Monthly Archives: June 2007

That clinking, clanking sound

Money has been on my mind today. One of the wedding-related (yes, still stuck on the wedding) websites I read consists of several pseudonymed women blogging about their wedding planning for weeks or months and then recapping the wedding after the fact. I’ve been reading the site for a couple of months and have read through the archives, so it was pretty obvious that the majority of women were planning (in MY opinion) expensive and/or lavish weddings, and when they wrote about projects they did themselves it wasn’t necessarily to save money but just because they wanted to do them. Granted, most of the bloggers thus far have had weddings in or near NYC (or other big cities), and I could tell from the way they wrote about designer dresses and letterpress invitations and how much they were paying for hair and makeup that their budgets far, far exceeded ours. It’s still an interesting site to read, though, one that has given me quite a few ideas for projects or other elements which could be interesting to have.

Today, in response to a comment someone left a few days ago, some of the bloggers wrote out their wedding budgets (ballpark figures) including everything but rings and honeymoon. As I suspected, the one in NYC was nearly 50K, while the one in the midwest (with a lot of DIY, or do-it-yourself projects) was 8K. And that one was a dessert reception – no appetizers or meals were provided.

Way back a long time ago, before we got engaged, before we were even thinking about it, I spoke to a coworker who was planning her wedding, and she cited a figure to me that just sounded outrageous – she’d read that the average wedding cost in the US was over $20K. “For one day!?!” I interrobanged. “Over 20 thousand dollars for just a party for one day?” That figure sounded completely absurd to me – how could people possibly justify spending that much money on a party for one day? When *I* got married, I’d do it for super cheap. I’d do everything myself, or it would be a really tiny event, and I would show the world that it was possible to throw a one-day party (that happened to include two people getting married) for a miniscule amount of money. It could be done, right?

I didn’t think much about it again until we got engaged, a couple of years after the conversation I had with my coworker. I didn’t know a lot about weddings or wedding planning, so I started doing research. I talked to people who had planned weddings, and I started looking at sample catering menus and poking around on photographer websites. The sticker shock I began to encounter was far greater than I had expected. Dan and I came up with a number for a budget that sounded reasonable to us, one that would allow us to have good food and good drink, yet still not be a completely ridiculous amount of money to spend on a party for one day. As I read more and more information, and read about more budgets and on what sorts of things people spent their money, it started dawning on me that I’d never seen any sort of budget for under a certain amount (the amount we’d decided on) unless the food was provided via family or friends (potluck, knowing the caterer/restaurant people, etc.) It just isn’t possible to have a full meal with beverages served to people for under a certain amount of money, and when you add in all the other expenses (despite all the deals and hookups) you arrive at the number we’ve decided upon. And surprisingly, I’m starting to be OK with that.

I’ve read about a lot of different kinds of weddings these past few months, daytime and evening, city and country, indoors and out, in all ranges of style, formality, and budget. And I’m starting to realize that money doesn’t mean the same things to all people, that the amount of money my wedding dress is going to cost is, in comparison to some of the coture designers, a very small amount. I went to the library this afternoon to do a bit of research and found myself looking at a wedding magazine for the first time. Now I know that I’m not missing out on anything by not buying the enormous bricks they call wedding magazines (because you pay for 25 pages of content and 230948029384 pages of ads), and now I know that wedding magazines really aren’t geared for people with the sort of budget we have (just as the trash I read at the gym doesn’t feature clothing I could ever afford), I’m glad I did said research. Not to knock the magazines – it’s just that I can see the same pictures online, read about lavish details in other people’s weddings, and shrug and be OK that our wedding just isn’t going to look like the photos in the magazines. Besides, we’re not photos-in-magazines people anyhow. To me, it’s more important that everyone has a good time, gets good food to eat and drinks to drink, and feels that it was worthwhile to attend.

I recommend hiking shoes.


This past weekend was relatively eventful. Despite the hot, hot heat we’ve been experiencing in Denver the past week, we ventured out from our cool(ish) first floor flat and away from the ceiling fan to go to one of three cultural festivals Denver threw (another one kind of passed by our window on Sunday as we ate breakfast (PrideFest), and the third one (Cherry Blossom (Japanese)) we were just too hot to try to attempt). But we did go to the Greek festival, which centered around the Gold Boob (as we call it), aka the Greek Orthodox Church that sits up on a hill here in Denver.

