Tag Archives: why do my born-again cousins like Matisyahu

The Creepy Coke Room

Over the weekend, Dan and I flew to San Diego so we could attend my cousin’s wedding (and so I could do the flowers for said cousin’s wedding). It was a very nice wedding, about as Jesus-y as the last one, and thankfully the ceremony wasn’t overly long. The wedding itself took place in Julian, which is in the foothills east of San Diego proper. I don’t know what I was expecting, weather-wise, but I certainly was not expecting it to be quite as cold (below freezing on Saturday night with corresponding temps in the high 30s at 2 PM Saturday afternoon) or as wet as it ended up being. The ceremony was supposed to be outside, which is understandable considering how beautiful the place was, but holy cow was it ever cold. Thankfully, they made the decision on Sunday morning to move the whole shebang into the Pine Hills Lodge.

The road to Pine Hills

In lieu of payment for my work, my cousin and her fiance paid for our flights down to San Diego and for us to stay at a separate inn in Julian (not where the wedding was held, as that was booked). When we got to the place with the back seat of the rental car full of hydrangea buckets, we were let into this teeny tiny crackerbox of a room that was barely big enough for a full-sized bed, a desk, and a shelving unit; railroad-style bathroom squeezed in along the side. I spent several hours both Saturday afternoon/evening and Sunday morning working on flower stuff, popping personal flowers into the minifridge as I finished each boutonniere or flower girl wreath, and asking Dan to hold the glue gun for me because there was no surface on which I could set it down while I was working. The place was MINISCULE. Had it not been so cold, I probably would have worked outside, but as it was I could hardly feel my hands after being outdoors for only a couple of minutes.

Even smaller than it looks in the photo

For most of the day/evening, two buckets lived in the bathroom and the other two between the bed and the TV. I walked back and forth at least 29385798745 times to grab the things I needed, using the top of the mini fridge and the shelving units and the desk and the comfy chair and the bathroom sink as work space. It was by far the smallest space I’ve ever had available for doing wedding flowers, but it all worked out in the end.

At least they made the bathroom smell nice

Dan got to explore the town of Julian while I was making pretties, and he brought me back a piece of apple pie that I heated up in the little toaster oven. Julian’s apple pie is sort of like the fudge in Estes Park or the fudge on Mackinac Island: it’s the thing that everyone goes to the town to eat. I guess Julian grows a lot of apples, because not only were there apple pies sold everywhere, there was also apple cider, both soft and hard. I had my doubts about the pie (how good can a piece of apple pie BE, anyway?) but became a convert from one bite. I suspect they are all laced with crack.

Other than the bizarrely cold weather and the pretty fall color, what I will remember most about the quick trip to Julian is the decor in our wee room. It was all coke. Coke, coke, coke. Coke napkin dispensers and coke advertisements and coke cups, glasses and mugs. Coke with Santa and coke with small children.

Pretty much everything in the room was Coke-related

How about a nice frosty mug of Coke?

Coke made Santa, so Santa shills for Coke

Even the bathroom was stuffed with Coke-iness

You know you want one.


Even a coke trash can.

I must admit, for a room that small to be crammed with THAT much coke memorabilia was more than a little creepy. I started to wonder what might happen if you tried to drink a Pepsi in there. Probably the spirits would come out of the advertisements and eat your face, is what.


So far

Nine boutonnieres
Three corsages
Two flower girl hair wreaths
One bride’s bouquet
One toss bouquet
Three bridesmaid bouquets

Two of 17 vases lined with ti leaves in preparation for centerpieces and large arrangements

Still to go:
15 vases need to be lined with ti leaves
19 arrangements
One large ceremony piece, which will depend in large part on whether the wedding is indoors or outdoors tomorrow.

It’s cold as hell. We’re in Southern California, east of San Diego, and it’s going to get down to freezing tonight.

I am tired.

Highlights: apple pie, hydrangea fun, sparkly things.

Giant. Gold. Letters.

It was evening, and it was sometime early in 1997. I was at my boyfriend’s apartment and we’d probably just had dinner and were hanging out watching TV or studying or whatever we did then. It might have even been my birthday, because my mom called my boyfriend’s house (this was, of course, long before cell phones) to chat with me. It was during that phone conversation that mom broke the news to me.

“Jessica got engaged,” she said.

