Saturday, February 26, 2011

Can you be both a Sad Panda and Happy at the same time?

So It has been almost a week since Jaime left Georgia and it was one awesome weekend, despite me getting sick and Jaime consequently getting sick in turn. I am sorry my love! Anyways I digress we have some amazing pictures from the weekend and we should be sending out "Save the Date" wedding announcements sometime late April. This brings me to why I am sad. Jaime and I now don't get to see each other until after I graduate, book a flight, and fly to my new home base. Hopefully in Bangor, WA. This means that we can't see one and another for around 6 weeks. 6 WEEKS. Honestly this sucks, a lot. I love Jaime with every fiber of my body. She makes me the happiest man in the world but it sucks living some few thousand miles apart. Well at least time will change that. Pretty soon we get to finally live together and life can finally move on. Anyways my tentative graduation date is April 15th, and I should, hopefully, be getting to pick my orders soon. I know where Jaime and I would love to go, already helped her pick out an apartment, and now it is just a suspenseful waiting game. Yes right now I am 3rd in the class with a 93.40% and should be getting a great pick, but the truth is we never know what the split it going to be between Bangor and Kingsbay. For the most part the billets right now are going to Bangor, last class had a 10-2 Bangor split, but the reality is that something could come up and things could change. Welcome to the military I suppose. Anyways with all this stress and the stress of throwing a wedding in under a year things are going to be very interesting for us the next year. Anyways I know that everything will be fine in the long run because Jaime is such a wonderful and caring person and honestly things are great right now too, just because I get to talk to the person I love most every day of my life.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Wedding Chronicals - "The Dress" Experience

When most people think of a wedding, the first thing to come to mind (besides lots of love and sappiness) is "the dress". 

I'm not one of those girls who has planned her wedding from the time she was a little girl. I was too busy mountain biking, playing sports, climbing trees, or singing at the top of my lungs (often from a tree top) in order to dream about who would be bridesmaids, what they would wear, what kind of flowers I'd have, much less what I would wear!

I didn't start thinking about weddings and attire until I was well into the journey seeking the man I would share my life with. In the past couple years, several of my friends have let me look at wedding gowns with them for their impending weddings. When I started to follow Carly's blog, I started to give the topic more thought.

Yes, as a kid, I was a pretty solid Tom-Boy in a lot of ways, but things also changed as I got older.

The only man I'll ever share my Mickey Bar with.
See, my parents introduced me to theater early on. It's a passion I keep even today by voulenteering for Community Theater whenever I can. So I've also had a chance to experience costumes and dressing up.

This is where I feel a wedding dress is different.

A wedding dress isn't just "dressing up". It's not another costume. Bring a "bride" isn't a scripted role I'll be playing. It's not a character someone else invented. 

It's me. 
It's me marrying my best friend.

And a wedding isn't just an expensive party.

It's a celebration of over a decade of friendship, growth, faith, and love that has lead us to the point where we are ready to step into whatever the future may hold hand-in-hand.

It's an occasion I know I will cherish the memory of when he's deployed under the sea and far away from me, out of contact for months at a time.

So for me the dress is part of a memory I know he'll embrace as well when he's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and missing his wife. (Due to the highly classified nature of his work, we can expect 2 90-day deployments each year, with little to no contact during this time.)

In picking out the dress, I decided I wanted something unique, and startling enough to surprise my friends and family, yet keeping that timeless, classic flavor that best reflects the love Sean and I share.
Yes, every bride wants her groom and her family to think she's beautiful when she gets married. I'm no exception to that. But have you ever heard a groom get to the altar and say, "I... don't. I'm sorry. I just can't marry you in that because I realize how ugly you really are... in that dress. Sorry. Wedding's off until you get some something with more lace."

I sure haven't. And I'm confident that Sean won't run in terror either.