I put on a short-sleeved linen blouse and skirt because I knew part of the festival was the opportunity to see the inside of the church, something people who aren’t part of the congregation don’t generally get to see. I know from going into churches in Europe that tank tops and short shorts just aren’t respectful, and it turned out that it was kind of cooler to wear loose linen clothing anyhow. The first thing we did upon arrival was make a beeline for the food (we shared a “combination plate” which, while expensive, was very tasty and contained a good representative sampling of Greek food). We watched some kids do some traditional Greek dancing. We wandered around checking out the trinket booths and bouncy castles of various types. Then we escaped the heat by ducking into the church, which was absolutely gorgeous and did not disappoint. My photos didn’t turn out great, since the rule was no flash (which was fine), but we sat inside for a good twenty minutes or half an hour admiring the amazing paintings on the ceiling of the dome. Later, we checked out the cultural center and ate some dripping-with-honey baklava.

Sunday dawned hotter than Saturday, and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching participants in the PrideFest parade walk by to get to the parade route on Colfax. It was really really hot. We decided to escape the heat by heading up into the mountains and drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park, opting to purchase a year-long national parks pass (good for the whole country! for a whole year!) rather than just the admission to the park for Sunday. On the drive up, when we got to Estes Park (the small tourist town right next to the park) I realized that I’d remembered to bring everything for our hike but my hiking shoes. I was wearing flip flops. I decided I wasn’t willing to buy shoes or boots I didn’t need and that I’d just make do with the flip flops as best I could, and we chose a hike that was somewhat less challenging than we normally might have.

Rocky Mountain National Park has, in the last two years, implemented a park-and-ride shuttle bus system to get more parkgoers to the more popular trailheads, improved parking lots and conditions, and generally made things really easy to go hiking. We opted for the park and ride rather than chancing our luck with the trailhead lot, and shared our shuttle bus with a group of twenty middle-school-aged softball players from Chicago who were going on a different hike. Boy, were they loud and girly. We got to our trailhead after a short ride and I knew I would be OK; the hike was really quite easy and not especially long. It was cooler than Denver (though still quite warm) and the first part of the hike was mostly uphill (and at significant altitude) so we were winded pretty quickly, but we each had our camelbaks and snacks, and we enjoyed the views and passed a lot of couples, families, and other groups along the trail.
(If you look closely, you might find the native Nerdus GreatBiggus)

The hike we chose passed by one lake before ending at another, and just before the second lake there was a large patch of snow one had to cross. Yes, that photo above is my foot in my flip flop in the snow – it’s not terribly often that one can say one has hiked across snow in flip flops. But I did, and it was OK. Luckily I’m in good enough shape that my leg muscles felt a little strange but mostly did what they were told. When we got to our destination, we pulled out the trail mix and shared an orange, and took in the amazing view while a greedy pika tried to get us to feed it. We didn’t.

Eventually, we turned around and hiked back down to the trailhead, passing all kinds of pretty wildflowers and winded tourists along the way. We got back on the full bus, and when it stopped at the next trailhead it picked up the entire gaggle of softball players (and their chaperones) again, so the bus was completely packed. On our way back to Denver we stopped in to visit with Dan’s parents and had a lovely dinner. It was a great Sunday, and hiking (though I did it in flip flops) was a good way to escape the oppressive heat. I have vowed that I will keep my hiking shoes in the trunk of the car from now on so I won’t forget them again. The flip flops were an adventure I don’t need to repeat.

I never

There was this drinking game in college – I’m sure you’ve all heard of it or played it at some point. It’s called “I never.” A table full of people takes turns announcing things that they’ve never done. An example might be, “I’ve never eaten Jello.” Then, people at the table who HAVE eaten Jello have to take a drink of whatever tasty beverage they have in front of them. It’s a game of strategery (sometimes you say “I never xyz” even when you have, and then you have to drink too). It’s also a good way of getting to know a group of people you don’t know very well, or a way of bonding (I suppose) with people you DO know.

