Only Counting Up from Here

3/24/18 was a beautiful day for a wedding.

His Vows: (the ones that were beautiful and inspiring from the moment he wrote them)

I vow to listen carefully to what you say and honor your silence,

to keep your dreams alive and our love aflame,

to keep your treasures safe and time appreciated.

I vow to hold you through nightmares and tragic days,

to rub your feet and pull your hair.

I vow to remember that being kind is more important than being right,

to clean when you cook and fold when you wash,

to take you to concerts and movies I don’t necessarily like.

I vow to play scrabble and binge Netflix.

I vow resilience and fortitude even when no one is watching.

I vow sincerity, hope and humor.

I vow to guide our children by example,

to strengthen and defend their hearts and minds

to offer freedom to make their lives an adventure.

My Vows: (the ones that took some time and a few drafts and ultimately were finished the night before the big day in the wee hours.)

I vow to listen with patience and respond with kindness,

to care for you when you’re sick and impossible,

to have the conversation even when it’s hard.

I vow to make fires to warm us when it’s cold,

to cook for you as long as you dance with me in the kitchen.

I vow to drive to destinations near and far as long as you sing along with me,

to save our money and invest in adventure.

I vow to laugh at your jokes even when no one else does,

to be your big spoon when you’re little and little spoon when you’re big.

I vow to lead in times of need and follow when your heart is sure.

Do you, Jay, come here today of your own free will, to promise to support Mandy in all that she does? Through happy and sad, good diets and bad, dislocated shoulders and daughterly disputes? And to consider her as part of yourself in all that you think and all that you do?

Do you, Mandy, come here to day of your own free will, promise to have Jay’s back where ever life leads him? Through sickness and health, sunlit beaches and darkened alleys, dive bars and dragon-cons? And to consider him as part of yourself in all that you think and all that you do?

And do all of us promise to welcome the marriage of Mandy and Jay into our own lives, individually and as a community, through bliss and sorrow, turmoil and calm, backyard barbecues and late night dance parties for as long as they both so wish?

BOOM!!!! And then we walked into the forest together– and eventually wound up here!

It’s official. There’s no turning back now. This man married me, and I married him. No more days left to count down– only counting up from here.

Here’s to day number one.

Sometimes it’s okay to go to bed

We are creeping ever closer to the big day– and the food is complete (mostly). The cupcakes still need to be iced and there’s guacamole begging me to make it– but otherwise we’re in fairly good shape. I spent the day ceremoniously preparing. First, I had an appointment with my aesthetician who removed all of the hair that had been collecting on my body for the last two months. It was not pretty.

The highlights of the day went pretty much like this:

  • Had all of my body hair ripped out.
  • Made 72 delicious paleo chocolate cupcakes.
  • Crushed my maid of honor’s hopes and dreams by not taking her to get a mani-pedi. (Seriously, she was pissed.)
  • Tried on my dress for my best friend. (In doing so I learned the origin of the curtsy– bending at the waist is NOT a possibility in that dress.)
  • Ran more wedding related errands and THOUGHT I had done them all–but remembered something that still needs to be done tomorrow… the work of a bride is never done.
  • Gathered an incredible group of women together to witness and honor my passage into the next chapter of my life.
  • Stayed up way too late trying to make a huge batch of icing that is currently refusing to be finished.
  • Acknowledged that sometimes it’s okay to just give up and go to bed (after writing of course).

Today was beautiful. Ceremony is important to me– and the group of women who gathered with me (and those who were present in spirit) held space for me to move into my next chapter. I am stepping forward into a new paradigm. The ceremony was simple and perfect. I do not take ceremony lightly, and I also don’t show my witch to the world very frequently. Today she came out in full force to gather up the heart energy and blessings from immensely powerful women who gave freely to me. I felt like a princess basking in the glow of the intense love directed at me. I will carry it with me into the forest on Saturday.

But for now I need to sleep. I am getting married in two days.

And I’m tired.

