Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Coordinator

If I think about the word Coordinator, it starts to sound like a Superhero name. Or perhaps rather, like the fearless protagonist of an action movie franchise. The Coordinator. The Coordinator Strikes Again. And of course, Coordinator 3: The Return To Coordinator Island. If I start to think about it TOO much, then I succumb to semantic satiation, and I’m toast.

The reason I’m even thinking of the word in the first place, other than the fact that I’m a word nerd, is that Jessica and I have hired ourself a day-of wedding coordinator. Her name is Holly, she’s a friend and coworker, and this is her:

She’s smiling so big because she’s at the merchandise table for an event at our workplace, doing one of the things she does best: raising money for preschoolers. Seriously, that’s her job. She raises money for adorable little children so that they can play and grow and laugh and nap and snack, sometimes all at once. Every time Holly smiles, a preschooler, somewhere on Earth, learns to tie his or her own shoes.

Holly’s actually been mentioned on this blog before, mostly in the context of her dogs. Jessica and I have taken care of her two adorable mutts, Dumpy and Ziggy, a couple of times; you may recall this shot of Jessica and Dumpy, among my favorite photos of Jessica ever:

Jessica and I are seriously thrilled to have Holly on board. She’s already gone above and beyond by meeting with us a couple times and grilling us on all kinds of details, including many we’d never thought of. Holly (a) planned and essentially coordinated her own wedding recently (with a much, much shorter engagement than ours) and (b) is extremely organized, so she’s basically an ideal wedding day coordinator. If she ever decides to change careers, I don’t see why she couldn’t be a wedding planner. I would totally write her a 4-star Yelp review.

Hiring her coincided, and not unrelatedly, with Jessica and I turning a bit of a corner in how we felt about our wedding. A couple months ago, we were both beginning to feel more and more unsteady about certain aspects of the wedding, and our planning was sort of fumbling along for a bit. But we made a couple of major decisions about the wedding – I’ll totally blog about them, I swear – and also hired Holly.

Since then, she’s stepped in and really helped anchor us. She’s respectful of our choices and our sometimes ridiculous ideas, while at the same time she asks the types of questions we really need to be asking ourselves, and lays bare some basic truths about our wedding day. She provides us with some Real Talk, which we’ve sorely needed.

I swear it's the same person despite the differently-colored hair.

So let’s give a warm, All-Things-Zilla welcome to Holly!

Gotta Get Down On Friday

Photo by Drew Beck

Happy Friday, everyone. Have a great weekend and I’ll see you next week.

Love,

Bret

Hair: The Post

I got my hair cut a couple days ago.

See?

See, it's shorter now

I’m not a “hair guy,” which is an expression I’ve made up just now to describe a “guy” who pays close attention to his “hair.” I rarely pay my hair much attention. A few years ago I noticed my hairline receding a little and some Male Pattern Baldness settling in, and I freaked out a bit, probably bit my nails extra a lot, and braced myself for the inevitable.

But when I finally realized that it’s actually progressing VERY slowly and also that the ceiling light in the bathroom of my former workplace shone down unflatteringly upon my thinning hair, I relaxed, and now have mostly stopped caring. Plus, Jessica’s already agreed to marry me, so ha!

Just kidding. Not about the marrying part. About the “ha” part.

It’s an occasionally sad thought that pops into my head: I have never done anything with my hair. No new cuts, styles, lengths, colors. Just the same old thing year in and year out. If we venture into facial hair, I did experiment once: I grew a beard a few years ago when I lived with my three good pals Drew, Andrew, and Julien, and Drew even made pins for us for a party that said “ask me about my beard.” People did, and I told them all about it. The pin worked! My beard was dark and full and I never truly embraced it, though I was told it looked pretty good. I liked the way it looked, sometimes, and then other times it just seemed like I had this dark cloud on my face that had no reason to be there. One day, for no particular reason, I grabbed a razor and took it off, and that was that.

But as for my hair – the hair on the top of my head – well, the most daring thing I’ve ever done with it was to go several weeks after optimal cutting day, which is totally dangerous and I’m a bad-ass for doing it. Mohawks? Leopard-spot dying? Feather extensions? Please. Try letting your hair grow out 1/2 an inch longer than usual.

But really, in the end it doesn’t bother me. If I don’t care, then, I don’t care. I’m not going to force myself to get all excited about hair. It’s a little bit like jewelry – I’m astoundingly unknowledgeable about jewelry. I have a hard time even with a binary view of it; that is, deciding whether an earring or a bracelet or a ring is pretty or not. Sometimes I’ll be thinking “huh, that necklace seems kinda pretty” just as Jessica is talking about how garish it is. Or vice versa.

