

Dress: Oh, the dress, that was an odyssey. In a former post I lamented about trying to find a modest dress. I just cannot do the strapless thing, that isn't my style. After a few frustrating visits to local salons I Googled "modest wedding dresses in Southern California" and came across the site called A Dressy Occasion. What a find. The owner, Donna Anderson, runs this boutique out of her house in Orange County. I tried on about 8 different dresses, and, ironically, the one I liked the most online is the one I liked the most on me. It is just me to a tee. You can search it on the site (430-B) if you like. Eric, don't look! LOL Yesterday my mom and I drove out there a 2nd time for a fitting.

The Bridesmaids Dresses: I will have 3 bridesmaids. My 2 first cousins Laura and Monica, and Eric's best friend's wife, Kristie. (yes, we spell our names the same AND their anniversary is also August 7th. Life is funny!) Our main color is called "lapis," but it is a dark purple. I think very elegant, which is the theme I'm trying to keep throughout everything. My MOH Laura has been such a sport, trying on tons of dresses for me to see, and giving me her opinion on how comfortable they were. Finally, we picked this one as the bridesmaids dress. Happily, all of the girls are very happy with the final choice. They are going to look beautiful!
Flower girl/Ring Bearer: My little nephew, Alexander (who turned 2 on Feb 13 and is talking up a storm) will be the ring bearer. My little cousin, Cassidy, Laura's 6 year old daughter, will be the flower girl. She's thrilled with the dress we picked out for her:

Photographer: We got thrown for a loop on this one a little bit. My cousin, who is a professional photographer, was originally going to do this for us as a wedding present. After some thought he decided that he wasn't experienced enough because he had never done a wedding before. He does fashion and print ad photography. But, he did recommend a friend to us and we are very happy with the recommendation. We'll be meeting with Nick, our photographer, in 2 weeks to take some engagement photos.

Wedding Favors: My cousin, Dov, felt bad that he couldn't be our photographer, so he offered to bring his photo booth to the reception and let this be the wedding favors. Aside from fashion photography , he also has a business called Cliques Photo Booth, where he gets hired at parties and events for people to take fun pictures with props and friends. Eric and I picked our background, it will say something like "Eric & Kristie's Wedding, August 7, 2010" on the bottom, and guests can have their photos printed up on the spot. We can't have the reception be too stodgy!

Invitations: Despite all of the progress that has been made over the last few months, there were still 4 huge things that hadn't been done: Invitations, Officiant (we have one now,) Honeymoon, and Florist. I had researched a lot, but we needed to commit. In the case of invitations, I needed Eric here so we could make a decision. My shopping around educated me on the enormous variety of invitations, both in design and cost. Mentally, I kept telling myself "classic and elegant" over and over again to stay on track. Finally, last week we settled on this design. They should be here in a couple of weeks, and then it is time to start addressing them and sending them out! Creating the guest list was another task. We wish we could invite twice as many people, but it will be a relatively small wedding. (150 max) RSVP cutoff date is July 17th.

Florist: This decision got delayed for some reason. But as time kept ticking by and I was reading wedding books saying that the florist is one of the first people who should be hired, I felt myself getting hives because it hadn't been done yet. We finally hired our florist yesterday. Yep, yesterday! Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and the lady who is the manager of The Monrovian had given us a few recommendations of florists and wedding cake designers. At the top of her list was a floral designer named Matt, who owns The Flower Garden in Pasadena. Realizing we could wait no longer, I made an appointment with him for yesterday morning. My mom and I went and spent an hour and a half talking about what we needed, colors, and looking at pages of bouquets with pinks and purples that I had ripped out of magazines. We had no idea what cost to expect, we only knew it would be high. My mom and I almost fainted because the cost was half of what we expected, and he is going to beautifully decorate the gazebo and stay throughout the ceremony so he can transport some of the flowers to be reused at the reception. We were happy to hire him!

Music: Again, knowing the right people really helps. A good friend of my mom's from church has a sound system and does the music for church dances. He offered to do our music for us for free and will incorporate any songs we want throughout the evening. And, yes, there will be dancing!

The Cake: This is something else that had been delayed. We had some recommendations, but just had not gotten around to committing to anyone. Once again, friends came to the rescue. A lady from church who my mom has gotten to be friends with lately, offered to do the cake for us. I was a little nervous, and did not want to offend, because I had found a picture of a cake online that I loved and didn't know if this lady could handle it. But, when I sent the picture to her, she said "No problem." Whew! She's doing the cake, and for a fraction of the cost of a professional baker.

