Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Here we go! Hasta Luego!

Adam and I are going to get hitched on the beach in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Be back in a few weeks!  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Senior Moment

A few weeks ago, I was forever touched by the kindness of (mostly) strangers.

My fiance Adam has worked for an affordable housing building for Senior Citizens for as long as I have known him, so at least 6 years and counting. His work there is often challenging and involves a lot of his energy and patience as he works to get poor elderly people into affordable apartments so that they can live comfortably off their sometimes very meager retirement or social security checks. He has been instrumental in helping elevate these seniors' quality of life. Based on the amount of gifts and baked goods he brings home from work during Christmas every year, I know that these folks really appreciate him and his efforts to help them in any way he can.

I had the chance to witness with my own eyes just how loved Adam is at his senior building when they insisted on throwing us a wedding shower. Adam tried to decline the generous offer, but the seniors would not have it. They were so excited to celebrate with us, and they had been planning this event for months. There was no stopping this party train.

We arrived at the apartment building around 630pm and everyone was already in the common room waiting for us. They had decorated the room with orange since that is our wedding color, which was very thoughtful of them. They even had a beautiful cake with orange flowers that had our names on it (along with various other delicious desserts). The potluck spread of food was impressive, as was the mountain of cards spilling out of a white basket we were presented with upon our arrival.

Everyone seemed overjoyed to see us and clapped when we came in the room. I felt like a rock star. They were all staring at me because everyone knew of me, but not everyone had actually met me or even seen me before. They were all very curious to see who Adam would be marrying. It was a bit like being sized up by a million protective grandparents. But that did not last long. After we made the rounds and Adam introduced me to each table of old folks, their wary stares melted into kind smiles of approval. Whew! Thank goodness I can hold my own with group of strangers. It was still intimidating but I think I aced the introductions.

After meeting everyone, we were escorted to our own little table in the back of the room and it was announced that the "program" would begin. They had planned a little something fun and theatrical for us! I was touched that so much thought had gone into the evening's festivities. I settled into my squeaky old folding chair for the show.

First, a lovely old woman named Win used her walker to steady herself as she stood up. Adam had told me about her and her long history in the theatre, so I knew we were in for a treat. Win welcomed everyone and said some very sweet things about Adam and our upcoming wedding, and then she paused and took a deep breath, and began to sing.

Her voice was the kind that you could tell was stunning and strong back in the day, but now had that sort of warble that gave it character and history the way older ladies' voices often do when you hear them at church. The song was a slow, old-timey love song and it totally took me aback with its beauty. I felt like I was transformed to another era. Tears immediately threatened to fall from the corners of my eyes, and I had to squeeze Adam's hand tightly to keep it together. I could not have all these strangers see me crying. No one could know how greatly this affected me. Especially because what was tripping me out the most was just the strange sadness I felt while watching this wonderful old lady sing a song from the past that meant a lot to her and everyone in that room.

Side note--I get really emotional about old age in general. I used to fear getting older and eventually not being able to take care of myself.  I find the idea of losing your mind and having no idea you lost it and your loved ones watching you waste away, the single most terrifying thing I could ever imagine.
When I met Adam,  suddenly old age did not seem so scary anymore. Not with him by my side. So I am doing better grappling with the idea of getting old. But I still get a little ache in my heart when I see old people struggling through this life, trying to make do with a slowly deteriorating body. Okay, enough about that.

So Win was singing this song, and the old folks were all listening intently, caught up in their own reveries about times past and what the song meant to them. It was a wonderful moment. And some tears definitely escaped down my cheeks but I caught them before they were too noticeable (I think. I hope!)
When the song trailed off at the end, a round of applause erupted. Win seemed pleased with her performance. She inched back over to her seat using the walker.

The next part of the "program" involved a little Improv, which Adam is known for because of his time spent in the Chicago Improv Comedy scene with his group Dirty Water. The seniors decided to come up with little phrases about Adam and I and our impending wedding in Riviera Maya, Mexico. It was a little random and I am pretty sure they wrote down the lines they wanted to say, but it was really cute to see people popping up from their chairs all over the room to say a quick little something about us. So freaking sweet.

