Much Farther To Go

Sometimes, I see recent photos of his, and I get envious. Where were all these moments with me and with my mum? Where was that softness, that willingness to slow down, enjoy life, food, unhurried conversation, discovery of new interests, and that pride in showing the world, through words, photos, and pictures, “This is my wife. This is my child”? Even decades later, there is that ugly thought and doubt at the back of my mind: we were unsuitable for his loftier goals, and she – daughter of an old Hakka merchant family, but still with several advanced degrees – was not polished enough to project the right image, and I was not a son. Why were we, as a family, left behind?

Excerpt from “Much Farther To Go”

I have much farther to go
Everything is new and so unpredictable
I should just kick my heels together and go home
But I’m not sure where that is anymore

Oh, how I wish I could go back in time
To the night when I heard my mother cry
She held me in her arms and we talked for some time
And I sang a song her mother sang to her and it goes

Something about paper dolls and what men prefer
Something about the cross and how her Jesus died for her
Something about love and how it’s worth fighting for
I wonder does love like that exist anymore?

Daddy and me at Christmas

But then I see pictures like these and remember that, once upon a time, we were good enough. She happily dressed me in this beautiful red velvet coat, hat, and boots, with delicate little faux fur-trimmed gloves to match. At some vague point in time he was my best friend – matinées at Edwards Cinema, evening walks to the local Baskin Robbins, willing to spend 5-10 minutes to go through my whole strange waving ritual just to say goodbye as he dropped me off at Piccadilly Preschool. Continue reading

Missing Carl

Sometimes, not always, there are these sharp moments where it seems the world is spinning so beautifully around me. It’s too much, and I want to inhale deeply to take it all in, but the constriction in my chest reminds me he is missing. Then I force another breath and am filled with — nothing. Because it is just air.

It’s all so unoriginal, so uninteresting. I’ve taken to rereading A Grief Observed as if the fifth or sixth time would reveal new insights.
Continue reading

Growing up

It has been a while since I’ve posted here! I suppose growing up isn’t a stage to get to but is just something that happens, naturally, unless we willfully stop the process. This is a new year, however — actually almost exactly four years since my last update — and I’ve grown up quite a bit. In the first year of marriage and living in San Diego, I discovered, more so than ever, that physical space was very important to me. More than just mental space, the physical space allowed me to get away from things when I needed a break, freed me from visual and noise distractions, but also allowed me room to be creative, generous, and kind. Without it, even Chris suffered from any  small-but-building frustration I had, because it seemed as if he was always trying to be in my way.

After a year’s lease in our tiny apartment, we moved to renting out a two story house in Little Italy. At about that point, I also started entertaining – Chinese New Years, Thanksgivings, Christmas. The love of friends and their company filled our home with extra warmth. It was within walking distance of plenty of great food and all the music in Gaslamp.

Now, in our third home here, the second to be named “The Beehive,” we have a house, a large yard, and backyard chickens. We also celebrated five years of marriage. We’re still here. There’s a part in me that still aches at not having children (yet), but I know the time for that will come as well.

Chris moved up from a variety of restaurant and management positions, gained a wealth of knowledge as a sommelier, and then left the industry entirely to accept a position at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management as a financial adviser. And I learned, slowly, through the years of consulting and freelancing and the expertise I developed, that this wasn’t temporary — I have talent, I am worth a lot, and I have, (surprise!) joy doing this work.

There’s a big world out there, and we grow to learn our place in it, each day, as we grow in faith and grow in love for one another.

Theophila

Second Cycle

It is nearing the end of the lunar year and nearing the beginning of my second cycle. I was born at the end of the lunar year of the tiger, at the beginning of the solar year leading into the year of the rabbit, straddling two identities but not fully belonging to either. Stubborn and fiercely independent, shy and terribly insecure. And while I do not actually believe in the Chinese zodiac, the cycle does seem to bring me back to this point of examination. It has been four years of us, one and a half years of marriage, ten months since moving to San Diego. The change was welcome; it was liberating, but as we continue to march along in these pits worn down by our own repeated motion, the novelty has worn off. Familiarity is no comfort when there is no progress.

I feel as if drifting on water, each foot in a boat, unable to move in any one direction or to reconcile either the different aspects of my character or my goals with my life. We have reversed. He has work now, though repetitive and more and more unfulfilling. I have…a small, empty, but cluttered apartment and neatly organised folder after folder of companies to whom I have submitted cover letters and résumés. And each of us, going, separate, around and around in circles such that we see and pass one another but rarely meet.

And so I return to the tango, Piazzolla’s Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night and the music weaving the stories of the mythical “old Buenos Aires” of Jorge Luis Borges. I long for the abrazo (embrace) in life, the connection that will break us out of our own orbits and send us hurtling into one another. I crave that intimate and wordless exchange on the dance floor that no one but we can feel, and that others, if they watch, can sense radiating from us but only guess at what was said. We had that connection, taking ballroom in college and laughing at our own mistakes and missteps. We understood, when spending several silent hours wrapped up in blankets on the beach during a meteor shower, when working together on boats over the summer in Oxnard, when preparing and enjoying food together, when experiencing a beautiful Santa Barbara day hiking up to Gibraltar Rd. So as the motions become repetitive, the connection grows weak, my words become uninspired, my days grow shorter, and my nights turn sleepless, I drift back. In the hazy edges of my late night, early morning [semi-]consciousness, the embrace of my memories becomes closer and more real.