“What?!” I responded in disbelief. Jessica was my cousin. She was 18, just like me. She’d been dating a boy off and on for a year or so, I’d heard, one that was a few years older. When we were 15 she’d sent me a letter (it was truly the dark ages) telling me that she had a huge crush on this boy, Jimmy, but I shouldn’t tell my parents because she didn’t want her parents to know how much she liked him. Then all the drama happened with other boys and partying and alcohol poisoning and Jessica went back to her pious ways. While I was preparing to go to college, she was suddenly dating that boy she liked way back when she was 15. We’d been about as good of friends as cousins who see one another maybe once a year could be, and as my mom told me about their news all I could remember was the time maybe two years beforehand we shared a bed in the pool house and Jess mentioned how ‘far’ she’d gone and with whom. At that point, all I’d done was kiss a couple of boys, and I remembered thinking she was way ahead of me. I wasn’t ready for any of that sex stuff at 16.

So as I heard the details of her engagement to that boy she’d pined for at 15, all I could think of was that she was crazy. We were both 18 and I was light years away from wanting to make any sort of lifetime commitment to anyone. I hadn’t even chosen a major yet. Apparently, their best friends, another couple, had gotten engaged at Christmas and so Jess and Jim decided if their friends could do it, so could they. A date was set for late in the summer.

As I hung up the phone, the phrase kept going through my head: she’s crazy. Who makes that sort of life decision so young? She’d hardly ever dated anyone else! She was so young! Marriage was a huge commitment! What about college? Were they going to have kids right away? I was at such a different place in my life – staying the night at my boyfriend’s apartment sometimes, sure, but also studying and working toward a degree, going out and having fun with my friends, enjoying a bit of adult-ish freedom for the first time in my life because I wasn’t responsible for anyone but myself. Why would she want to give all that up?

Later that year, we went to Texas to visit my great aunt, and on the way home we stopped in San Diego to go to Jessica’s wedding. My favorite part of the event actually happened the night before, after we got to the hotel. Somehow, my sisters and I got into a silly physical altercation over a shoe on the lawn, and my mom must have taken a photo. My memories of this incident are among the best from that time in my life – just getting to be silly with my sisters when most other people around were stressed out about all the wedding fooferaw.

I cannot for the life of me remember why we fought over a shoe.

The next day, we got all gussied up (I’d had a difficult time finding a dress that was age-appropriate and fit well without showing off a ton of nonexistent cleavage, and so I’d actually sewed a piece of lace to the top of the too-big dress) and drove to the ceremony, which was at a giant megachurch in Del Mar. It didn’t look like a church so much as a big complex, with plenty of southern California styling; lots of palm trees and adobe. Above the entrance to the…chapel? Sanctuary? Place where the ceremony was going to be? was the word Jesus in giant gold script letters. JESUS! Then, we walked inside, and above the…alter? was an even bigger JESUS! in giant gold letters.

I knew that Jessica’s and Jim’s families were both religious, but I didn’t realize quite how much they’d decided to fall in with those beliefs; the last time I’d talked to Jessica, she wasn’t going to church at all. But that was probably a year beforehand. I wasn’t raised with any sort of religious tradition, and while I’d occasionally attended a very liberal low dogma church (mostly so I could sing in the choir and go to youth group) for a while, I was, at 18, very much not religious. I’d attended another wedding that summer and knew I’d need to be respectful through this service, but seeing the giant JESUS threw me off a bit, and then when the ceremony started I didn’t even know how to respond to all the weirdness. I sat in flabbergasted silence while the minister went on and on about Jesus, about how he would be at the center of their marriage. It got to the point where I felt like he was advocating that they have a three-way marriage, and I found that to be exceedingly creepy. As part of the service, we were all commanded to bow our heads in prayer (I did not, and instead kept my eyes on the crowd) and then asked if anyone had decided to accept Jesus as their personal savior as a result of the service, because Jessica and Jim really wanted everyone to do so. I saw a few people raise their hands. It was uncomfortable and kind of gross and I just couldn’t wait for it all to be done so we could go eat (I was hungry).

That was the first wedding where I ate Jordon almonds, and the first time I realized this divide in my extended family: the ones who were super religious (either Catholic or born-again Evangelical Christian) and the ones who were not. My sisters and I were seated at a table with our godless heathen cousins, and we all laughed and commiserated about how weird the service was.

Letting off steam after attempted conversion

* * * * * * *

That wedding was 14 years ago today. Jessica and Jim went on to have four kids, the first born nearly two years after they got married. Jessica never did much schooling after high school – maybe an early childhood certification so she could work in a day care. We’ve attempted to stay in touch through the years, but it was more difficult after my parents split up and we’ve really only seen one another at weddings. We went to their house once, during the trip to move me to Colorado, and there was religious stuff all over the place. But we had fun with them and their (at the time) 2 young kids, even going out to dinner with them and were delighted at how well-behaved the kids were. Her husband never did manage to make a paid career out of youth ministry and instead has been managing various branches of a fast food restaurant. Recently, they moved to Texas to facilitate the opening of a new branch of the same restaurant. Jessica’s devoted her life to being a Mom – homeschooling, gestating, rearing children. And now we keep in touch via facebook.