That said, here are a few things that I've been considering when it comes to dresses:

*Budget  - We are trying to pay for this even ourselves. I can't justify blowing our entire budget (which is currently WELL under the average wedding expenditure) on a gown I'm going to wear for 1 day, and then store. By the same token, no one in my bridal party is well off either, so I've exchanged having a matching bridal party for having everyone attend. They will have to travel to our wedding, so I've asked my bridesmaids to find a black dress, roughly knee length. I'll spring for matching wraps or accessories or something to tie them all together. The up side? They'll wear these dresses again, and may already have one in their closet. I wish I could sponsor all of my ladies to travel to us AND not have to worry about what to wear, as they've all been so wonderfully supportive over this last crazy year. They deserve a little vacation as much as I do, and their willingness to help so much with their time and talents for this wedding is truly touching. The least I can do is let them wear something they may not have to buy, and can still feel as beautiful in as they are in my eyes.

* Feeling good in my own skin is up to me - not a dress, but a flattering cut can still help. - I scar. Badly. From everything. It's something that is just part of my DNA and not something I can fight. The most prominent scars are on my left shoulder blade and right shoulder. I could use make-up to cover them or get a gown that covers these areas, but instead I've decided not to give these "flaws" an special attention. Sean knows me for all of who I am, the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the scarred. A wedding is a public commitment to acceptance of all Sean and I have to bring to the table.

*White, while never out of season, isn't for everyone. -  The idea of the white wedding gown is fairly new, and Sean and I have something timeless. I tried on a dress accented with strong colors and have decided I love this style. So a true white isn't on my color palette. Ivory, Dark Green, and Gold are in the color palette too.

So in selecting my gown, I'm going to flatter my hour-glass-ish figure, feel beautiful in the colors I've chosen and really just be "me".

Wedding Chronicals - Our Wonderful Amature Engagement Shoot

Last weekend, I got to visit Sean for the last time until April. Afterwards, we said goodbye for 52 days - roughly. This is assuming the Navy transfers him immediately to the Pacific. So we saved up to make this trip something really special.
I flew in on Thursday, Feb 17th, and stayed until Tuesday, Feb 22nd. He got some free time due to President's Day Holiday.

Most of the visit, we spent on base at the Navy Lodge or the Navy Gateway lodge. Not especially romantic, but great rates - and I won't turn down any chance to be together. Being with Sean seems to make the most ordinary things special.

However, on Friday and Saturday we changed scenery a bit. We spent it at on the beautiful Amelia Island in Florida.

It was only a few minutes from his base. I'd correspondanded with the innkeeper of a B&B and she worked within our budget to set us on with an amazing a romance package. It included a beautiful room, a horsedrawn carriage for the evening, and dinner at a local cafe. (And, of course, her amazing breakfasts for 2 days!)

It was a wonderful experience. Sean and I have never stayed at a B&B before, but after this experience, we'll be looking for a hospitable B&B in the future.

The innkeeper grabbed our camera and really went the extra mile for us for this engagement/wedding/save-the-date shoot. She let us enjoy the carriage ride to ourselves, but met us at the peir so we could enjoy the sunset and shoot a few photos. What I love about our photos is that they aren't posed. They are just "us" being us. Since Theresa was so welcoming, it was easy to feel like we were in the presence of a good friend. There was lots of laughter and a touch of romance. 

He makes me laugh.

I'm working on a montage of photos from that trip, but here is a little teaser of me with the man I love.

When I get tearful about how baddly I miss Sean, I look at this one and remind myself that, compared to happily ever after, a few months apart is just a drop in the bucket....

Happily Ever After 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Ring Story - Part 2

The Ring Story – Part 2

I’d been hearing for some time about the ring that Sean picked out for me. We’d spent a fairly significant amount of time browsing online, so I knew he had a feeling for what I like.  Though I love the Mickey ring he picked out, there isn’t a lot of respect for Mouse shaped jewelry in this world (which is really a shame, but that’s a tale for another blog). He did a great job keeping it under wraps once it was in his possession.
When it comes to jewelry (like most things in life) I like things simple. I’ve never craved a rock so big that it would be a point of envy to the outside world. I don’t care about things that come in a “Tiffany” blue box. I’m interested in quality, or things with history to them. Most of my favorite pieces of jewelry came from antique/consignment shops, and all were under $100 (including a beautiful carved ivory rose necklace). When it came to engagement rings, I was thinking of something a little different than the basic round diamond solitare in a yellow gold setting, but I never had my sights set on anything by Tacori or Harry Winston. I was thinking something simple, more along the lines of a gem stone ring (Alexandrites are my faves) with diamond accents, or an eternity ring.  I didn’t need or want anything big.
I knew Sean was planning on giving me the ring Thursday when I arrived at the airport. He just couldn’t wait to show it to me.
I found him at the baggage claim.
He was already waiting for my bag to come through to grab it for me. (What a gentleman!) We decided to wait until the privacy of the rental car for him to let me see the ring that I would wear on my left hand for the rest of my days.
But that plan back-fired, just a little.