The Cyclical Night

They knew it, the fervent pupils of Pythagoras:
that stars and men revolve in a cycle;
the fateful atoms will bring back the vital
gold Aphrodite, Thebans and agoras.

In future epochs, the centaur will oppress
with solid, uncleft hoof the breast of the Lapith;
when Rome is dust, the Minotaur will groan
once more in the endless dark of its stinking palace.

Every sleepless night will come back in minute
detail. This writing hand will be born from the same
womb; and bitter armies will contrive their doom.
(The philologist Nietzsche made this very point.)

I do not know if we will recur in a second
cycle, like numbers in a repeating fraction;
but I know that a vague Pythagorean rotation
night after night leaves me on some ground

in the suburbs of the world. A remote spot
which might be either north or east or south,
but always with these things – a crumbled path,
a miraculous wall, a fig tree giving shade.

This, here, is Buenos Aires. Time which brings
to men either love or money, now leaves to me
no more than this withered rose, this empty tracery
of streets with names from the past recurring

out of my blood: Laprida, Cabrera, Soler, Suárez…
names in which secret bugle calls are sounding,
the republics, the horses and the mornings,
glorious victories and dead soldiers.

Ruined squares at night with no one there
are the vast patios of a crumbled palaces,
and the single-minded streets implying Spaces.
They are corridors out of dreams and nameless fear.

It returns, the concave dark of Anaxagoras;
in my human flesh, eternity keeps recurring,
and an endless poem, remembered or still in the writing…
“They knew it, the fervent pupils of Pythagoras…”

– Jorge Luis Borges (emphasis mine), translated by Alastair Reid

So, again, despite the hundreds of pieces I could be playing, when my fingers touch those keys, I return to Milonga para tres (Milonga for Three) and imagine the deep, yearning, nostalgic lament of the bandoneón. Even though my fingers are poor imitators of the instruments, I can each distinct voice weaving their own stories into the piece. The bandoneón, the old man recounting a story he has told countless times, no longer sorrowful but simply reflecting on times past. The violin, rhythmic, speaking with the drama of youth, the events fresh on his mind. The piano as the repeating base line, the bartender who listens, sets the tone, and says just enough to keep the conversation moving.

Where am I going? Several years ago, I wrote of spiritual dryness. What I had thought to be a few days or weeks of feeling purposeless turned into two years in the desert, but it was in the desert that I learned what it meant to need and thirst for Him and be quenched. And as I walk through the desert again, the landscape is familiar but different, seen through a perspective of a few years of change. “Be still, and know that I am God,” He reminds me. I have not found peace in continuous motion, but in stillness, even the seemingly endless landscape of the desert contains differentiating details, and even the most basic of truths become deeper upon closer examination. What are you trying to teach me, Lord? I am waiting for His still small voice to speak to me, as He did to Elijah. If this dialectic does, in fact, progress as history, then perhaps this cycle is just the beginning of another round of growing to understanding His purpose and perfection. I can only hope that in the eventual synthesis, I will closer reflect Him.

Remember your Creatorin the days of your youth,before the days of trouble comeand the years approach when you will say,“I find no pleasure in them” –before the sun and the lightand the moon and the stars grow dark,and the clouds return after the rain;when the keepers of the house tremble,and the strong men stoop,when the grinders cease because they are few,and those looking through the windows grow dim;when the doors to the street are closedand the sound of grinding fades;when men rise up at the sound of birds,but all their songs grow faint;when men are afraid of heightsand of dangers in the streets;when the almond tree blossomsand the grasshopper drags himself alongand desire no longer is stirred.Then man goes to his eternal homeand mourners go about the streets.

– Ecclesiastes 12:1-5

Theophila

Life, work, misery, nostalgia

Family

Abe & Xander

It has now been a little over six months since we have been married. Shortly before our wedding, on July 4th, we had lost Chuca, our beautiful red Queensland heeler. It took a while to get over her loss, but in September, we got our first baby, Abe, a tan Labrador retriever mix. We adopted him at the age of six months. He was about forty-five pounds then, but now he has grown to a healthy, hearty sixty pounds. Things were all fine and dandy, and Abe proved to be a good, mellow dog, very happy to please but also easily amused (he can sit there for hours sucking on his favourite pillow and knead it with his paws). However, he started getting bored without another puppy to play with, so in November, we adopted our second baby, Xander, a eleven-week-old, ten-pound little golden retriever mix. Little Xander proved to be Abe’s undoing, as the rascal knows that he is fuzzy and cute, so he uses his shiny little black eyes to get away with everything. Abe would be calmly relaxing under Chris’ chair when Xander, while exploring, decides to dig out a piece of trash, thereby luring Abe to join in the destroying of it and the littering of it all over our bedroom. Of course, Xander would be already over the fun and napping quietly on a pillow when we walk into a messy room and discover Abe chewing on the remnants of a piece of tissue. Poor baby. Xander has since doubled in size and mellowed out, but it seems the seeds of destruction were, unfortunately, planted in Abe’s head.