THIS IS HAPPENING

It was a full one. I began the day just like any other day– had three really amazing sessions, one Pilates, two energy work. Then I moved into three-days-before-my-wedding-day mode. The time-warp happened again. Leaving the studio I had exactly a half an hour before needing to pick up my maid of honor from school to take her to her dress fitting– exactly enough time to go by this super sweet shop a few blocks from my house and buy some wedding gifts.

Time opened up for me just as it had done the day before. I spent what felt like a huge amount of time pouring over all the different jewelry and sundries in the shop and made two perfect selections, one for my maid of honor the other for the flower girl’s mother and a dear friend of mine. I left without stressing about the time and picked up my little lady. We headed to the shop and she donned her newly-altered dress which now fit her like a glove. It was the first time I’ve ever seen her wearing something that fit her so well. She seemed to age five years in two seconds. She looked beautiful.

Dress procured, we moved on to a few more random wedding errands and arrived home about an hour later to surprise visitors, my soon to be in-laws. I don’t think I hid the shock well– immediately thinking of the catastrophe that is our house and the fact that they were inside of it– but no time to dwell on that fact. It was great to see them and they both seemed to easily grasp my getting-married-in-three-days-with-a-ton-of-stuff-to-do state and didn’t stay long. To be clear– there was a communication breakdown somewhere between me and my partner around their arrival. It’s as if the two of us have some massive life event happening in JUST THREE DAYS…

I moved on to my continued mission of cooking meat for the taco bar, and sent my partner off to get needed taco-cooking supplies. About a half an hour later the arrivals continued as his brother walked into our chaos with the supplies I had requested. I greeted him with a hug and they left me to my mission(s). I tasked my maid of honor with preparing our den for the arrival of my best friend and nephew. (She did a bang-up job). I CONTINUED TO COOK. (Making large quantities of mango salsa is labor intensive.)

Around 8 pm, still cooking and listening to love songs in the kitchen by myself, I started to feel like the one thing that was missing in my wedding frenzy was my MAN. I texted him to let him know that– and he and his brother arrived home shortly thereafter.

At 9 pm I left the house, accompanied by my man-child and our best man, ready to experience the long-anticipated arrival of my best friend. On the drive to the airport we talked about his girlfriend and the fact that he wouldn’t see her for five days (she’s headed out of town early in the morning), his friends and my relationship to them, and my wedding stress– among other things. It was nice to have the time to just settle in with my boy– those times are few and far between these days. Circling the airport several times, finally we spotted her and her sweet boy waiting on the sidewalk. She got teary later when she recounted him getting out of the car to greet her and give her a hug. He’s her first baby too.

Our guests arrived hungry– so we did another successful taco tasting around 10pm, the whole family cramming into the tiny little living room amongst the wedding detritus. It was a sweet scene, my son sat down saying “well, it’s nice to have you guys here,” and my partner echoed his sentiments, “so this is the crew for the next few days.” Family. Slowly everyone filtered away. The boys went downstairs, my daughter adjourned to her room. The three of us, me and my two soul-people hung out on our massive king size bed, giggling and recounting stories. Heavenly.

My best friend began feeling the three hour time difference and shuffled off to bed with her boy. My man kept me company in the kitchen as I continued cooking our wedding feast, love songs blasting, new wedding vows running through my head– begging to be written. Love poured into the food I was cooking, just as I imagined. I thought of all the people gathering in just a few short days to celebrate with us. We danced and sang into the wee hours– filling the kitchen with the acknowledgement of our love.

THIS IS HAPPENING.

So many orbits are intersecting at this junction. The vision I had back in the Fall of our wedding is beginning to take shape. All of the love that surrounds us is coalescing into our space. We are gathering it all up and bringing it together in acknowledgement and support of our union. This sacred bond that grew out of consistency over a period of time is asking to be honored and acknowledged– and we are obliging.

Just THREE days and counting…

It’s getting REAL.