Next, they passed out sheets of paper with the lyrics to two more songs, and we all sang them together. I remember one was an old song called Daisy Bell with the words changed a little to reflect our wedding on the beach. A nice older-hippie-looking woman accompanied our singing on her guitar. This was another really special moment I will never forget. Especially because they know Adam and I ride our bikes around Chicago a lot, and the lyrics of Daisy Bell mention the "bicycle built for two." Very sweet. I resisted a second round of tears.

After that, some seniors stood up and read little statements and advice they had prepared. Wise words from people who knew about real love, and real struggles, I am sure. I wanted to run up and hug all of them for their thoughtfulness.

Then we ate from the wonderful pot luck spread they had prepared and Adam gave a speech about how thankful we were for their generosity. He shared with them all how marriages have changed since their day, and they laughed and balked at some traditions that have gone astray since then (like how you can have your buddy marry you if he goes online and becomes an ordained minister, or how you can substitute cupcakes for wedding cake, etc.) His speech was a big hit and everyone beamed at him like he was their own grandson. When he was done, they all started shouting at me to say something. "We want to hear from her too!" I was up for the challenge and managed to keep my voice from cracking as I thanked them all for being so kind to us.

We ate some of the delicious cake to top off the wonderful evening. All in all, it was great time. We collected all the gifts and cards (!) they had given us, and hopped in a cab feeling amazed at how lovely it all was. Later, at home, we opened each card and marveled at the kindness of these people who hardly have enough money to live comfortably. How could they just shower us with gifts like this? Some gave us gift cards, some actual gifts they made or purchased, some people passed along straight cash. We were shocked. It was a very humbling moment.

I realized that this time in our lives is truly one of the most special times we will ever experience. People will be excited for us and want to know all about our plans for marriage and shower us with attention and gifts and well-wishes, and we will feel so incredibly special. And in an instant, it will be gone, and regular old life will make its way back to us. Which is perfect, because then we get to remember how generous people were to us, and we get to be excited to do the same for the next people we know who are in the special time of their lives. And the cycle continues. These old people probably remembered when they got married, and how incredibly well they were treated during that time, and wanted to be a part of that for us. And they really were.

I am amazed and honored to have had the experience of the shower these seniors threw for us. As someone who has not had living grandparents for quite sometime, it was so wonderful to feel like I got to have a room full of grandparents celebrating my marriage. I miss my Grandpa Jack and Grandma Genevieve, who passed away many years ago, and I wish they could have been here for my wedding. But being there in that room surrounded by a sea of elderly faces, I felt their presence. I felt their love. And the love of all these strangers, who became my surrogate grandparents for the night.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Is it too late to analyze 2010 a little more?

So I was farting around on the ole internet like you do sometimes when there is nothing else to do, or you do sometimes to avoid what you have to do...you know how it is. And I stumbled upon an old blog post of mine from the beginning of 2010. It listed out some resolutions and I thought I would look at how far I have come with some of them. Now I realize that it is April 2011 already when I am doing this little check in. So it's a little late. But I have actually made some progress with some of this stuff! Some of it happened right before 2011 started, and some started right after. Hey--better late than never, am I right?

So anyway...let's see how we did:

  • Work out at least 3 times a week

  • I am now at the point where I (typically) work out 3 times a week! Unless like this week I become terribly ill with some demon virus that doesn't allow me to do anything but lay on the couch watching Netflix streaming episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress." Then I take a break from that routine.

  • Focus on eating healthier

  • I joined WeightWatchers earlier this year and I am now much more conscious of what I put in my mouth on a daily basis. So that is definitely helping me attack that goal.

  • Solidify the wedding date and location and get "save the dates" out

  • Ah jeez this was done ages ago, so totally rocked that one in 2010

  • Find a better second job or a new job entirely

  • How about two? I found one job in September and then got stolen away to re-visit production life again in job number two. And all this happened in the last few months of 2010. Shizzam!

  • Finish at least 5 scenes for a book I am writing

  • Whoops. FAIL.

  • Workshop a monologue and go on a few auditions

  • Um...FAIL again. No time! Getting married! I will catch this the next round.