Still, I cannot help but feel a lingering sense of dissatisfaction with life the way it is. Since graduation and the wedding, I have been feeling somewhat aimless and purposeless. However, let us backtrack and talk about the housing situation. This was my greatest source of dissatisfaction at the start. While I understand it is not practical in today’s world, I was unhappy about the idea of marrying and still sharing a house. As much as I have imagined a number of scenarios for my adult life – living in a large, open studio with plenty of sunlight, my music, and my paintings; sharing wine, ideas, and discussion in a community household of friends, each with their own separate lives but each happy to hang out too; or just a house with a large yard, my pets, my husband, and enough space to let my imagination go – a college house was not what I’d pictured. That is not to say I was against living with people my age, but I had hoped that I, and the people around me, would be grounded in our lives and that each other’s company would only help to encourage and inspire us in whatever we were doing, would help build up our careers and spur us on toward our goals rather than promoting irresponsibility with late nights and hangovers. Sounds cheesy, doesn’t it? Anyway, instead I found what at the time felt like was alcohol and substances facilitating friendship and taking the place of “real” communication. Over time, though, things settled down, and with each of us on our own house and work schedules and in steady relationships, we formed a good community. Every once in a while, we had our wine tasting nights, where we each brought a bottle, yea’d or nay’d each other’s picks, and discussed our experience of each. We would regularly spend time around the fire pit in the yard with a few glasses and talk or in the living room over a movie, a video game, or just listening to music.

After a few months, however, my sense of dissatisfaction nagged at me even more strongly, especially with my inability to find career oriented work in this town – beautiful Santa Barbara in which I have fallen in love. It is much to do with my own personality. We keep being asked the question: “How is married life?” Life is the way it is. It has been not that much different, except that I don’t have to go home at the end of the night. In many ways, it is harder – we have to commit to working through things together, our disagreements, our stresses, without the benefit of simply a separate time or place to relax so that they don’t “taint” our time together. Michelle’s words again: “Commitment is more important than compatibility.” Unemployment hadn’t helped either; with only one meagre income and the slowly building business in an even slower economy, tensions abound. Nonetheless, with my homebody personality, I am not good with new social situations or crowds, unless my role and function is clearly defined. In day-to-day life, I live and breathe Chris. He is my husband. I enjoy going out to dinner, out dancing, on hikes, but if it is not with close friends, it has to be Chris. I don’t think I can have it any other way, better or worse. Marriage is what I wanted, and Chris is whom I want for the rest of my life.

Work Woes

Beyond that, I’ve been unhappy with work. I have accepted with my personality that I make friends, but slowly. The friends I have last a lifetime, but I do not tend to walk into a situation and come out with friends I make plans to meet up with that weekend, the way many people do. I don’t spend time with co-workers outside of work. That has been fine with me; I am not a social butterfly, nor am I that much fun of a person to be around. I’ll sit and have a drink and late night dinner with you, laugh with you, talk about life, politics, beliefs (and their differences), cook, but I will never be the one you text message on a day off to go dancing at the club with. That’s okay with me, but it seems it does put a strain between me and people for whom that lifestyle comes easily. Another thing that has been building over these past two years and has been upsetting through the countless random discussions, cafeteria conversations, every time a news article or report comes up, or anything…is the hypocrisy of the policy on personal beliefs. It was clearly stated that there should be no discussion. But that’s not what it means where atheism is the reigning belief. Two things are sacred in my stripped-down-to-a-bare-minimum life: my faith and my marriage. Neither of those is held sacred in the workplace. Don’t talk about religion, they say, and keep your opinions to yourself. So I have been. But I’ve been suffocating under the countless jokes and jabs and how “obvious” it is that God is a farce, a freak, to be the butt of all jokes, and Christians and those “damn born-agains” are just poor, ignorant creatures that have never read a science textbook in their lives.

Isolation. So I sit and pretend to be a good girl with no opinions, until I’ve denied so much of what I believe that I don’t know if I can be called a Christian anymore; certainly nobody could tell except that it seems I arrive later in the morning on Sunday shifts, and I suppose my facebook profile says something about it. I know my history; I know of the follies and atrocities of the church throughout history – faults of man and their limited understanding of His great wisdom. I also know we have learned (as a country) from our past judgments and try not to portray all Muslims as terrorists and in a negative light; nonetheless it is the fashion to demonise any and all Christians except the ones who are willing to say, “I go to church on Easter and Christmas” but deny Christ’s divinity in the same sentence. I don’t open my mouth about God except to insert into the thick of some conversation denouncing all Christians on the mistake of one self-righteous sinner that “they” are not all like that, that only the obnoxious ones make the most noise. It has become “they,” not “we” or even “I.” It hurts that I have become assimilated, defending Jesus as if he were the freaky little brother that I have to stand up for rather than the great and magnificent saviour that saved me from my own path of destruction, that rebuilt my family, that daily gives me more than I deserve. I have more love than I’d ever thought I’d receive or deserved, but here I am feeling ashamed and heartbroken that outwardly, I act as if being in love with God is my shame, something I must hide.