A Completely New Page

These days seem to be getting longer each one a bit more than the last– or perhaps I’m just existing within a strange time warp. The awesome part of this time warp however is that it seems to be in my favor. I feel effective and efficient and as though time is slowing down to accommodate me and all the things I have to get done. The universe is giving me a gift and I am accepting it with open arms and immense gratitude. Through a fortunate series of events I only ended up seeing one client today. With the rest of the day all my own I focused my full attention on procuring wedding wares.

After I completed said procurement I got out my trusty Instantpot and got to cooking some carnitas. We are one step closer to a completed taco bar (though we did end up eating some of the carnitas for dinner– just to make sure it’s delicious.) And IT IS.

I’ve said it before, and I may say it again, there is something about a deadline that allows me to focus in a way I’m not always capable of without said deadline. The meeting we had scheduled with our dear friend and officiant this evening was a very real and looming deadline for me and the writing of my vows. (Technically they were supposed to be done).

A sticking point for me over the last couple of weeks has been those pesky vows. It’s only been in the last week that I’ve written anything down for them– and I’ve felt weird about them and like they’re not as good as my partners’. I’ve felt really judgmental of what I’ve written, and strangely insecure about sharing them. This evening I finally allowed myself to talk to my partner about the experience I’ve been having with them. I explained to him that for the last several weeks– since I’ve had the concept of “wedding vow” in my head, I keep hearing my ex-husband recite one of our vows over and over again in my head. And I can’t help but think that I failed in keeping that vow. Immediately.

I think it’s time to let myself off the hook for this. I think I need to acknowledge that when I got married for the first time at the tender age of 23, I didn’t have a CLUE what I was getting myself into– and the vows we wrote and recited reflected that. They were fanciful and carefree. They reflected an innocence and naivete. They were lovely in concept and lacking in substance. They were exactly what they could be for those two sweet young people who were desperately trying to become adults. All of that has brought me to a place in writing these vows where I want to take them very seriously. I have considered them carefully. I don’t want to break them. It’s making writing them a really challenging task, shutting down any sort of creative spark in relationship to them because I DON’T WANT TO MESS THIS UP.

What I love about the vows my partner has written is that they’re playful and mixed with the reality of our relationship and arrangements that we’ve already made but not explicitly stated. They are true to who we are as a couple and they are rooted in the practical while also acknowledging a much larger love. They’re sweet and thoughtful and written by a grown man who tried this whole marriage thing once before and learned a few things in the process.

Talking to him about our vows and acknowledging the one I keep hearing over and over in my head from my first wedding helped open something up in me. I turned to a completely new page in my notebook and slowly my playful yet practical vows began pouring out. This is again the perfect metaphor for how our partnership works. Opening up to him always makes things easier. I cannot find fault with that. I can only rejoice in it (and potentially write a vow about it– BOOM!)

My vows are still a work in progress, but they feel a lot lighter than they did a few hours ago. And I don’t feel ashamed of them (which seems like a step in the right direction). As a matter of fact if I had to get married two minutes from now, I would totally read them as they are and feel perfectly fine.

As it is, I’ve got four days and counting– and I will feel so much more than fine when reading my vows to that incredible man I’m lucky enough to be marrying.

Wherever We Happen to Be…

I’m going to acknowledge right now that these posts are becoming increasingly difficult to do– particularly as I seem to be leaving them to later and later in the day– as the days grow increasingly more full of life and other wedding-planning sundries.

We’re down to six days before our nuptials and I find myself just this very moment beginning to allow the “indoor ceremony contingency plan” to take shape in my head. (Particularly given that all weather reports point towards RAIN, RAIN and potentially a little more RAIN). My partner mentioned the indoor contingency plan last night and while on the outside I agreed with him that “yes, good idea, we need to figure that out…” on the inside I screamed “NO!! this wedding is happening OUTSIDE in the FOREST!!”

Hey, I’m just impressed I kept that scream under wraps.