See, though my itinerary said that the car was located inside the airport terminal, it was wrong. We found the shuttle stop fairly quickly. It was the over 30 minute wait for the shuttle that seemed like an eternity. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is no one I’d rather wait on a curb with, but it was starting to look like they’d forgotten about us.

Unable to wait any longer, Sean produced a beautiful white gold diamond ring.

Resembling an eternity ring, the main attraction are 3 marquis cut diamonds. There are 6 smaller stones resembling hidden Mickeys on the sides, and 6 smaller rectangular beside them. 3 Karats total in a tapered raised setting. The detail in design makes it all work without feeling too big or bulky.
It’s quite a ring when compared to my pint sized fingers. It’s definitely more ring than I ever even would have considered owning. The weight is going to take some getting used to, but this definitely strikes me as an heirloom piece – and I like the thought of jewelry with some life and history poured into it.
I will be getting it sized once I get home and I can’t wait to see how it feels when it’s paired with the perfect wedding band from the guy perfect for me. 

The Wedding Chronicals - The Dress Contest!

I've found the dress I'd love to marry Sean in and the makers are currently having a contest and the winner gets the dress of her dreams!

Helping out is simple! You have to have a facebook account. Click here and "Like" the page. Then find my comment and comment on it, stating why you think Sean and I should win, as well as any special memories you have about us.

Also remember to like my posting and share it with your friends! The more great comments, the better our chances! Thanks so much!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wedding Chronicals - Themes

Nearly every wedding consultant encourages couples to pick a "theme" and build the wedding celebration around that theme. If it's something that represents an interest the couple have, it can be a fun way for guests to get to know the bride and groom a bit more.

So Sean and I have been kicking around some ideas for themes.
Here's what we've come up with:

Hidden Mickeys -
I'm a huge Disney fan, and Disney has grown near and dear to Sean's heart as well.
That said, this idea fell by the wayside. We decided that we'd have a few "hidden Mickey" touches, but we'd reserve them for ourselves, rather than trying to throw an entire Disney themed wedding that isn't in a Disney Park. (We would have LOVED to have throw it in the Disney parks, however min. expenditure for a group our size is $10-$12k, which is sadly out of our budget - we may reconsider this venue if any sizable contributions come in, however, for now, we're planning a home based reception/wedding). I'll be wearing a fairly obvious Mickey myself that I couldn't be more excited about, but that's news for another post.

Asian Inspiration -
Sean has always been intrigued by Asian cultures, Japanese to be specific. A few of my favorite things just happen to be of asian decent as well (orchids). And I like the idea of paper lanterns as well, however this, again, may be out of place, depending on the venue. So we may be working this in the same way we are working in the Hidden Mickeys theme - by just adding a few touches here and there. (Possibly floral, possibly center pieces, etc.). Sean has suggested using cherry blossoms as well. I'm not really to into pink (the color of cherry blossoms), and we're not sure what the cost would run since they are pretty hard to come by, but it's an idea that's out there.

Celtic Inspiration -
Sean and I both understand and appreciate symbolism. This would also fit our color scheme (green, ivory, and gold) very very well. There is a strong Irish line in my family, Sean's family has some Irish in it too, and my parents have visited Ireland on many occasions. The symbolism of a wedding and Celtic knots seem fitting. I also feel that this motif could work well at almost any venue.

Peacock theme -
I love colors, especially rich, deep colors. But I think I'd easily get sick of peacock stationary, peacock accessories, peacock themed center pieces, etc etc... so while I definitely want to sport one of these little babies (which will look AWESOME with the dress I've chosen), Sean also doesn't like the idea of more than 2 primary colors. I feel, to really do the peacock theme well, accentuating the beautiful sparkling rich blue is as necessary as the green and bronze/gold tones. So we're not completely sold on this either...