Americans think they’re so liberal and liberated.

I am not pushing my faith on you, just trying to be free to feel joy and hope at something in which I believe. Why must you mock it? Why must it be acceptable for you to do so to my face and it not be acceptable for me to react? I miss Thailand and its real liberation. In a hierarchic Buddhist society where social convention rules all, they have the graciousness to not criticize other faith, even though Christianity and Islam are beliefs quickly rising and yet very foreign and strange to them. But in a beautiful isolated community of one of the richest places in the world, the expected behaviour is the epitome of American values: presentation is everything; be accommodating and accepting while holding every ugly thought and prejudice in the world in your heads, to be spouted out with crude and vulgar language in the back offices and break rooms. If you have a legitimate problem or concern, expect that you will be treated as an annoyance, your shifts and life rescheduled to “silence the complainer” who obviously does not work and just stands and “thumbs his butt” all day anyway.

Neither is my marriage sacred. I fielded question after question throughout the engagement. No, we are not freaks because our relationship was non-sexual. How dare you question its ability to succeed based on whether we’d previously lived together? How dare you tell me I “must not be a very affectionate person” because of such? I feel I have offended some by being uninterested in their personal sexual lives. While I understand that, in today’s world, it’s a common point of conversation or something to share, it is not a topic with which I am comfortable. What my husband I have is between us. Our lives, the way we show affection, the things we do together – some of it is fine to discuss but others are private. I have no interest in “living up to” others’ expectations of our marital or sexual behaviour or what constitutes an interesting or fulfilling relationship, so please don’t expect me to “step up.” In a confusing and mixed up world, this is where I’ve found happiness – with him; please let me enjoy that in peace.

For these reasons, you almost never hear me talk of work. Many of you have never known and still do not know where work is. It is this beautiful wonderland for many where they can escape reality for as long as they can pay. For me, it is a place of so much potential and so little understanding, where I’ve seen people I respected come and leave, often for their own personal reasons that they could never bring up without being told off and made to feel ashamed for having those concerns.

Moving On

For many months, we’ve been looking at San Diego as a potential place to move. I need a career, and Chris needs to move on for school – in a community similar to Santa Barbara’s beauty and friendliness but with a bigger market for both of us. The current situation, and our pastor moving on from this church and passing on the baton, feels like clear signs that He is pointing our way elsewhere. Maybe I will feel better then. There’s gotta be something more than what I’m living for; I’m crying out to You, yeah…

Nostalgia

Mostly I am hit with waves of nostalgia, dreaming of previous times when I was surrounded by people I could trust. This is expressed through crooning jazz and old blues and the music that carried me through my earlier school years and over the last decade returning to me. From the yearning of Jars of Clay‘s Something Beautiful to the sad but hopeful ballad of Savage Garden’s Two Beds and a Coffee Machine or To the Moon and Back. Then there are the college days and the nights spent crying over (a) boys who werewasn’t worth it and finally, finally finding myself and getting to a place I was comfortable inside. Days and nights singing Broadway musicals at the tops of our lungs and sharing and discovering music, like Stephen SpeaksOut of My League and the Ken Oak Band (previously just Ken Oak, now Oak & Gorski). Then there were the late night and early morning conversations with friends whose distance never really dulled my love and appreciation for them, their tastes, and their passion for life and all it has to offer. Jen[nie] and I talked (typed) and shared our joys and disappointments and above all – hope, hope, hope – over online chat, phone (occasionally), and email (when the sudden desire to write hit) and poured over the hundreds of songs that Tori wrote over the years.

More recently, it’s been Rosie [Thomas] and tango and Rosie again and again and again…

I Run

I run, I run, I run far from
You to the apple tree in my yard
With my dress all bundled up in my hands
Dirt on my feet I am dreaming again.
I run, I run, I run far from
You to the lilac tree in my yard
No more swing set for the girl who is all grown up
No more tea parties parades or mothers in love.

I hold my breath past the cemetery
My brother wins, he can hold it much longer then me
Gravel roads make car keys rattle on steering wheels
Children and horses, old barns, and old automobiles.
I run, I run, I run far from
You to the watered streets of Oregon
With a coffee cup half full in my hands
And I’m praying my savior would just
Place a gun in my hands.

I run, I walk, I lie far from
Freaks and lying cheats on the tip of my tongue
The moon hides in the sky behind rows of tree tops
And I’m wishing I was somewhere up there
With the mermaids and stars.
I run, I run, I run far from
Reality to escape who I’ve become
Insanity is close at my back
And I’m getting rather numb from the snakes
Who have blurred my vision.

Rosie Thomas

But I know I have much farther to go until I get where I need to go. Hopefully I can pray forgiveness and be guided from here on by my Father, because I am tired of being alone without Him anymore.

Oh how I wish I could go back in time
To the night when I heard my mother cry
She held me in her arms and we talked for some time
And I sang a song her mother sang to her
And it goes something about paper dolls and what men prefer
Something about the cross and how her Jesus died for her
Something about love and how it’s worth living for
I wonder does love like that exist anymore?