  • Put time aside to meditate

  • I go to yoga once a week now. I think that counts.

  • Make better use of my downtime at home 

  • Hmmmm...I think I am still losing that battle to dreaded Facebook time-suck and People magazine online. Help me! I have addictions!

    Well, all in all I think I did pretty good on this list. You can't win them all and sometimes it can be an accomplishment to even tackle a handful of goals on your list. So I suppose after my wedding,  my creative side apparently needs to be nurtured a bit more, as I gleaned from the pattern above.

    Ok then, it's on!

    Friday, April 01, 2011

    Oh, the Places I Went!


    You have not really lived until you have lived in your car for a summer.

    Or so I told myself when faced with the prospect of doing so in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college.

    You see, I had just scored a sweet job folding and steaming endless amounts of clothes at a small independent clothing store called Cotton Basics in Noe Valley, which is an adorable little yuppie neighborhood in San Francisco. To be making a whopping eight dollars per hour to steam and fold articles of clothing seemed like a dream to me, and it was only my second official job ever. I was on my way up in the world! I loved the owner and her store manager dearly, and was thrilled to be working there. Some days, I was trusted with petty cash from the store to go get postage from the cute little old fashioned Post Office down the street. Or sometimes I would be tasked with picking up a few loaves of the delicious fresh-baked buttery bread from the bakery around the block, just because we all had a craving for it.

    I remember sunny days with lots of flowers lining the streets when I went out on my little errands for the store. Everyone would be out and about with their strollers and Pug dogs and there was a neighborhood friendliness there that I had never experienced in the big city before. I felt happy and connected to the strangers around me. I was a local!  It felt like I was really settling into my life in San Francisco after a whole year of college.

    This all happened about a month before school ended for the summer. I had about five weeks worth of real employment before the time came to vacate the dorms. Summer is the time when all the dorm kids get kicked out for three months, only to return again in August and move back in with all the stuff they had to remove from their rooms to make room for the summer school kids. It seemed idiotic to me at the time why I could not just continue to live on campus over the summer and not attend classes but just work and have fun. Now of course, I see that logic made no sense at all. But come on, I was 18, what the hell did I know?

    I had also convinced myself that my college buddy and I were going to find an apartment before school was out, so I would have nothing to worry about, housing-wise. We started looking in February, so how could we not find something by June 1st?

    We did not realize we were living in San Francisco during the "dot.com" boom, and that there was only the tiniest sliver of vacancies in the city. We also did not realize that 18-year-old college students were on the low end of the "prospective renter" totem pole for most landlords in their right minds.

    The last month of school flew by and suddenly I found myself with a very important decision to make: quit my brand new awesome job and move back home for three months, or stay in the city and live out of my car and the kindness of friends with couches and/or floors all summer? In my naive little mind, the latter sounded so romantic and adventurous, like I was the frigging female version of Jack Kerouac himself. Of course! I could just do that! I had a ton of friends staying in the city that summer! It would be so easy and fun!

    I am sure my parents were mortified, but they were kind enough (crazy enough?) to let me learn on my own just how shitty it can be to live out of one's car. I brought all my belongings back home from the dorms, selected the things I would be bringing back with me on my summer adventure, and drove back to San Francisco, ready to live free or die hard.

    The very first night, I began to realize perhaps I was not cut out for this sort of thing.

    It was raining and I pulled off the freeway into the city, not really sure where to go or what to do. I only had a handful of phone numbers in my ratty old flowered address book, and this was before everyone had cell phones. I pulled into a gas station parking lot and found a pay phone to use.

    The first number was busy.
    The second number went to an answering machine.
    The third number just kept ringing and ringing.
    And so on...

    I went through every single number of every single friend I had in San Francisco, and apparently no one was home. I hadn't thought this all through enough to know what to do in case that happened. How about that brilliant planning, huh?

    I started to panic a little, so I also called my old boyfriend back in my hometown.  He was older than me and therefore seemed like a wise soul who could comfort me and give me advice.

    "I am getting worried," I said, "I can't find a place to stay tonight and it's late and I am stuck at this sketchy gas station trying to get a hold of someone I can crash with."