Natural theme - This one would be a no brainer - IF it were outdoors. However, Washington state in the outdoors? A "rain" inspired wedding might be more appropriate. November is one of the wettest months of the year.

We've still got plenty of time to figure things out, and probably won't have anything settled for a few months.

Who knows? Maybe we can find a way of combining a few of our favorites yet.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Well, this Thursday Jaime and I will see each other for the last time before our move, hopefully to Washington...the state not the city. We would be living together in Port Orchard, a mere 45 minutes away from Bangor. Bangor being the base that I would be stationed to. I feel reassured that Jaime already flew up there and seemed to really like the place. It seems that we would be living in a smaller apartment for a 6 month lease, not too small, and from there decide if we want to stay in that apartment, in that same complex in a bigger apartment, or to move to an entirely new complex. Honestly I am really happy about the move. We are finally going to be in the same area code and most of the time under the same roof. It will be an amazing leap in our relationship, we no longer have to book monthly trips to see each other, because we finally get to see each other almost every day. Sure there will be the a few kinks in our relationship, a few tiffs here and there but what relationship doesn't have its quirks. I know that we will make it through anything because we have fought long and hard to make this work. I am just glad that I finally have the opportunity to be with the woman that I have always loved, even if at times I didn't know it. This is by far the best thing that has ever happened in my life. Jaime I love you so very much.
~ps - Here's the visual run down of the trip to Washington!~

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wedding Chronicals - The Trick is The Timing

Sean and I would LOVE to send out “Save the Date” cards to our prospective guests. Since just about everyone will have to travel no matter where the wedding takes place, we want to give our guests as much notice as possible.
The ticker is currently set for our hopeful date of November 5th, 2011.
However there may be a snag with that date.
See, we don’t have a location yet. Lucky for us, we’re booking “off season”, which ‘should’ save us money, but also limits our locations. Washington’s weather is known to be rather cold and unpredictable in the fall. In fact, it could be a white wedding!
But the biggest snag (apart from coming up with a few thousand dollars very quickly) is this –
We don’t even know if the Groom will be able to attend on that date yet.
Until we get Sean’s deployment schedule, everything is etched in sand (other than our enduring commitment to each other, of course).
Building our lives around the needs of the Navy isn’t easy. Being constantly surrounded by the love of our family and friends makes it tolerable.
We appreciate your understanding – prospective attendees (and attendants). Look for the Save the Dates in the mail in the beginning of May! 

The Ring Story - Part 1

In 2008, I landed the best job ever. 
I became a regularly published author.
And not for just any old newspaper or rag.  I began contributing for a brand new regularly published ground breaking specialty magazine. I took up a position as a contributing author for Celebrations Press, a magazine catering to Disney World fans of all ages.
In case you didn’t know, I’m a lifelong Disney fan. In fact, I began to rely on Disney travel podcasts (as well as a few choice others, like Mail Order Zombie) to help me get through my regular work day. Due to the high stress nature of my job, a sense of humor and wonderment is a necessity to keep from becoming completely jaded to the human experience. One of my favorite podcasts is Lou Mongello’s WDWRadio. It’s a podcast mostly appreciated by hard-core fans who are interested in enhancing their Disney Park experience by learning Disney trivia, fun facts, and stories behind the attractions/lands/characters we’ve come to love.
When Lou started taking about doing a Disney Fan magazine with his co-host, Tim Foster, I was immediately interested. I’ve been a Disneyland fan since I was about 2 years old. (According to my parents, that was the year of my first trip to the Park and my eyes just about popped out of my head. Here I am, 28 years later, and they still haven’t gone back in. In fact, I’m more marveled by the place each time I learn something new – and let me tell you, there is ALWAYS something to learn. ) So I submitted an unsolicited blog post to Tim Foster, one of the editors/owners/producers of the magazine. (I know.  Gutsy move – and one that is not usually rewarded.) The article was about my experience at the 2007 Danskin Women’s Sprint Triathlon – which just happens to be the one and only Triathlon to take place on Disneyland Resort Property.

Tim was impressed enough to hire me on as a regular contributor to the magazine. Though it’s a Disneyworld based magazine, Tim gave me a 2 page spread in every issue. I use it to highlight the history and trivia of some of Disneyland Resort’s best and most unique attractions.
 My first real writing gig - and I get to write about something I’m passionate about.
 Does it get more perfect than that?
 It has been a wonderful experience and it created a need for me to do more and more trips to Disneyland. Since I’m a Premium Annual Passholder, and Disneyland is (currently) only a short drive away, I’m able to slip into the parks whenever I need a break from the real world, or when I need a “research trip”.