I have much farther to go
I’m so confused I know
I should just kick my heels together and go home
But I lost my way when I lost you

– from Much Farther to Go by Rosie Thomas

God bless, hugs and kisses.

Lots of Love,
><> Elizabeth <><

We’re married!

Well, we tied the knot on the 16th of July! The days leading up to it were filled with a bunch of fun as the girls came into town but also stress as we stayed up late nights trying to complete the last of the errands, which included having last-minute alterations done to their dresses, folding and assembling programmes, getting Chris’ dad (who was also the best man) his suit! Throughout all this what I realised most was how blessed we are to have the friends we do. I was worried about the details, but people spent time and went above and beyond to help us. Alice was my matron of honour, and she had recently been married, so she understood the stress of a DIY wedding. Though we paid to have more done for our wedding than she did (she sewed her own linens and baked her own cakes!), many elements were still personally done. I dubbed her husband, Brad, as the “unofficial groomsman” for all the help he’d provided, including picking up and shuttling people from place to place as we ran errands.

On the morning of, we ran a half-hour late to our breakfast and a full hour late to the set-up. Many of the little details were forgotten, such as the extension cord for the coffee maker, and Michelle Schneiter, our coordinator, provided invaluable help in remembering the details and renting trays for the warming oven to hold the extra chafers of food as well as a water heater for the tea. We were on time for make-up with Angelique Trump, who did a beautiful job with mine and my mother’s make-up and the hair-styling for all the women (myself, my mum, Chris’ mum, Alice, and Sristi). However, Chris had left his suit out in Goleta, my phone was out of battery, I wasn’t sure if Mike and Ryan, my brothers who were ushering, had arrived, and his dad forgot the single thing he’d had to remember – the flowers for Chris and the groomsmen. It seems bridesmaids are a lot more hands-on with the help than are groomsmen. Nonetheless, the prayers of my brother, Mike, and Pastor Ricky helped a lot, and the ceremony was smooth, stately, and beautiful. I breathed a sigh of relief as it began, and for the rest of the day, we enjoyed one another as husband and wife surrounded by friends and family.

One thing I did not realise would happen was how little we ate and drank. I never finished my plate and had drank nothing more than a single glass of wine and our toast. We were too busy dancing to the beautiful music of Judy Chamberlain and her Jazz/Swing Quintet! Their music was lovely, and she read the crowd so well that the dance floor was full all night! Add in a lovely surprise at our hotel of a bottle of champagne and olives and cheeses, and everything was as perfect as we could have asked for.

We followed this with a breather of a weekend in 112-degree heat in Paso Robles (or El Paso de Robles), where we went wine-tasting at L’Aventure, Booker, Caliza, Linne Calodo, and Denner on the first day, Adelaida and Tablas Creek on the second. By far the most enjoyable of these was Adelaida, who was extremely friendly, gave us information about the production of each wine (and we tasted about 10!), explained the climate and vineyards and the winemaker’s intention, gave us an industry discount on our club membership and wine purchase, and even threw in two free bottles of wine because we were honeymooning and showed such interest. All their wines were well-balanced and full of complexity. We bought the Cabernet Sauvignon Viking Estate RESERVE 2005 and the Viognier Glenrose Vineyard 2007, and they threw in the for free the Ice Wine 2007 and the Vin Gris de Pinot Noir 2008, which is a bone dry Pinot Noir rosé made by bleeding off juice, after only 48-hours of contact with the skins, from the barrels of pinot noir picked at the optimum ripeness for making a regular red! Second best was Caliza, whose winemaker ran the tasting room, along with his wife, and had two beautiful wines, the 2006 Companion, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and the 2006 Syrah, both of which were amazing fresh out of the bottle but would age gracefully, as they also had bottles of each that were opened the night before. We bought a bottle of the 2006 Syrah, because the fresh bottle featured amazing fruit, limestone, spice, and pepper, and the bottle from the night before was a delicious rich, dark fruit jam, a little smoother and mellower, but still peppered.

Throughout the weekend, we stayed with Margot Van Horn at her lovely Vine Street Inn, a charming Victorian that she had converted into a bed & breakfast. Breakfast every morning was delicious and hearty, from fresh berries to fresh baked focaccia bread and eggs picante to Finnish pancakes, and I enjoyed every minute of chatting with her about food, wines, travelling, and even music. She was very sweet and had even blogged about our visit. These are definitely places we will refer to our travel clients in the future!

Now that we are back to normal life, we often get asked (or, at least, I do!) how married life is. I have to say, well, it’s less stressful, much nicer to be able to cook and eat together, but it hasn’t changed our relationship in great ways except that we don’t have to worry about leaving one another to go home at the end of the night. Behind it all, supporting us, is just the knowledge that we’ve made this tie official and the bond sacred before God. Every day we learn from our relationship, and hopefully, we only grow closer and wiser! Halberg Photographers has put up a small slideshow of the ceremony and formal pictures, and Studio West Video also has an edited clip of the ceremony and reception.

God bless, hugs and kisses.