    "You should come home," he said.

    I was crying now. " I can't! I have to work tomorrow. I told them I would be there. I can't let them down.  I know I can do this! I just can't get a hold of anyone right now. Should I just sleep in my car somewhere?"

    "No! Are you nuts? You'll get attacked or something! Isn't there anyone else you can think of to call?"

    I tried to clear my mind despite the panic and tears. Think!

    "Well, there is that one girl that Lily was dating before we left for the summer...."

    Lily was my close friend from high school who went away to college with me, and was safely back in our hometown now, probably having fun with all our old pals while I was crying at a gas station in the middle of the night. Why had I chosen to do this again?

    "...but I barely know her, really. Except through Lily. I can't call her. That's crazy."

    "What's crazy is standing alone at a pay phone in the middle of the night at a gas station in the rain," my old boyfriend pointed out. He was right. I had no choice but to reach out to anyone now.

    So I contacted Lily, got the number for the girl, whose name was Jane, and called her. She picked up after just one ring. I tried to make awkward small talk before I finally just blurted out, "I'm kind of stuck without a place to stay tonight, and I was wondering if I could just stay on your floor or something? I know it's a lot to ask."

    She was quiet for a moment, then she said, "Um...yeah. I mean, of course you are welcome to stay. I have to warn you, though, we have a bunch of people over and some of us are on drugs and stuff."

    "Oh, yeah, that's fine. I mean, you know, I will probably just go in the corner and pass out anyway," I said. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I was asking a random acquaintance who was hosting a drug party if I could come crash on her floor. I was pathetic. And it was only the first day of this. Ugh.

    I ended up going over to her apartment, which happened to be an awesome top floor penthouse unit in a high-rise building next to the college. The rumor was that a rich guy died in the unit and it was haunted. Currently, there were like 5 or 6 college kids sharing it, and it was pretty much a constant party there most nights. I had never actually been up there until tonight.

    Jane answered the door for me, her brown eyes wide and pupils dilated. She giggled and explained she was on Ecstasy, then led me to her room. She had the room to herself, and she had set up a little make-shift bed for me on the floor next to hers, complete with blanket and pillow. It was so sweet of her. My eyes welled up with tears of relief.

    "I felt so dumb calling you," I confessed, "I can't believe you answered the phone. I was so happy you did. I owe you for this."

    She shrugged. "No big deal, I know how it is. I just hope you can sleep through all this noise!"

    I finally noticed the muffled music coming through her bedroom wall from the living room. The party was in full swing out there. But I didn't care. I was so thrilled to not be sleeping in my car that night. A little music was just fine by me.

    I was brave enough to go out to the living room for a bit before calling it a night. It was a huge open space with one entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the whole city. The view was breathtaking with all the city lights twinkling down below. Another wall of the living room was all mirrors, making the room feel even bigger than it already was. This was so not a college kid apartment. These kids had scored big. Someone's mom must have been a rich co-signer for sure!

    I saw some friendly faces of kids from my dorm, and we chatted a little while they tripped on whatever drugs they were on. I watched them dance around to some unrecognizable hippie music and argue about philosophy for a while, before finally calling it a night and crawling into my little place on Jane's floor.

    Jane herself was on her bed with another girl. I watched as they smoked some kind of white powder through a small clear pipe of some kind. I had no idea what it was they were doing, and I felt a bit like I was in an ABC After School Special or something. But I was warm and safe, and everyone (despite the drug-using) was mellow, nice, and kind to me. I considered myself lucky that night.

    After that first night, it was never as rough as that again. Sure, I still had occasional afternoons where I had no where to go. Typically I would spend those afternoons driving down the Great Highway to an empty beach parking lot, and park facing the waves for a while. That would calm me.

    Or sometimes, I would park in a familiar neighborhood just behind the college campus and kick my feet up on the dash, lock my car doors, and have myself a long nap in the driver's seat until someone I was staying with that night got home for the day.