Just now I closed my eyes and had a vision of the indoor ceremony and actually got really excited. (Phew)

Until just a few moments ago I hadn’t really been allowing my brain to take too much time with thoughts like those– because that forest calls me like nothing else– and I do hope beyond all reason that we walk out of it together on 3/24/18 as husband and wife. HOWEVER, there is a very real possibility that things may happen differently. If mother nature in all of her infinite wisdom should have other plans for that beautiful day at 2 pm, for instance: an unrelenting torrential downpour, then at least imagining the beauty of another possibility is a comfort for my mind.

When I closed my eyes a few moments ago and connected to it I saw candles and flowers everywhere around the space where our reception is taking place. It’s a building that sits right on the Salmon river, several hundred feet away from where the Pacific Ocean meets it. There are windows from floor to ceiling on three sides of the building, and a huge fireplace right in the center of the room. If rain is falling torrentially at 2 pm on 3/24/18, you better believe there will be a fire roaring in that fire place– and I will be ceremoniously burning SOMETHING in it. (What that something might be is TBD– but I have a few ideas…)

In addition to a roaring fire and candles lighting the space I also saw all of our people in a circle surrounding us, just as they will be if the rain decides to be just normal Oregon Springtime rain and dampen us a bit in the woods. I can see their sweet, lovely, smiling faces and most importantly feel the love that surrounds us. And it’s that love that really makes this whole thing what it is. It is the ceremony and the intention behind it that create the magic that will envelope all of us on that special day. And regardless of the space that surrounds us– our intentions are clear and we are ready to be ceremonious about them. Wherever we happen to be…

Somehow, as I begin to allow this indoor ceremony to take shape in my head and acknowledge the very real possibility of it I love it more and more as the perfect metaphor for our relationship. We are pretty awesome and well-practiced at handling adversity together. There have been situations (a month ago when we went to the beach to iron out our wedding plans, for instance) when we have been hit with one ridiculous situation after another and somehow we manage to keep ourselves and each other smiling. Somehow we continue to move forward even when everything seems to be pushing us back. We are kind and considerate of one another. We don’t blame each other for things beyond our control. We don’t turn on each other when things become difficult.

We LEAN IN. And together we become stronger.

In six days, no matter where I marry that man it will be absolutely perfect. Because I’m marrying that man.

Finally.

 

Lists really are a magical thing

We’re officially one week out with a re-vamped menu and everything’s coming up ROSES!!

That planning brain of mine is really working for me. My partner’s cousin after reading my last blog post suggested that we do a taco bar for the wedding– and I am taking that idea and RUNNING WITH IT. One thing I observed about myself today is that I like having puzzles to solve. Another (that I’ve known for a very long time) is that I am extremely motivated by deadlines. (Not unlike most other human beings).

Getting down to the wire– these days are packed full. Here’s the run-down of my wedding-related accomplishments on this day just seven days and counting:

  • Woke up and realized my body needed to take a Pilates class.
  • RE-REinvented the wedding menu after a great suggestion from a soon-to-be family member.
  • Listened to my body and TOOK CARE OF MYSELF (i.e. went to Pilates). [SLOW CLAP]
  • Came home and took my maid of honor to get her dress altered.
  • Somehow convinced my partner without any threats or coercion to go with me to his most favorite place on a Saturday, Costco.
  • Bought and priced wedding related items and inched ever closer to feeling totally on top of it in terms of this wedding. (Lists really are a magical thing).
  • Took more steps towards KEEPING IT SIMPLE. (So hard for me to do)…
  • Met with one of my dear friends to strategize the next week as it relates to our nuptials, and gave her 10 lbs of chicken to cook for me. (talk about some delegating)
  • Realized that I’ve actually got it together so much more than I knew when this day began and all I was aware of was my back hurting.
  • Had a very important meeting with my flower girl and tasked her with finding the perfect basket for her flower petals. (She’s already got one in mind).
  • Decided, along with said flower girl, what type of flower petals that basket of hers was going to have. (cherry blossoms)
  • Went out on a date with my man.
  • Ordered serving trays and cupcake storage containers that will make me very popular in certain (as of yet undefined) circles.
  • Got one day closer to marrying my most favorite person on the planet.