Lots of Love,
><> Elizabeth <><

One and a Half Months!

Chuca is the centre of attentionWell! It’s coming up quickly. In this last month and a half, we’re just racing to get everything together, especially the finances. One happy thing was getting Pastor Ricky Ryan’s confirmation to officiate our wedding! At first he was not certain he would get back from his Indonesia trip on time, but now he is arriving back in town the day before, and he is willing to officiate the next day, for which we are very grateful!

Chris & ElizabethAfter much deliberating, I did finally hire a videographer as well. He is Dirk Gates of Studio West Video, who had had a special $1200 videography package at the time, and furthermore, he was willing to waive the travel fee because we had a weekday wedding! We’d originally thought not to have a videographer, but I realised I’d miss being able to re-watch our ceremony from the guests’ perspective, Pastor Ricky’s message, our vows and ring exchange, our parents, the speeches, and our first dances. Since the majority of our guests are dear friends that we rarely get to see, and I’ve always been told that it goes by quickly, I did want to get a chance to remember everybody there.

HUGSWe also have been dancing Argentine tango, as usual, with Fardad Michael Serry, on Monday nights, and private lindy lessons with Derrick Curtis on Saturdays, which keeps our relationship healthy and active, even when we’re both busy with school and work and, since my move to Goleta last October, living a greater distance apart. It’s amazing all that we can learn from dancing: leadership, communication, balance, responsiveness, all of which we’ve already known from our previous years dancing ballroom and tango. Lately, however, as we work on developing deeper technique and subtlety with our dancing, we’ve also learned about the subtleties of communication, give and take, and more importantly, forgiveness. If I can let go enough when he’s not leading as ideally as I’d like him to, I find that his “mistakes” become not mistakes, but easily turn into creative moments. The key is that I trust him to be able to handle the situation and not be so quick to criticise. Similarly, though I can often be inattentive or not react to his lead as quickly as he’d like, as long as he maintains awareness of my position, my balance, and is willing to wait for me to regain my composure, we can continue through the flow of the dance without anyone else being any wiser about the “imperfect” moment.

ChrisWe sent out invitations a little over two weeks ago – a whole month after our original intended send-out date. It was somewhat frustrating; though I enjoyed the design process, the cutting, scoring, perforating, hole-punching, and assembling process jut got tedious, and he had been too busy with work and school, as had I, to be able to get together, divide the labour, and get the job finished. Thus, with only a day left before our pretty Bette Davis stamps would be useless (as domestic postal rates were to rise another two cents), we spent the morning at his house busily cutting, punching, tying ribbon, and stuffing envelopes. With the job finished (and the invitations looking quite pretty, if I do say so myself!), I felt a whole load lifted off me.

Nonetheless, that was not the end of the troubles. We’ve received only a fifth of the responses so far, even including from those who live in town. Some of them have also been talking about a big vacation to Japan that they’d been planning/considering, even when they are close to Chris and had been informed of the date over a year ago. “Save the date” apparently meant little to them! That was a great disappointment. Also, when sending out a mass email addressing the confusion that one of the guests had had in responding so that others may not experience the same confusion, along with sending maps and lodging information, he had gotten offended and replied that I had poor taste and judgment. I apologised for offending him, explained the situation, but…the whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth, and in the process I have become rather sick of the idea of seeing him at work and have decided to leave this job. This is not the first time for him, nor is this the only person who can often be quite nice, other times quite snobby and judgmental. I had made no reference to him at all except the confusion that he’d had, so no one except him would have known, and where I commented on an action – a simple, understandable mistake – he had attacked me personally. So while this isn’t very Christian of me, and I know I am supposed to forgive (“bury the ole’ hatchet,” he’d said), it’s going to take a while, and I’ve learned the lesson that I should have stuck to our initial idea to invite only very close friends and family, not just extending the invitation to coworkers and others just because of changes in our guest list.

That aside, there has also been the stress of knowing that Chris has to move out by the 1st of June, but he has not found a place yet. His landlady decided she wanted her daughter to move back into the house a month earlier than his original intended move-out date, so he must bear the rent for a place for both of us (I’ll still be living with my mother) for an extra month while we pay rent at my place as well. The deposit + rent for that month cuts drastically into our wedding funds, especially when all the final payments for our vendors are coming up.

ElizabethWe have just recently started a travel business, however, and we are able to get flights, transportation, and lodging at some quite amazing rates, so not only can we help our out-of-town guests find decent lodging, if business there picks up, we may still be able to handle/afford it all. It may even be a good thing to have a drastically reduced guest list, as that would mean we can spend more time on the people who make it and be able to treat them well, without stretching our funds thin.

In the meantime, we have been helped out a lot by contributions to our wedding money registry, including a large anonymous donation. I would love to know the identity of the donor so I could thank them.

For anyone still to respond, please send in your cards as soon as possible so we can get an accurate head count for our caterers.

God bless, hugs and kisses.

Lots of Love,

><> Elizabeth <><

P.S. The photos scattered throughout this entry were taken by Tim and Cheryl Halberg of Halberg Photographers! Don’t you love them?

Less than Six Months to Go!!!