Research trips involve a lot of walking around, talking to Cast Members, and waiting for the perfect shot of whatever attraction I happen to be researching.
Unfortunately, last summer I had major surgery. This severely limited my trips of any sort, whether they were to Disneyland or to the grocery store. As soon as the MD cleared me, I went back to Disneyland one weeknight after work for a more casual Disneyland trip…
This is where The Ring Story comes in.

It was a cool September evening in Anaheim. Walking around the parks had a joyful, meditative feel to it this time.
 I began my usual “research” patiently waiting for the opportunity to take the perfect photos and to meet up with one of my trusted Disneyland informants. I strolled into the neon-lit Tomorrowland and into the Star Traders store. I was investigating any changes going on since Star Tours. So far, there wasn’t a story to be had there other than what the fan world already knew – that Disney was about to close the attraction for a serious (and LONG overdue) upgrade.  Star Traders doubles as the exit to Star Tours, so I started my hunt there to see if there would be any tips regarding the changes to come.
The merchandise was largely the same as it had been on my past visits. There was a rack full of candy and snacks, a room filled with Disney Star Wars merchandise, and another room filled with what most tourists would expect to see at a theme park gift shop. Mickey Mouse t-shirts of every color lined the shelves. Plush characters of every shape and size dominated an entire wall. Near the checkout area were small racks with jewelry.
There were sliders for bracelets, children’s jewelry, and a myriad of other nick knacks.  As I browsed the racks, a specific ring caught my attention and wouldn’t let it go.  It was a silver ring with a crystal Mickey head in the center.  On either side of the Mickey design were 2 colored stones. They had rings with stones representing just about every birthstone. For some reason, the blue stoned ring jumped out at me.
I look it off the shelf.
I tried it on. A 6 was too small, but a 7 was just a bit too big.
I turned it over to check the price. It was definitely affordable, but the thought of spending money on something so optional when significant medical bills were looming gave me a moment’s pause. Also, the ring wasn’t available in half sizes. Assuming I’d lose it, as I’m prone to do with jewelry from time to time, I settled w/ taking a photo of it on my cell phone. I put the ring back on the rack for some other lucky tourist to take home.
 I sent it to a few of my Mouse-friendly friends, saying something like, “This might need to come home with me at some point.”
I would visit The Ring on subsequent visits, but it never made it into my modest Disney jewelry collection.

Fast forward to January 16th, 2011.
 Sean is scouring the jewelry in Mouse Gears in Epcot while I look at t-shirts, sweatshirts, and kitchen goodies, considering bringing something home.

Later that night, he proposes. Unable to see The Ring in the subdued lighting, I say yes.

On our way out of the parks, I stop under a lantern in the Mexico pavilion to check it out. Even in the yellowish light, I know recognize the ring on my finger and start to laugh.( In fact, I think I had just stopped crying and the laughter brought tears to my eyes again!) The ring on the finger, the one that he said just seemed to be most “me”, was the exact same ring that over a year earlier, I had picked out for myself.
This ring will always have a special place in my heart and may just be my “something blue” on our wedding day.

Well done, love.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – when the more traditional ring comes in!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our Journey in Vows

His turn:
Jaime and I have decided that we are going to write our own vows. In some ways this task was very easy. I know how I feel about Jaime and I knew many things that I could say about her. In this lies the difficulty. There are just so many amazing things about her and yet so little space to say what I want to say. Well I finally think that I have finished writing them, but who is to say that I won't change my mind on a few items. Revise them just a little bit. I mean, a wedding is a huge task and you want everything to go perfectly. Of course there will always be a few things here and there, a few little mishaps, however the vows are the one thing that you can control. You can not control a crazy aunt, or a baby crying in the background. You also can not control what flowers are in season and how everyone else thinks that you should of done this different or that. So the vows have to be perfect, right?
Well as I sat there trying to nitpick and choose what to write it dawned on me. I really am finally going to be able to spend the rest of my life with my best friend. Over the years Jaime and I have had an interesting journey. We didn't quite know what to make of our relationship. We went through periods where we were just friends and comfortable knowing that no matter what we would always be in each other's lives. To wanting to be in a relationship and just not finding a way to make it work. We also had the challenge of dating other people and then suddenly on of us would become single. Yes, life for us was a challenge in many ways but we have always loved each other. I take comfort in the fact that, finally, we are together the way it is meant to be. Destiny finally has caught up to us. I for one know that where love is concerned I have finally made the right choice. Jaime I love you and I vow to always cherish the love that you have shown me.