    It was a weird time in my life. A lesson that needed to be learned, I guess. Living like that was never easy, but it certainly had it's magical moments. I can see the appeal of just taking off on the road and living off the kindness of strangers for a while. The kindness definitely comes around. It always does. I never found myself completely screwed out of a place to crash. And the funny thing was, if I ever came close, I always called Jane.  And she always answered. And the amazing penthouse was always open to me.

                 It was just me and this old girl that summer

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    Oh, The Places I Went!

    That is what I am calling this little writing exercise project of mine.
    So here we go. I am calling this first one #2 because it is the second place I lived after leaving home.


    I lived in the dorms my freshman year of college and part of my sophomore year as well. Being in a big city like San Francisco during the "dot com" era was tricky, and dorm living was the only way to insure you were not forced to sell off your organs in order to afford rent at the time. Plus, I was a freshman, eager to make friends and get to know the college. What better way to do so than to cram myself into a tiny prison-cell sized room on campus?

    My roommate was named Ruth and she smelled like rotten food most of the time. Or maybe it was her mini-fridge she brought along and stuffed full of strange food left to rot in our room while she went home to San Jose on the weekends. I think it was actually a blend of both the rotting food and the fact that she thought the dorm showers were "unsanitary," which was her excuse not to bathe all week until she could go home to her own shower. Unsanitary, my ass. Week-old roommate funk permeated my dorm room until I had a chance to air it out when she left for home on Friday afternoons.

    We lived on the second floor and our window was often open and I am pretty sure she must have heard me complaining about her stench to anyone who would listen while we were sitting out in front of the dorm entrance. I believe this because I sure as hell could hear her from outside whenever she got a call from her Estonian mother. Her voice would raise about 10 octaves higher and every call began with "EH MA?" and then was followed by a shrill stream of Estonian at full volume into the phone receiver. It was one of the most grating sounds I have ever heard to this day, right up there with sirens, yappy dogs and babies crying. And it happened at least once a day. Ruth was quite close with her mother. Which explains her trips home every weekend all year long.

    Ruth had a tiny TV/VCR that she used to record her special TV shows during the day while she was in class. Her special shows were the following--Kung Fu, The Legend Continues, Lois and Clark, and some soap opera I had never heard of. She would tape these shows every day while she was in class, then come back to our room and play them in the background while she played solitaire on her laptop computer for hours instead of studying.

    Ruth loved TV so much that she also could not sleep unless it was blaring loudly next to her head. I would come home from my nightly freshman shenanigans to see her dead asleep in her tiny twin bed, the light from the TV casting a bluish hue on her face which was contorted into a dreamy scowl. The TV would be on "sleep" mode, and it would turn off on its own eventually. But Ruth would wake right up when that happened and turn it back on again to continue her Jay Leno monologue-lullaby. I did not sleep much that year, and when I did, Jay Leno's voice found its way into my subconscious in a way that left me disturbed most mornings. "Have you heard about this one? You know about this?" 

    Needless to say, I did not spend a lot of time in my room that first year of college. Except on the weekends when she was gone, of course. That was her gift to me, and it was worth all the weird shit I dealt with during the weekdays. Once she was gone, the dorm room was mine and it was glorious. I blasted Tori Amos and Nine Inch Nails and Ani DeFranco music like nobody’s business. I stayed up way too late. Sometimes my first love, a boy I left behind in my hometown, would take the train a million hours to see me for the weekend and we would take over the whole room while Ruth was gone and make out as much as we wanted without disturbing anyone. I would invite friends to come hang out in my room or just spend an afternoon reading a good book or writing for hours without interruption. Even though I had to deal with the weekday funk of my roommate, it was totally worth it for how sweet I had it on the weekends that year.

    Ruth always returned right when her pungent scent had finally left the air in our room, usually late Sunday evening. I would be disappointed to see our light on in the second floor window when I came back from the dorm cafeteria after dinner. I prayed the week would fly by so I could have the place to myself again.

    My last memory of Ruth was when she came home crying one night toward the end of our year together. She had been desperate to get into a sorority and had finally found one that accepted her, and this night was some sort of scavenger hunt or something. It seems that Ruth was basically ditched by her sorority sisters during the night. She was alone in her car trying to follow them around caravan-style and hunt for objects, when suddenly they made a series of seemingly purposeful moves to shake her off their trail. She ended up lost and had to come home. She was convinced they did it on purpose, and to be honest, I was secretly convinced too. Sorority girls can be cutthroat, and let’s face it, Ruth was not exactly sorority material in the first place. She had a really hard time getting accepted into one, and now they were being mean to her. That had to hurt.