I was thinking today about the things I used to use, my trump cards in the “I never” game. “I never got a driver’s license” was a good one; most people had done that. “I’ve never been outside of the United States.” “I’ve never slept with more than one person.” “I’ve never smoked pot.” That last one is still true, but the others have changed with time and experience. The last time I played “I never” was with a group of people all staying the weekend at a friend’s cabin at Lake Tahoe one Fourth of July weekend, and by the end of the trip I felt like I knew all those people really well, because we’d spent a long weekend together, had swum in the frigid and gold-dust-filled lake, had taken hikes and gone exploring, and had played “I never” into the wee hours. I was friends with several of them for a couple of years after that, though everyone went separate ways after graduation and the friend who’s family owned the cabin ended up dropping out of school and moving home with her parents after a series of embarassing pathological lies came to light and she got caught embezzeling money from our co-op. I do hope she got better.

It’s much harder these days to find groups of people to call friends; to make new friends in social situations, at parties. It’s much harder to go away for long weekends with large groups of people when everybody has responsibilities and jobs and lives and significant others. I suppose that a little of that is recaptured when we go to the cabin, but we usually know everyone who goes and “I never” is of little use. I hope that my next job has more people who are younger and in a similar life stage to Dan and I, because spending three years surrounded by people an entire generation (and sometimes two) older than I has been a bit of a damper on my social life. I’d like to meet more people, make new friends here in Denver, and I’m hoping that some of the same people are at tomorrow’s dance class. I’ve got some other ideas about meeting new people, especially now that we have a car and don’t have to limit ourselves to events within walking distance.

Though “I never” was a fun college drinking game, looking back on it, I’m glad it wasn’t something that people I knew continued doing past college. Because nobody really needs to know that much about a group of other people they’ve just met. Some stories are better left for times after you’ve known someone a while. And I would have to come up with an entire new set of “I nevers,” since my old ones are outdated. Heck, I can’t use “I never went to a post-Folsom Street Fair after party and saw someone getting paddled while wrapped in Saran Wrap,” “I never saw a huge group of babies who wore split pants instead of diapers,” or “I never met (or dated )(or got engaged to) someone from the internet.” If anyone used those around me, I’d just have to take a drink.

Progress

Last night I fell asleep around 3 AM, which was an hour earlier than I fell asleep the previous night. I’m not sure what’s going on; Sunday night’s sleep issues were solely due to heat (it was hot!) and the presence of a moth that Loki kept trying to catch by using me as a trampoline to get up to the window above my head. Every time I fell asleep, he’d be jumping on me or using me as a landing pad, and eventually it felt like torture. Finally, Dan got coherent enough to kill the damn moth so Loki lost interest, and I got to sleep an hour later.

But last night, it was not so hot. It was, in fact, quite a pleasant temperature. After my cracked-out day I took a 1.5 hour nap, which was lovely and refreshing and I’m sure contributed to last night’s insomnia. I took two valerian root pills at 11:30 PM, which in every other circumstance have flat-out knocked me out, but last night they were no match for The Brain That Would Not Turn Off No Matter What. Until we started with this whole engagement and wedding deal, I’d never had insomnia (other than a bout during a course of prednisone for poison oak back in 1999). Since then, it’s become this creepy, shadowy beast that lurks under my pillow and uses some sort of remote control to keep my brain on no matter how desperately I desire it otherwise, and I never know when it will strike. Ideas, concerns, logistics, what-ifs run through my head over and over, back and forth, thumping as if in a potato sack race from one hemisphere to the other. This happens during the day, too, but it’s not so overwhelming when I’m interacting with people or watching Planet Earth on DVD or knitting a new baby blanket (this one in small triangles to be sewn together later, and I’m super excited because it’s going to look so cool!). Sometimes I also have a song running through my head as background music to the potato sack race. During the day I can direct my thoughts in other directions, but at night, when it’s time to sleep, that’s when the crazy begins.