I blink, and it’s 2009 already. We have less than six months to go on our wedding, and a lot of stuff is not finalised yet. We did finally book a photographer – Halberg Photographers, and Tim and Cheryl have been awesome to work with! I had seen their work before, realised that they were out of our budget, and then searched elsewhere. About eight months later, I saw an advertisement of theirs again, looked through their portfolio, and sent them a Facebook message lamenting the fact that we were so broke. Tim wrote back almost immediately and was quite willing to work with us. A number of factors cemented the deal for both sides: Chris & I are members of Calvary Chapel, and Tim and Cheryl are members of Reality Carpinteria, a separate ministry that had branched out from Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara many years ago, and they were excited about that. Furthermore, our wedding is on a Thursday, giving a little more flexibility during a busy summer wedding month (July). Finally, we loved their work and their personality. Tim took our engagement pictures for us, perfecting capturing our happy-go-lucky attitudes, our silliness, and our sweet-but-random moments. A few of those are on the about us page.

We did finally book Michelle Schneiter of Verve Events, and her help and advice throughout the planning process has been invaluable. I was so grateful for her organisation, getting the names of people involved, and providing advice on vendors, locations, and timing. Since the last wedding update, we have also changed our venue from Elings Park to having the ceremony in the Mural Room at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, with the reception at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center. As much as I love the idea of a beautiful outdoor wedding on a hill overlooking the city, it was more practical to have a venue that included the tables and chairs and would set up, break down, and clean for us. Also, without the added costs of equipment rental, lighting issues, delivery, and pickup, we saved almost a thousand dollars. I hate counting pennies like this; I had this vision of how I wanted to treat my guests and show my appreciation for them showing up to celebrate with us, but at a certain point, the costs were just far too high to be practical. One thing we agreed on was that we refused to go into debt over the wedding. At least the reception will be at a location on the beach, overlooking the water.

We paid for the ceremony venue in November, and finally put down the deposit for the reception venue a few weeks ago. We went to a cake tasting with Henning’s Cake Boutique two weeks ago as well, so we happily have an order for a cake and cupcakes for us for the day! We also tasted with Catering by Falzone and loved their food! We just need to save up the money to put toward the deposit. For a while we were considering Woody’s Barbecue for the catering, but we get more and a more home-cooked taste with Falzone, plus they communication was excellent, which has been an increasingly important factor in these last few, high-stress months. We have yet to put down a deposit for the rental company, but we did decide on using EventRents for our linen, coffee maker, ice tubs, and other miscellaneous small rentals.

As for ceremony details, we found Leslee Sipress about eight months ago. We are having her and a harpist for the ceremony. Picking out the music has been somewhat difficult. Chris thinks the sound of the harp is beautiful, and though it creates its own sense of elegance and solemnity, we still didn’t want some converted pop tune done in “classical style.” But for classical, I was adamant that I did not want any of the Wagner or Mendelssohn traditional wedding marches (Here Comes the Bride?? No thanks!), or the overplayed Pachelbel’s Canon in D. This meant that we had to do a lot more hunting. Thus far we have fallen in love with the 10th movement of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, by Johann Sebastian Bach, also known as Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Also in the list for processionals is the cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, also known as Sleepers, Awake!, and also by Bach. As for which should be the attendants’ entrance and which the bride’s, we haven’t figured that out yet. Following the same trend (Bach, if you haven’t noticed), are the Arioso from Bach’s cantata BWV 156, the 2nd movement, Largo Ma Non Tanto, from his Concerto for Two Violins in d-minor, BWV 1043, and his Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068, better known as Air on a G String. Now, if we stick with this Bach theme, we just have to somehow find a Bach recessional! (Maybe the 1st movement, Allegro Moderato, from his Brandenburg Concerto #1 in F, BWV 1046?)

In preparation, we have also gone to some pre-marital counselling through Calvary. Rather than have the generic classes, they had us each fill in an information packet about our beliefs, wants, expectations, and concerns, discussed it with us, and then assigned us to an already married couple most suited to us. The experience has been great so far – the couple is very loving, very knowledgeable, and has cared a lot for us and for our relationship. I definitely have seen the benefit of this preparing us to grow toward and for each other in our marriage. So far we’ve only had two “formal counselling” sessions with them, but I’m looking forward to the next one.

As of now, this is what we have:

Chosen, designed, and/or paid for in full (finalised, in other words):

We have chosen but still do not have the money for:

Things yet to be decided:

  • Men’s formalwear – Chris would rather buy a nice suit than rent one, and we need to get the men fitted for suits

Help contribute to the wedding if you can! We’d be super duper grateful! OurWishingWell

God bless, hugs and kisses.