Today she wrote something about their anniversary: “I guess sometimes 18 year olds can make good decisions.” While I’m thrilled it’s worked out so well for them (and it hasn’t all been sweetness and light; they’ve been through their fair share of hard times, health scares, and at least one miscarriage), I think they’re exception rather than the rule. The best friends, the ones who prompted their early engagement, went through a nasty divorce due to infidelity right around the time of this wedding. They’re now a couple thousand miles away from the rest of the extended family. But they’re happy and healthy and it seems like my cousin really did make a good decision for herself. Would I have done the same thing she did, or advise someone else to do so? Never in a million years.

It’s my opinion birthday balls should be held every night.

The past week or so has been filled with productivity, accomplishment, and a general getting-stuff-done attutude around these parts.

Case in point: The house is clean. It took 2 days, but it looks awesome.

Case in point: I spent Monday (had off for dead president day) doing things like culling books and working on Secret Birthday Projects in between the running in the park and the lounging on the bed and the playing with the kitties.

I am definitely feeling better. Saturday’s highlight was a surprise from-scratch paella (made by Dan) accompanied by the best appetizer ever (smoked salmon, Humboldt Fog cheese and fancy herb crackers) and 2 amazing Spanish wines. I made dark chocolate mousse for dessert, making a 2/3 recipe from the Joy of Cooking and it still took us 3 days to eat it all. All of our laundry got washed, dried, folded and put away (even the throw rugs!); all of our dishes were at one point washed, dried, and put away. Spending part of Monday in the house felt good instead of oppressive.

An interesting thing has happened recently: I have reconnected with some old friends through one of those social networking sites all the kids are talking about these days. Except these aren’t just old friends, they’re people who at one point were like my brothers that I wasn’t actually genetically related to. The younger one goes by a different first name than how I always knew him, but in his photos he and his brother look just like they did when they were kids, except they also look just like their parents. And like themselves. I might meet up with them the next time we go to California; there is something both nostalgic and immensely satisfactory to trade stories with people with whom one shared one’s childhood. We were at each other’s houses multiple times a week. We took baths together and had sleepovers. They were my brothers 20 years ago, and now they can be my friends.

Four overdue packages got mailed off yesterday: housewarming, thank-you, and new baby boxes are winging their way to the East Coast and to California. My newest cousin baby (#4 for them) was born in January (and thankfully her name is a real one, Jenna). Here is the blanket I made for her.

(As you can see, it’s significantly smaller than the one for Wombat.)

And here is the sweater that I made Dan that got finished in January. He wears it all the time, so I think he likes it. Either that or he is just trying to make me feel better for spending so much time on it!

(He was thrilled that I wanted to take a photo of him in it this morning, obviously.)
I want to share photos of Super Secret Birthday Project, but I think the recipient might see them, so they will have to wait. It’s not a knitting project, but it’s going to be awesome.

Speaking of birthdays, I have been invited to a 30th Birthday Ball in Southern California for Oldest Friend. I will be attending. What should I wear to a ball? Gloves? Mask? Should I actually try to find a ballgown, or wear something I already have? I’m excited about the prospect of dressing up but I’m already flying and renting a car, so don’t exactly have hundreds of dollars to spend on a fancy dress. Ideas?

Wednesday Wedding Day: I’ve been to some weddings

The first wedding I remember attending was that of my youngest aunt. I was about four and was one of four flower girls (my other cousins around my age also had that honor). Each family had a color; my family’s color was yellow so my dress was yellow. It was a Catholic ceremony, so there was a lot of standing and sitting and kneeling, and I remember very little of the reception other than lots of balloons and running around with my cousins.

The weirdest wedding I ever attended was that of my cousin who is about six months older than I am. We were both 18 at the time and she and her boyfriend had decided that since their best friends got married, they could do it as well. The church was in a fancy suburb of San Diego; it said JESUS in giant gold letters both on the outside of the big church and also inside above the altar. During the ceremony, much was discussed about Jesus being the center of their relationship, and also people were asked if they accepted Jesus as their personal savior. I didn’t raise my hand. My sister and other cousins that weren’t of the born-again branch were a little weirded out by the whole thing. We got to eat rubber chicken and they did the dollar dance. Mostly I was just completely blown away that my cousin, my same age, was ready (and willing) to Get Married. Geez. I was having the time of my life in college; why would I possibly want to tie myself down to someone like she did?