And really, I have no idea why this whole WEDDING thing is taking over my brain. We’re still over 9 months away and already have a lot of stuff figured out. We registered a domain name last night and Dan’s working on our website for wedding-related information, and today I shot some emails to some photographers and friends who have already gotten married in the area to ask their advice about caterers and stuff. We finally put everything down in a great big spreadsheet, budget and guest list and all kinds of lists with formulas, which made me happy because look! I figured out how to make that number do what I wanted it to do. We’re collecting addresses and phone numbers and I feel like it’s real progress toward a real event, not just these nebulous ideas that have been floating around the ether for the last several months. But with all this progress comes more what-ifs, more logistics, more questions and concerns and ideas, and for some reason my brain is fixating on these things when it should really be sleeping like a good brain. I can’t even get into a book to take my mind off things, and that’s really saying something, because I am an expert at the time-honored tradition of literary escapism. Like so many other tricks, it has failed me.

There are other things I could be writing about – my favorite show’s on now (SYTYCD) and TWOP is recapping it and they’ve even got a devoted forum for it now so I can read other people fanwank in all sorts of ways. The yard is looking better every day; Dan is running and biking all the time and looking amazingly good; we went dancing last Friday and we’re going again this Friday. Thursday we’ve got a date planned for the drive-in, which has been impossible until we got Moxie. All these things I’m excited about or looking forward to, but am I writing about them? No. I’m writing about Wedding Brain and how I feel like a pod person for thinking so much about this event that really, when you come down to it, is just a party for one day. I’m afraid that if I get too focused on or bogged down with Wedding Details, after the day is over there will be After Christmas Letdown x a googol. I’d rather avoid that, since what I’m really looking forward to is the Being Married part, rather than the Big Party. I just wish I could get that across to the monster under my pillow because brides need their beauty sleep, you know.

Hippo Bird Day QIR

Happy anniversary of your 29th birthday, and many happy returns!

29 reasons why I love QIR:

1) She is far more giving, thoughtful, and generous than she’d like people to believe

2) She has a fantastic black-hearted sense of humor

3) She makes a mean cocktail and stocks good booze at all times

4) She is not afraid to experiment

5) She is the sexiest Santa evar

6) She may just have the best ass for grabbin’ in existance

7) She gives wonderful advice but only when solicited

8) Her blue eyes sparkle when she is happy or excited

9) She makes everyone feel welcome

10) She has tiny hands and princess feet

11) She likes ladybugs and bees

12) Her joy at spending time with friends and loves ones is, at times, palpable

13) She’s the best at driving in SF I’ve ever witnessed

15) She loves the mountains

16) She loves to travel

17) It is wonderful to have a conversation with her even when she’s sleep-deprived

18) She does not like rats

19) She’s (almost) completed a goal that she had for many years before I even knew her, and despite the difficulty and challenge of that goal, she accomplished it with grace and dignity

20) She finds wonder and joy in small things, while having the taste of a connosieur

21) She is freaky and weird (like me!)

22) I learn something new from her every day we spend time together

23) She is far more beautiful than she knows, in many ways

24) One time, for her birthday, I made a cake, but the frosting kind of melted, so I called it an avalanche cake and she ate it anyway even though it was really weird-looking

25) She is crafty and creative

26) Her car says “hink” when she locks it

27) She celebrates solstice rather than giftmas

28) She’s definitely on my top 5 list of good snugglers

29) Her heart is enormous. Seriously, I don’t know how she manages to carry that thing around in her chest!

I hope your day is fabulous, QIR, and I will hoist a tasty adult beverage in your honor tonight.

Virtue

Yesterday, a pint of blood was siphoned out of me by a needle/series of tubes (not the internets, though) and collected in a bag. Afterward, I ate some cheezits and drank some water, and it was all very routine, as if people do that sort of thing every day. Which, of course, some people do (not the same people every day though; they’d run out of blood pretty quick). After I’d finished my crackers I walked back to my cube and a couple of coworkers kind of gushed a little about how great it was that I give blood.

Honestly? It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. I have enough to spare, and I have the most common blood type (A+ baby) so my blood can be pretty useful. I’ve never spent any time in Africa and I’ve never lived in the UK and I’ve never taken Propecia and I’ve never had sex with a man who had sex with another man, even once, since 1977. So I’m all clear to give them my blood and they’re all clear to give it to someone who really needs it.