Lots of Love,
><> Elizabeth <><

Booking and Planning Updates

I did book the Judy Chamberlain band about a month ago! They’re pricier, but they were the quality we wanted, and she was very understanding and willing to negotiate on the price, knowing that we still want to have enough money to have this wedding! The nice thing was being able to talk to Judy on the phone and be completely open with her about expectations, the eclectic mixture of his and my music tastes, and still get the vintage-y feel of it. We both knew, even before we’d started thinking about music, that we didn’t want a DJ. Chris thought DJs were tacky, and he hates the typical “party music,” and we weren’t sure about a “wedding band.” Add to that the large range of age groups and types of people that will be there – among them college-aged friends, people from churches, his childhood friends from the harbour, diving, and surfing, his old customers, and a small handful of people I knew from NIST. I’d had my heart set on swing and classic rock, and plus we both love a good live band, as often plays at Stateside when he’s working, leading to phone calls from him to “come in and watch the band tonight!” – and, as a consequence, spent money. When it came to the research and choosing, though, I pretty much picked Judy once I’d spoken to her. I spent some time contacting other musicians and bands so that I could get a feel of things, but I was given the run-around, flat-out insulted by – not even a musician, but – a “band broker” who hyper-inflated the prices (10k for four hours? get real!), and then disappointed when another band finally got their audio samples to me, and I found that the leader couldn’t really sing.

Joy was also busy, and I wasn’t able to get in contact with her again, so I have been contacting other coordinators for day-of coordinating. The last I’d spoken to Joy, she’d gotten a little overloaded, so it’s understandable that a wedding over a year away is not on the top of her list of priorities. In the meantime, however, I met up with Michelle Schneiter of Verve Events about a week ago, and her day-of coordination package is very reasonable, and I was impressed with how organised she was – getting the list of needs, details, names, etc. So far I’ve found her the most organised and affordable plus easy-to-contact coordinator. I’m 80% sure of booking with her when I can afford it. I get the feeling, however, that I’m also being bridezilla, not having much else to do, and this has been occupying my mind to chase away the bad thoughts from trying to balance everything lately. I’ve been looking for another job, as funding a wedding on a server and a hostess’ salary, and especially buying a house, is a little out there. I did go to an interview and pretty much bag a job, but as a student, I couldn’t justify committing to it for more than six months and give up my academic career for it, so I let it pass.

I just want to get the pieces of this wedding put together so that I have the peace of mind to be able to set it aside. I won’t have nearly as much time for it nearing the end of my studies and with the house purchase looming. I also don’t want to plague Chris with the little details, especially as much as he is spending all his time working and saving now that business is slow, and he and his father are on a tighter deadline to finish the house in Big Bear on the weekends before his dad and Masami (his dad’s wife) have the child in September!

In many ways, I’d love to be happy and just enjoy the moment, but my head doesn’t let me. I’ve seen so many friends get engaged since I’ve started planning, and it seems most are getting married before we do; not that the timing matters as much, but I am a little miffed that it seems easier for them. We don’t need the “large party,” but with many of those closest to us coming from out of town (some of our family coming from out of state or out of country), it would be nice to be able to spend the time celebrating over simple food and dancing. Sadly, “simple food” isn’t so simple or affordable when it comes to Santa Barbara. It would be nice for it to be as simple as getting married in a church surrounded by the people with whom we’ve grown up and who have made our lives beautiful, but as it is we’d have to exclude parents and those who’ve become family if we do that!

As of now, this is what we have:

Chosen, designed, and/or paid for in full (finalised, in other words):

  • My dress – made in Thailand on our vacation
  • Our bridesmaids/groomsmen – keeping it simple, two each
  • My bridesmaids’ dresses
  • Our minister – Pastor Ricky Ryan of Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara!
  • Our invitations (I designed them in InDesign) – paper, envelopes, etc.
  • Silk flowers (may decide on real flowers later if Grass Roots Santa Barbara keeps their “Timeless Orchids” package affordable!)
  • Reception band – Judy Chamberlain band, as mentioned above
  • Favour bags
  • Table layouts
  • Wedding day itinerary
  • Guest list

We have chosen but still do not have the money for:

Things yet to be decided:

  • Mens’ formalwear – Chris would rather buy a nice suit than rent one, and we need to get the men fitted for suits
  • Cake/cupcakes – possibly Anna’s Bakery in Goleta or Henning’s Cake Boutique

It’s impolite to beg, but we do have a registry, and anything would help immensely!

God bless, hugs and kisses.

Lots of Love,
><> Elizabeth <><

Life Decisions

The time has finally come about that instead of finding places online that we should look into buying, now we actually go out and look at them with the agent and debate if they are big enough or if we can make it work somehow with our budget.  That being the case it makes me feel more like I’m not just wasting time or thinking about possibly making a move into real estate, I now have taken the first step, and that is usually the hardest one to take.  Those of you who know me, know that I am really into investing in projects (mostly houses and boats), but most probably don’t know that my original goal with all of it is buy a house in Santa Barbara.  That dream is one step closer now that the market was kind enough to drop a little, because of it we may actually have the chance to get one.

Another goal that I have been looking at for a long time was getting into the business of real estate.  This has been one of my life goals that, since I was a boy, have been working toward.  Now I feel as though it is time for me to start my career and that it would be in the best interest of my family to do so as soon as possible.  This being the case I have resolved to take the real estate license exam in April or May in an attempt to get my license to sell real estate whether it be residential or commercial.  I have to say that planning for the wedding is probably somewhat responsible for this change in mind set because now I have to look at how it is best to take care of my loved ones.

Chris