Her turn:
Sean and I are both fairly prolific. In fact, that is responsible for what brought us together in the first place!
But, for me, stating my most intimate feelings about the guy who knows me best in front of an audience was daunting. Yes, the traditional vows covered the basics, but writing our own vows seemed the write thing to do - but also, for me, a daunting task. 
Having acted in front of audience for a good chunk of my life, I can memorize lines with the best of them. But this is very, very different. Not only would I be writing my "lines" for the wedding, but these aren't just "lines" in the script that is our budding wedding ceremony. These are the most important words I may ever say. They have to be right.
But how on earth do you begin to encompass over a decade of friendship grown into love in a matter of a few minutes?
And even more, how am I going to get through gazing into his eyes, standing before family and friends, and saying what I need to say without bursting into tears?

The truth is, I probably won't get through it without crying. This is not a pledge I take lightly. 

Today, I wrote my vows. 

I wasn't sure how to start, but I knew the jist of it. The point of vows is to clearly state what you are promising. I turned on some soft music (from Disney's Wedding Album - which is largely Disney love songs done elevator-style - not great for weddings, but great for tuning out the world and getting into the romantic mood), booted up the Acer, and started writing. I figured I'd start the way I'd start a letter to Sean.

"My beloved Sean," I started. Soon the words just started flowing and it was hard not to repeat myself when I say how much I love him, how proud I am of him, how I have full confidence that we'll get through life together no matter what it throws at us... 

I guess I never realized that "vows" are really a love letter, and a love letter is really an agreement between two hearts, and marriage is the contract that solidifies what the heart already knows.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Her Turn - First Flowers!

Sean has been counted as one of my best friends for nearly half my life. You know, the type of person you can't go through a single day without talking to. The type of person who you can really be yourself around, and who makes you feel sane when you're a little crazy. That said, there really is nothing better than being in love with your best friend. So being in engaged to Sean has been a wonderful experience that I'm sure I'll treasure forever. I've always treasured how in-step we seem to be. That said, Wednesday was a LOUSY-day for both of us.

Our schedules just could not seem to get on the same page. See, it can be challenging to connect with each other when you're on different coasts and in different time zones.  We do our best to schedule at least a good 2 hours a day where we have some uninterrupted Skype time. But some days, it just seems like that's not in the cards.

Wednesday was one of those days. Between my work, the Navy (on his side), and errands I had to run, we were barely able to talk on the phone. On top of that, I had to get my license renewed at the DMV. Their next appointement was after my trip to Seattle (next weekend) and Jacksonville! That wouldn't work, so I went in during the middle of the week, hoping to be in an out of the DMV quickly.  Afterall, who goes to the DMV during the day in the middle of the week?

Apparently everyone. 3+ hours later, I FINALLY left with my new temporary license. California is so behind, that they've outsourced the manufacturing part of licenses to a company that is running SIX to EIGHT weeks behind! That was really bad news since I have 2 round-trip flights this month and NO VALID GOVERNMENT ISSUED PHOTO ID to show for it. Frustration is probably putting it mildly.

Now, my fuse is usually pretty long, but that day it was shorter than usual. His day was pretty lousy as well due to some crazy scheduling. But Sean, being the wonderful guy that he is, helped me find a solution to my problem - and sent me flowers!

They arrived the next day, an early Valentine's Day gift.

Now, any man can send a woman the obligatory roses on Valentine's day. An especially thoughful man will send flowers "just because". But only a man who truly knows and loves a woman will send her FAVORITE flowers from the BEST florist in town - from all the way across the continent.

Favorite flowers - Dendrobium orchids in purple! Other favorites? Bi-colored roses and exotic flowers!
Good job honey.