I was thinking about the whole giving blood thing last night. I wonder, for example, if blood collected at altitude (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico) gets sent to other states because of the donators’ high red blood cell count (you develop more red blood cells when you live at altitude because there’s less oxygen, so the blood has to compensate and make more red blood cells to carry around the oxygen it can get). I was also thinking about this disease that I’d heard of where the cure is pretty much bloodletting because of a too-high iron count – maybe the one condition for which leeches actually worked way back in the dark ages. And I thought about all the blood I’ve donated over the years, and who might have gotten it – was it a trauma victim, exploratory surgery, someone with leukemia? Was it an old man or a little boy? Was it a woman who gave birth and hemmorhaged? It kind of blows my mind how much blood is needed every day in this country, how many people’s lives are saved every year because people donate blood and platelets and bone marrow.

At the same time, to me, the whole giving blood thing is no big deal – I get a heavy arm for a day, a little itchy puncture wound, and I’m a cheap drunk for a night (only after a meal, of course). But to some people, it’s an impossible hurdle because of a needle phobia or anemia or low body weight. I’m sure there are thousands of gay men in this country who are assuredly HIV negative and would love to donate but are denied the opportunity. So I guess in a way, I donate because other people can’t – just as other people do things that I can’t to help people in need.

Earlier this week, one of the most impressive outpourings of giving to a stranger I’ve ever seen happened on one of the message boards I read; a person had a sudden and unexpected financial hardship due to theft and was going to have a hard time keeping the electricity on for his family while the police sorted out the whole mess of the situation. Another person on the message board read the story (he’d written it just to vent) and took it upon HIMself to set up a paypal account and solicit small donations from the community, which he then transformed into a check and sent off to the guy in need. The guy was flabbergasted, touched, and (at first) unwilling to accept generosity, but eventually thanked everyone for what they had done for him and his family and promised to “pay it forward” once everything was fixed. I hadn’t read anything about the situation or the thread saying “let’s help this guy out” until the whole thing had already transpired, but I was amazed and humbled at the lengths to which small gestures can go to make a huge difference in someone’s life. I highly doubt that anyone who contributed to the fund sent in more than they could afford – perhaps a week’s worth of Starbucks or something equally minimal – but together, the community’s resources made infinitely better a situation for the family of a stranger on the internet.

Both the acts described above – giving blood, donating money to someone in need, could be construed as acts of virtue. Our society has deemed virtuous the act of selflessly helping another person, whether that act be small or large. Is it more virtuous to donate time, money, blood, when it’s a true hardship to the giver? Or is the mere act of giving a virtuous one, even if it affects the giver in a very minimal way? Should there be any level of judgement when it comes to virtue? Should people strive to donate money or time or bone marrow or a kidney because it’s the right thing to do to help another human being? Or should that act be contingent on the rest of the community (coworkers, fellow message board users) knowing that one gave something? Does it really count if nobody else knows about it? I wonder sometimes about the little prizes given out for donating blood or voting (stickers, t-shirts), whether it really makes a difference in someone’s decision to donate blood if they’re promised a sticker afterward that they can wear and show people. The medical wrap stuff they use to wrap your arm after you donate always comes in bright colors (aqua, teal, purple) – I’m sure they make it in flesh tones, but then who would notice?

It’s hard in this day and age of paparazzi and instant communications to know the motivations of celebrities who are doing good things – on the one hand, isn’t it a great example they’re showing for driving a hybrid or serving as a UN ambassador to a war-torn country? On the other hand, isn’t it a little self-serving for every celebrity to have his or her own foundation or camp or charity (frequently with the celebrity’s name, even)? Should the motivation even matter, as long as people are being helped and good works are being done? In the long run, I don’t think it should. The money, the time, the blood are all there when people need it, and that’s all that should really matter. So yes, world. I donated blood yesterday. Perhaps that makes me virtuous, even though I needed it less than someone else, and I walked away with an ugly t-shirt, and it didn’t help keep someone’s electricity on or save the children (but not the British children). I plan to do it again in 8 weeks when I’m eligible again. Because I can.

Flat on his back


We have a kitty who sleeps like a people.