Anyway, I got my hair cut the other day. It was getting a little on the scruffy side, and so I made an appointment with a woman I’ll call “Sarah” at a place I’ve been going to for over a year now. Her haircuts are $15, take about 30 minutes, and she’s fantastic – she even throws in a rinse and a quick head rub for good measure. She spends the haircut asking me questions about life, work, love, and cooking – especially cooking. She’s from Vietnam and tells me stories of her life there when she was younger, of her family, and of how different her life is now.

“I get married when I was 20,” she told me the other day, “and it was too soon. Too young. Not mature. We make mistakes. But I still love my husband, and he still love me.”

I knew from chatting with her over the past year or so that she has an uncomfortable relationship with her in-laws, because, as she tells me, they are very traditionally Vietnamese – highly demanding and overtly critical of their daughter-in-law. She used to be extremely intimidated, always nervous around them.

“But my husband,” she said, “he stand up for me. He say to them, she my wife, you respect her. I love her and you need to try to love her too.”

She beamed with pride.

It was touching not only because she clearly still loves her husband very much after being married so long, and not only because he has stood up for her in fairly rare fashion, but also because she rags on him so much. She complains about him during the haircuts, says he can’t cook, can’t clean, and can’t do anything around the house. Says he was stupid to open a pho restaurant in Vietnam without knowing the first thing about making it. But she says it all with a smile and a laugh.

Now, she says she gets along fine with her in-laws. They’re old, she sees them only rarely, and she’s a lot older too. She stands up for herself now. She no longer feels the pressure of always needing to impress them.

I find that as I approach the world of married life, it’s even nicer to see living, happy examples of couples who have made it. Couples who dealt with adversity as it came along and worked through it. Couples who have found new things to love about each other as they age together. We hear and read so much about divorce rates being high, about how gay marriage is threatening the very foundation of love and happiness*, that it can be easy to forget that a lot of marriages succeed, too. And when they do succeed, well, it’s a beautiful thing.

*At least, that’s what Republican men keep trying to tell me so it has to be true.

Sarah knows that my wedding is approaching, and there are a few things she tells me several times during every haircut: “You so handsome!” and “stop losing weight!” (even though I haven’t lost any for a long time), and recently, “Don’t forget, you come see me, day before wedding. I make you handsome.”

I tell her that there’s no one else I’d have cut my hair, and that I’ll be there for my very important haircut.

Prouditude

This is Jessica:

I am proud of Jessica. Over the weekend, she graduated from her two-year teaching credential program, and is now ready to be a lead teacher in an elementary school classroom. She took and passed a disgustingly large number of standardized tests, took weekend seminars, planned lessons, wrote papers, got up early every day, went to staff meetings, and never once complained.

OK, so she complained from time to time. If she hadn’t I probably would have checked for a circuitry panel behind her neck , since it would have meant she was a robot designed by the US Government. But the point is, she survived her two-year challenge by doing what she does best – working hard, putting her heart and soul into it, being reflective and thoughtful, and by being a generally fantastic person in every way imaginable. Not only did she survive the two years, she thrived.

I am so very proud of her. She succeeded at something very difficult, very demanding, and did it with grace and style. She is a role model to me, both in a general sense and a more specific one – I’ll be starting that very same credential program in a few short months.

If I handle it half as well as she did, I’ll be in good shape.

The Wynette Chronicles – Wedding Edition

You may recall we have this really great dog:

With each passing day she settles in more and more, gets more doggie-socialized, gets even cuter somehow, and elicits old and new reactions from passersby on the street. You’ll recall she’s a tripod, or you won’t, but in either case you know it now. Anyway, we hear a lot of wows and that’s amazings and such, and then from time to time we get something a little different. So far my personal favorite happened the other day when a woman took a look at her and simply exclaimed “Whoops!”

One woman, who clearly was a dog person, mustered up her cutesiest syrupy-sweet doggie voice and gently chided Wynette for forgetting her missing leg at home. It sounds rude as I type it out, but it actually came across as sweet and loving, and so I tabled my stink-eye for someone more deserving. Then there was the little boy, age 10 or so, who took one look at Wynette and put his hand over his heart and said quietly: “I just feel so bad.”

Anyway, the best reactions come when I take her to the dog park, which I’ve started doing a lot recently. The dog park, you understand, is the very best most greatest thing ever to Wynette. She achieves nirvana every time she goes.  She spends the entire time sprinting madly from one spot to another, pausing occasionally to wrestle with another dog or to eat a stick, and when she’s in full sprint it’s pretty hard not to watch. And though I tend not to think of Wynette as disabled – since she really isn’t – I can’t help but beam with a little bit of pride when folks gasp and marvel at her resilience. I can’t pretend to take any credit for her cuteness and athleticism, but I can certainly enjoy it.