That about says it all. My exhaustion is real and my planning brain is currently not interfacing well with my writing brain– and my dreaming brain is doing its best to take over for the both of them…

 

Flying by the Seat of my Pants

I am really pushing this post up to the wire– almost missing the eight day mark and heading into seven– but I’ve got this… eight days and counting at least until this post is finished…

One of the many wonderful things about completely doing your wedding by yourself is you can make massive changes right up till eight days before and it’s TOTALLY FINE. It’s actually way beyond fine– it’s liberating.

I made flank steak, roasted potatoes and salad for dinner this evening. Our wedding dinner, minus the mangoes in the salad. The last 48 hours I’ve had my planning brain on. My planning brain isn’t a part of my brain that generally gets very much attention. As a matter of fact, it generally likes to sit around and eat bon bons and watch silly television. We’re not super close and we don’t talk very often. But, tonight my planning brain put away the bon bons, turned the television off and started speaking some reason to the other parts of my brain who actually seemed quite eager to listen.

As I made dinner, planning brain began to think about the wedding-dinner-making game plan. In my not-really-planning-brain-but-pretending-to-be, a month ago I had decided I would make the flank steak a couple of days ahead. I hadn’t put any thought into the salad or potatoes. Tonight I realized there were some serious flaws in my “plans.” As we ate dinner I started talking through the logistics with my partner and daughter. Planning brain was making mental notes about the amount of work I was creating for myself and all of my dearest friends who are a part of the exclusive “helper club” for the wedding. Neither flank steak or potatoes are “make ahead” kind of dishes. This is less than ideal for the eating situation we are creating.

I finished my dinner and got my shoes and keys to go and pick up my son at the gym. As I opened the door to my car I was STRUCK by what felt like an INGENIOUS idea. (this must be what happens when planning brain is allowed to stay online for more than a couple of days at a time.) MIRACULOUS! In the course of about five seconds I COMPLETELY CHANGED our entire wedding menu. Instead of flank steak, potatoes and salad I decided to make Indian Butter Chicken in the Instantpot. BOOM. I immediately called my partner. (He was just inside the house).¬† He didn’t answer, inevitably in a different room from his phone.

I drove to the gym ridiculously excited at this miraculous feat my planning brain had just conquered. I can make this DAYS ahead, it reheats easily, and it’s INSANELY YUMMY. I told my son when he got into the car. He was not particularly excited, not that he ever really gets excited unless it is somehow related to basketball or fantasy football– and this is not. At all. We arrived home just a few minutes later and I ran into the house and called out to my partner who was in our bedroom watching a show with our daughter. I told him my planning brain’s fabulous idea and he responded to me in a very positive but measured fashion saying: “I think you’re onto something here…”

The translation for that is, “whatever you wanna do, baby because I know you’re gonna do it anyway.” Talk about someone knowing me…

My daughter who was lying next to him said “NO!” and then her face fell and she said nothing more. Butter chicken is not her favorite thing. It’s spicy. I assured her I would “make a mild version” as well. She continued to look sullen. Butter chicken is in no way a part of her wedding plan. However, she’s eleven and not doing all of the work. She’s also not (although sometimes she acts as if she were) the bride. That’s ME! The crazy lady who just changed her DIY wedding menu eight days before the event.

I am FLYING BY THE SEAT OF MY PANTS, and I can’t imagine it any other way.

 

Together we PACK A PUNCH

“Mom, you’ve got a week! You need to run while you can!” are the words that just came out of my darling daughter’s mouth. This is the running joke in the last week or so in our house. Last night at the dinner table it was, “mom, are you sure you wanna go through with this?” My little eleven year old girl has been waiting for this wedding for a long time– and she’s just as excited as I am– if not more, but without the stress and exhaustion that has become my current status quo.