    I listened sympathetically and tried to comfort her by saying maybe they did it by accident. I know she bugged the crap out of me, but no one deserved to be treated that way. I really felt bad for her. She cried some more, the kind of deep guttural sobs reserved for the truly rejected. Then she crawled into her little twin bed with her laptop so she could play solitaire and watch her shows.  

    I did not roll my eyes when Kung Fu, The Legend Continues started up. I think I even watched a few minutes of it with her, letting her turn up the volume as loud as she wanted. 

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Goodbye Childhood Home, It's Been Real

    had the seemingly rare experience of living in the same house my entire life from birth until I was 17. 

    Most people I encounter share stories from their childhoods using various family relocations between different cities and homes as markers to help them figure out what age they were, or what grade they might have been in, during the events. For me, my life from age 0-17 sort of blurs into one big chunk of time. I can use my own markers, like which of the 3 available kids' bedrooms I called my own, or which siblings were still left at home with me and which had already gone off to college to help me figure out a rough timeline of events in my young life. But no relocations or home swapping of any kind occurred during my formative years. 

    This is all fine and dandy to me. I definitely made up for lost time once I left my childhood home at age 17 and headed off to college, thus beginning an epic span of time in which I moved practically once a year for the next 10 years. After the monotony of the same house with the same decor and same layout and same neighborhood for most of my young life, I was especially excited for college dorms and early-20's-apartment-living for the change of scenery. Little did I know that I would end up being tossed around from one weird living situation to another for many years to come. 

    When my father passed away in 2008, suddenly that childhood home was an empty, memory-filled beast of burden on the family. It was especially hard for my mother to be there all alone, dealing with ghosts of my father's presence and their life built there over the last 40 years. Eventually we relocated her to be closer to the rest of my family in Southern California and put the house up for sale just in time for the housing bubble to burst and wreak havoc on the California real estate market. Obviously no real offers have come through in quite some time. We have been waiting for someone to take it off our hands for a while now. 

    Recently, an actual legit offer came through, and after some back and forth offers and counter offers, suddenly my childhood home stands on the brink of being sold. 

    I won't even bother expounding too much on how frustrating it is that after such a long silence, we finally get an offer now of all times. Of course it has to be during the final stretch of wedding planning for me, thus making it a logistical nightmare for me to even consider getting out there to see the house one last time and help my family vacate the place we called home for my entire life. This is all very depressing to me. But I am trying to be strong and realize that it does not need to be this big dramatic movie exit where I wander the rooms and cry and catch glimpses of my dead father in bathroom mirrors or anything. It can simply be the end of an era when that house was a part of my life. And now it will be a part of my history. And my memories of it are probably more vivid than any that a final walk-though would provide. 

    So, (and this is assuming I don't just flip out and jump on a plane to my hometown and make it work somehow before my impending nuptials) I guess this is the end for me and that old house. Goodbye, old friend. You hold many of my secrets and memories and tears and joys within your walls. Thanks for being a good friend to me and my family.

                                                                (view of my old backyard)

    My recent reflections on my childhood home got me thinking about my subsequent journey into different living situations in the years after I left. I have had some pretty weird living arrangements and roommates that make for some fun stories to share. 

    I have decided to post a series of short writing exercises on my blog about the different places I have lived and see how far I get. I reserve the right to ditch this project if I decide I am tired of writing about this. I also reserve the right to go out of order.  I will try to number them so we can keep track. Sound good? Good. 

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    This Is Working Out Well

    My oh my, this is getting ridiculous! 2011 is starting off poorly in the blogging department, that is for sure. But honestly, can you blame me for being a little distracted? I AM PLANNING A WEDDING FOR GOD"S SAKE! (did that sound Bridezilla-y enough for ya?)