The Registry: This is tricky, because Eric and I don't really need a lot of household things. We did, however, pick out a beautiful Waterford china pattern called Padova. We are going to register at the Macy's on Lake Avenue in Pasadena when he returns for Memorial Day weekend. China, a few linens, and that is pretty much going to be the extent of the registry.

The Rings: This has been an emotional thing. After all, your wedding ring is the most special piece of jewelry you'll ever wear, right? Eric put a lot of thought and research into my solitaire, (5/8 carat, G color, VS2 clarity, round brilliant cut.) For the wedding ring he told me I could get anything I wanted (within a set but generous price) as long as we used his solitaire. Fair enough, it is a gorgeous diamond. And then the search began. Should I get a jacket for the solitaire? Should I put it into a pre-made setting? Should I buy an eternity ring to wear under the solitaire? I tried on tons and tons of rings and nothing felt just right. I don't wear a lot of jewelry, and I wanted my wedding ring to be stunning and unique. We found a jacket we liked with lower quality diamonds and had a custom jeweler recreate it with G color diamonds. It didn't work. BUT, he had a gorgeous diamond band that he had designed and made himself that I had tried on. Could he make me that design and plunk my solitaire in the middle of it? Yes. Mine is almost completely done. I have visited it several times to see the progress.

And yes, we bought Eric's ring too. But the guy's ring is easy! A nice plain white gold design for my guy. Voila!

The Honeymoon: When all is said and done, the most important thing is beginning our lives together after the wedding. We wanted our honeymoon to really reflect how much we love each other and want to be together, especially after having to endure so many weeks of separation all the time. And, although there are some fabulous honeymoon destinations around the world, we decided on something quaint and simple. A big trip to Hawaii or Europe can wait. We don't want tourist activities to compete with just wanting to spend some quiet time together. We thought about Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, but they are all booked up that week because of some big car show. So we are heading even further north to the little seaside village of Mendocino, CA. Our first night will be spent at The Langham, in Pasadena. The next day we will drive to San Jose, CA and stop at the Winchester Mystery House, a place we have heard about and would like to visit. Then we head north for another 200 miles to our room at the MacCallum House Inn. We'll be in The Carriage House, with its quaint furnishings, and private patio with hot tub for 6 nights.

The only thing left is... The rehearsal dinner venue. Picking this is on our next list of things to do when Eric is back in town. More decisions!

THEN WHAT? After the honeymoon, the pace will pick up again. Eric has to be back at his job in WA on August 21. And I will stay behind in CA to finish up packing up my house. Yes, the plans have changed. I am moving to Washington State.

I never thought I would pack up my house and leave Southern CA, but I have decided to do that. With my job's insecurity (final layoff decisions will be made on or before June 3rd and I'm 37th from the bottom of the seniority list) and his job's SECURITY, it just doesn't make sense for him to quit and move down here. We started to rethink the original plan when I went up to WA during my Spring Vacation.

Despite the fact that I am, and will always be, a California girl, I'm realizing that "home" is really where my future husband is. He is my family now, and that has to take precedent. His house in the small town of Longview is for sale and will--hopefully!!--sell before we are married. The plan is to move to Vancouver, WA, a city 3 miles from the Oregon border. (7 miles from Portland--I love Portland! And 10 miles from the Portland Airport.) We have found a townhouse that will take all of my pets, and the plan is to live there while we house-hunt in the city. Meanwhile, if all goes well, we'll rent out my house and come back to CA after Eric retires in about 13-15 years to live in my house and look after my mom, who lives across the street.

Thankfully, air travel to Vancouver is really easy with the Portland Airport s nearby. Another plus is that I won't have to work, which I'm very ready for. The idea of being a full-time wife to this wonderful man and, possibly a full-time mother, sounds lovely.

So, to make a short story long...
That is what's happening. A lot! Happily, despite the enormous changes on the horizon, I feel really good about everything. I have a lot of confidence in everyone we've hired for the wedding, the decisions we've made on the ceremony and reception, and our future life plans. There is something to be said about getting married at our ages (39 and 42.) Life experience has taught us both a lot. We are very appreciative to have found each other and we communicate about everything.

The bottom line? Even after the dust settles from the wedding and honeymoon, a wonderful adventure lies ahead...