Beware the blurry tripod

Anyway, Wynette’s become such a fixture in our lives – a member of the family, really – that we’re a little sad she can’t participate in the wedding. Ideally, we’d put a bow or a doggie tux or something horrendously cute like that on her and have her walk down the aisle or carry the rings or something like that, but the truth is, she’s not that kind of dog. Or maybe she’s too young to pull it off. The point is, though, she’d have absolutely no interest in the ceremony. She’d probably wind her way through the guests, jump on a lap or two, lick some face, and then sprint off down the hillside and eat grass, and we’d have to assign a “Dog Wrangler” to watch her the whole time.

But along with sadness comes a healthy dose of acceptance. Wynette just isn’t a dog who we can take everywhere and not worry about. She isn’t independent in any way. She may not ever be an off-leash dog. But you know what? Many dogs are like her. Most, probably. And she’s so gosh-darned awesome in so many ways that it really doesn’t matter. During the process of training her and socializing her, I had the wonderful realization that we’re not helping her become the dog we want; we’re helping guide her towards being the best dog she can be. And so far, she’s been an incredible dog and we could not possibly love her any more than we do.

And finally, she’ll actually be participating in the wedding without even knowing it. Without giving too much away, her likeness will (partially) grace at least two things – invitations and wedding cake – and perhaps more. So while she won’t be there with us on our special day, her presence will be felt. After all, she’s part of the family.

In Which I Simply Ignore My Long Absence And Just Get Back To Posting

Not long ago, Jessica went to a friend’s bridal shower, and so I decided to do what I always do when the opportunity arises: make bread. And by “opportunity arises,” I mean any conceivable time and place where bread could theoretically be consumed. Birthday party? Bread. Bridal shower? Bread. Anti-Bread Rally? Definitely bread. Also, with the word “arises” we get a delicious piece of wordplay, because much as opportunities arise, so does bread dough.

So there’s that.

I ended up making sourdough olive bread and sourdough walnut bread, and because it was a fancy party I felt the need to make them look all pretty – not to mention that this is a wedding blog, after all, and there are certain presentational standards I need to adhere to:

Yes, that last photo there is two loaves of bread on top of our washing machine. We have limited space in our kitchen and that’s where they ended up. Then, I had the brilliant idea of taking them outside and putting them on a wooden bench, which explains why the first two photos look so much nicer and “bloggier” than the third. Wooden benches are an acceptable medium for blog-photo mounting, whereas washing machines are still on the fringes.

After baking the loaves, I got a intense jolt of craftitude coursing through my veins, and so Jessica and I headed off to Paper Plus, a nearby paper outlet store that sells all sorts of awesome stuff on the cheap. I got some raffia – which, it turns out, comes from an African palm tree, which was news to me – and some silk flowers, and made delightful little tags to label the loaves. Though I myself wasn’t invited to the bridal shower, not being of the womanly persuasion, I was assured that both breads were eaten and enjoyed.

And speaking of bread, my dear friend Abby asked me to make bread for her wedding, which is a few weeks after ours. Actually, that’s not exactly true – she sort of tricked me into thinking it was my idea, gently cajoling me into volunteering, never explaining that it was actually a no-bid contract. She manipulated me with a deft blend of bread-complementing and subtle hints, and I ended up laying out my case for why I should be The One chosen to bake. It wasn’t until after she agreed that I realized she’d played me like a sourdough violin.

Her wedding will have around 80 guests, which means Jessica and I have the not-insignificant task of baking around 10-12 loaves of bread that day. The current plan is to make 4 different types of sourdough rounds – plain, olive, whole wheat, and polenta, probably – and cut them into quarters. Each table would then get a whole loaf that’s actually made up of 4 different quarters of bread, sewn together with “invisible bread strings” by a local food surgeon so it looks like one solid piece of bread.

No, not really! But seriously, that’s one option, minus the surgery. The issue there is that we’d have to get bread knives and cutting boards out for every table, and I’m not sure it’s worth the extra trouble. In the end we may decide to pre-slice the bread and put it in baskets, which would also be lovely. I imagine we’ll also have little ramekins of butter on the side, perhaps even various flavored butters. Like honey butter, and garlic butter.

Wait, you guys: CHOCOLATE BUTTER?

Hmm, I dunno. But the point is, if any of you have brilliant ideas on how to present the bread in a beautiful way, let me know.

Love,

Bret