    Truthfully, planning has kicked into high gear, with less than two months to go. However, that is no excuse for not keeping up with my vow to stick to my writing with this blog. Am I as stressed as a typical bride? No. I chose a destination wedding for a reason, folks. Am I worried about the little details? Hell no. Am I up late every night feverishly working on centerpieces? Nope. There are, in fact, many days I do not work on wedding preparations. And those days, instead of writing, I stare at stupid TV or drool over my adorable kitty. Not the best habits to pick up, I am afraid.

    One thing I actually have been spending time on is trying to lose weight before the big occasion. After all, not only are people seeing me in my gown, but also in my bathing suit! And I have chosen to wear a white bikini for the weekend, in honor of being all bride-y and stuff. So I gotta at least attempt to lose the Chicago beer gut I have acquired over the last seven years living here and enjoying myself.

    So what have I been doing to lose the weight, you ask?

    Well. What haven't I been doing?

    1) I joined WeightWatchers and it has actually been helpful. I may not ever actually hit the points number I am supposed to for each day, but just being aware of what each meal will "cost" me in points helps me curb some of my snack cravings and avoid things that will rack up my number for the day. And I think just the awareness alone has been helpful in losing weight. I can track myself and my eating habits and look for tasty alternative recipes and it has been a pretty cool tool overall. Thanks, Jennifer Hudson! You are the first celebrity spokesperson I bought into. And I am pleased I did.

    2) I do yoga once a week consistently. Having some close pals open an awesome, affordable, non-intimidating yoga studio in Chicago certainly helped this dream become a reality for me. Because of my love of supporting my friends' endeavors, along with my determination to be able to do a headstand, I have been able to make yoga an official part of my life. It has been great. I think that yoga strengthens you in a different way then most exercises, and there is a long and lean body shape that begins to form after doing it regularly. That leanness was what I think was missing from my workouts for the last few years. And now I am achieving it. Oh, and I can do the headstand against the wall thus far. Baby steps.

    3) I forced myself to take up running, and have stuck with it. I hate running with a passion. I do. But I know it is one of the few things that lets the pounds melt away, so I keep doing it. Many years ago, a buddy introduced me to Robert Ullrey's "Couch to 5K" podcast, and I began this experiment with trying to run again after many years of avoidance. I am happy to say that I am far beyond the podcast and can now perform a run/walk/jog combo for about 30 minutes, or two miles. This is a great achievement. Another thing that helped my stamina? I learned that the fastest marathon runners, often Kenyan, typically run barefoot and hit the ground with the balls of their feet first, then their heels, which is better on your body. I tried it, and after a few sore days, my legs got used to the change and now I can run for a longer period without getting sore or tired as a result. It's awesome!

    These are my three big things I have been focusing on. And after a little over a month, I am happy to say I have lost about 10 pounds (give or take, depending on the day). It has been tough but rewarding, and the changes to my body shape are pretty noticeable to myself and those around me. In fact, I was not planning on bridal gown alterations, but now I pretty much have to, because the dress is fitting differently now as a result of the weight loss. As annoying as it is to have to budget more cash flow for alterations, I can't really complain. It feels pretty dang good.

    As someone who always struggled to actually lose weight despite being fairly active, this progress has shocked me. But I totally know what to attribute the weight loss to--it is the eating habits part. In the past, I would never deny myself tasty meals or drinks. I like to eat and eat well. I would crave a cheeseburger after working out, and let myself have one as a reward. Then I would be puzzled when I worked out three times a week and never lost any significant weight. It's that dumb behavior that kept me from losing the weight. And it is that behavior that I struggle with still--the hardest thing about the last month has been resisting the urge to eat what I want, when I want. But I am plugging along and trying to keep it up.  Sometimes I screw up (mostly on weekends), but I continue to try to get back on the saddle again the next day and not get discouraged with myself. After all, these lifelong habits I am trying to break.

    Well, that is what has been up with me and preparations for the wedding. It has been both fun and exhausting to work toward the goal of throwing a fun party for our nuptials. I am confident that it will all pay off in the end. And it all goes by so fast, so they say, so I am just hoping I remember to take some mental pictures of the whole affair that I can keep tucked in my memory forever.