I’ve been to weddings for two of Dan’s cousins (one in California at a winery, one in Colorado in the mountains) since we’ve been together (both were very nice weddings). I’ve been to church weddings and non-church weddings; weddings with booze and shindigs completely dry. I’ve been to two other my-cousin weddings (one Jesusy, one where Jesus was not invited) and a few friend weddings. One of them had deer wandering around behind the gazebo during the ceremony, but the reception was just OK (make-your-own sandwiches, no booze, uninspired music). One of the best weddings I’ve been to (in terms of events and also just overall atmosphere and ambience) was that of my friend Sara, who got married several years ago and I still remember the food, who was there, and how cool the rain sounded outside while we inside were cozy and warm and happy to see Sara and Ron get all marrified. I know it was kind of a bummer for them, since they were expecting to have an outdoor garden wedding, but I can’t imagine any day better than the one they had. Plus afterward, they had an after-party at Sara’s mom’s house, and Sara wore this gorgeous white suit. I kind of drooled a little. I only hope our wedding is as awesome as theirs was.

When approaching wedding planning for our wedding, Dan and I only had the weddings we’d attended to go on when deciding what to do and what not to do. We knew that our biggest priority (other than the actual getting married bit) was to make sure our guests had a good time; that we throw a good party. So no long wait between ceremony and reception. Open bar (wine and beer; we’re not made of money!) No long, drawn-out ceremony. I wanted to get married outside, and our venue provides both indoor and outdoor possibilities (can’t discount rain; we’re getting a tent to shelter the outdoor part in case of inclement weather – our wedding is 2 weeks before Sara’s was, calendar-wise). We’re not spending a lot of time, effort, or money on froofy stuff that will never be used again – I can’t remember many favors I’ve gotten at weddings that have actually been worthwhile, other than a mix cd and soap, so we’re just not doing them. Nothing is being thrown; nobody is being given away, no veils will be lifted, and Jesus can come if he likes but he’s not getting an invitation. We’ve been working for months on a most excellent playlist, as we both have years of experience making mix tapes/cds, setting the mood for a good, fun, danceable party (no DJ to make people stop dancing because he’s playing too much ____).

But part of me is worried, I guess. Worried that our plans are less traditional than people expect, worried that people won’t enjoy themselves. So much of what I read online about other people’s weddings involves what they want or what their families want; is it weird for us to consider our guests? Or are we focusing too much on other people? I had my first wedding anxiety dream in a while last weekend. In the dream, all kinds of little things were going wrong – I hadn’t seen my dress since I ordered it, and when my sister pulled it out for me to put it on, the accent color was the wrong color. No big deal, right? Except nobody had made my bouquet, so I had to recruit someone to make it and teach her how to make it while doing my own hair and makeupw. Everyone started arriving, and I was nowhere close to ready – my hair wasn’t done; I’d forgotten my wedding shoes so I had to find some other ones that might suffice. The photographer was late and didn’t show up until after the ceremony was supposed to start. In the middle of everything, my dad wouldn’t leave me alone, giving me a card and insisting I read it while I was trying to get ready and herd cats and whatever else needed doing.

Of course, in real life, stuff will either go wrong or it won’t. If my dress is wrong, I’ll deal. If the photographer is late, there will be other people with cameras. Someone (me? maybe) will be making bouquets the day before; I don’t want much and it won’t be complicated. Someone needs to tell my subconscious that whatever happens, it will still be a good day (even if it rains, right Sara?) as long as we’re married in the end, and people have a good time. We can’t afford a fancy photo booth or a mariachi band that takes requests or a magician or fancy personalized everything. It’s not going to be matchy-matchy or Martha-Stewart-y. We hope it will be full of love and joy, with people who love and care about us, and we hope a fun time will be had by all.

Good Advice Mondays; project updates

*If you’re going to try to hang a bird feeder somewhere in your backyard, and your backyard is frequented by squirrels, don’t try. They’ll figure out how to get to it homehow, and either chew through the cord or jump on it over and over again until the cord breaks. Then the birdseed will spill out everywhere and they can take their sweet time about stealing and eating it.

*Matisyahu makes excellent workout accompaniment. You don’t have to pay attention to the lyrics, but you might wonder about why your born-again cousins are so into him, since he’s Hassidic Jewish. I do.

I’m almost halfway done with the current baby blanket, for a little one due in April sometime. It’s going pretty quickly, and I hope to have it done before she arrives. Then I’ve got two more to make for fall. I think I need to make something else in between, though. Definitely need a little break from blanketmaking – I need more immediate gratification, as even quick baby blankets take a long-ass time to knit.

The recipient of the complicated and time consuming blanket was born on Thursday via elective c-section – despite my friend’s height and build, they were a little concerned about her trying to push the little guy out, since he was measuring so big. She said they were mostly worried about his shoulder dislocating. So he came into the world nearly two weeks early, weighing 9lbs4oz. Imagine how big he would have been had they waited until her due date! Welcome to the world, baby Neel.