Today was a beautiful day. It started with a pot of coffee and an early morning trip to get our marriage license. There’s something magical in these days leading up to this monumental acknowledgement. I don’t know what I expected to experience, but it wasn’t this. I think I figured that perhaps since I had already moved through these marriage motions, that I would be above feeling the anticipation and excitement. I’m not. I’m right in the thick of the wonderment– and it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever experienced before.

We arrived at the big brick official county building not even a half a mile from our house at just past 8:30. I began snapping pictures randomly the moment we stepped up to the building. We waited for less than a minute and then were called up to window 7. The friendly and shy gentleman who greeted us behind window 7 was named Bill. We both handed over our passports and a whopping $60 cash, the whole thing feeling honestly a bit surreal– all of these people going about their daily routines, us paving the way for our monumentous event. I said to my partner, “there’s no going back now,” echoing our daughter’s jocular jabs. Bill took all of the papers and put them into a manila envelope that he handed to my partner. The entire transaction took less than fifteen minutes. “Who’s got the leverage now?” my partner joked, waving the envelope as we walked out of the building. We brought the license home and placed it on an altar by our front door that is for our family. Perfect.

Getting married is a big deal. The acknowledgment of this partnership to the world is IMPORTANT. This wedding, while it may be stress inducing, is something over which we have complete ownership. Every piece of this puzzle has been painstakingly crafted and put together with care. There is intention and love in every nook and cranny. We are getting married because while we are powerful human beings separately, together we PACK A PUNCH.

I’m talking REAL PLANS, not just Visions

So, at this point I’m going to say that we’re getting down to the wire– and I am definitely feeling stressed. 10 days and counting, and I find myself trying to find time in between time to pack in the much needed organization of my time (and all the other stuff that needs organizing). And then there’s just my regular life that is continuing on as if it had no idea that I’m getting married in ten days– the nerve.

This morning as I was in the midst of juggling my life, sitting in the orthododontist’s office with my daughter while writing a general to do list for the wedding, I was called to send a “help me!” text to a friend.

“Hi. Can I ask you for your help in a general sense? I don’t have specifics yet– but I know that I need help…”

His response came a few minutes later, “Of course. I’m always happy to help…”

Massive sigh of relief. Wasn’t that easy? Just knowing that someone out there who I trust and love is willing to help me is enough to ease my anxiety.¬†Next I sent a text to my assistant asking for help more specifically in brainstorming the blessingway. Another quick and affirmative response, and I was feeling downright un-anxious.

Here are the wedding related things I accomplished today: (bear with me– this is actually incredibly helpful for my sweet little wedding-addled brain)

  • Made a list of wedding things that need to be done (I know this seems like something I probably should have done weeks or maybe even months ago– but let’s stay positive and just say “good job, Mandy” for doing it at all. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere.
  • Reached out and asked for help from TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE. (Never mind that one of them is someone I actually pay to help me– bringing that up right now seems almost like rubbing salt in the wound, and that’s not a positive thing to do)
  • Concretely planned my blessingway (I’m talking real plans, not just visions), I actually wrote stuff down.
  • Made the invitation for my blessingway– just a few more email addresses and that baby is going OUT INTO THE WORLD!!
  • Filled out the online application for our marriage license (in doing so finally nailed down in my head how to spell the word license– ACCOMPLISHMENT)
  • Planned a trip with my husband-to-be to procure said license tomorrow morning.
  • Set up a meeting with my awesome friend who is “always happy to help” for tomorrow afternoon.
  • What’s that you say? How could there possibly be more bullet points? You’re right. I’m stretching it at this point– but really– today was a turning point.

I’ve always been a deadline oriented type of gal. There’s something about that ticking clock that actually makes me begin to take things seriously. Tomorrow we’re into single digits with the days. That is NOT MESSING AROUND. This wedding is HAPPENING SOON. And it doesn’t really get much more DIY than this.

My lesson for the day, quoted from my dear, always happy to help friend,

“You may be over emphasizing the y in that concept. It’s the royal y.”

So, here’s to the DIroyalY, may it make the next ten days ever easier.