Friday, May 29, 2009

Honeymoon Preview

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I've got 71,000 words for you in this single album to sum up our honeymoon. Don't worry, I'll provide the words later, but in case you want a preview, have at it!

One Week

Last night, Mom told me (gently) that I need to (at some point) get back to writing about the wedding and the honeymoon, so I'm using this morning to finish the funeral week. Doesn't mean I won't still write about Daddy or any random feelings, but it does mean I'm going to move forward... by moving backwards. :) I see Mom's point-- in spite of all the bad, we have to remember the good. That said, I have one more post for last week. Here goes.
One week ago today, I was about to wake up and get ready for my Dad's funeral.

We started the morning by all the kids, spouses, and Mom going to the funeral home to "view" Daddy. While Mom and I had seen him in the hospital, it didn't seem fair to ask the other kids to have their private moment with Daddy a few mere minutes before we were inundated with well-wishers and family friends going through their own private grieving process. So that morning, the "out-laws," as we call our spouses' parents in this family, all showed up to babysit the kids that morning, including B's parents who, so far as we know, have no grandbabies to speak of in the family just yet! They were amazing, stepping right in to help the other grandparents with snack time, naps, sandbox play, and playing with cars, apparently.

Everyone loaded up and off we went to the funeral home, where we spent about an hour and a half telling stories and sharing Dad memories while we sat in the room with him. On our way out, the director said, "I came back there to get onto my staff for cutting up, then realized that the laughter was coming from your room, which is just how this morning should be-- full of memories and shared times." Lloyd said something that really made me think, "One reason this is so sad is that it's the last time we'll all be together. Even when we get to Heaven, we won't want our kids to be there already." Spoken like a true parent! I liked his wife's point even better. She said, "You know who the happiest person was the day your Dad died? His Mom. You know she saw him coming and got the oven going to start dinner." That's the visual I'm sticking with.

We headed home to get lunch and regroup before the funeral. As I was setting out food and paper plates, B caught me and took me outside, where I promptly lost it, dissolving into sobs. "How did you know?" I asked. "Well, you were acting like me in my manic stage," he said. "Rushing around, starting everything, but not finishing anything. Let other people help."

So I did, and he got a plate for us, which we ate before changing into our clothes for the funeral. We drove Mom, arriving at 1:30. I was setting up the slide show when the boys (B, my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my uncle) carried Daddy into the church. We didn't want the pallbearers to have to be there that early, and the boys said they wanted to do it. Good men, these guys.

By the time I walked back in, the casket was in place and open again and well wishers had already started to arrive to the visitation portion of the day. We spent the next two hours receiving hugs and thoughtful stories as family friends, coworkers, and relative strangers (to us, anyway, but friends of Dad's) moved down the line.

At 3:50, the funeral director lined us up and got us ready to walk into the church. I'd been pretty much ok until then, but started to feel the tears creep back up. Then, as we entered, a resounding strain of "Dwelling in Beula Land" echoed through the somber hall of the church, the first sign, my sister said later, that people probably had no idea what they were in for. In truth, that was Daddy's favorite song, or at least the one he sang in the shower everyday. We loved it, because once we looked up the words, we realized he had half of them wrong and the ones he didn't know, he hummed. We were also shocked that it didn't say to go up half an octave, or to repeat the chorus "ad nausem." Gotta love Daddy. The song was just what we needed to get us all down the aisle in one piece.

We walked in and that's when it hit me: the casket was closed. I should've known it would be, otherwise we'd be looking at the top of Daddy's head during the entire funeral, but I hadn't realized that the visitation would be my last time to see him, ever. Without much time to think, I walked up onto the stage with the other siblings and listened while Lloyd gave the eulogy, Kristi shared a few memories, and Todd briefly spread the gospel message. We sat and my tears began, slowing at the first song, raging through the minister's message, and staining B's shirt as we recessed behind Daddy's casket.

I pulled it together outside and we again received dozens of hugs and shoulder squeezes before heading to the burial site, where we sat while the minister said a few words, then concluded the ceremony. The drive to the ceremony will stick with me for a while. B was behind the wheel, following closely behind the hearse (God bless him), while Mom and I sat talking quietly. At one point, Mom looked behind her and said, "Wow, that's a lot of cars." and B said, "Keep watching, they go for at least a mile." And they did. A favorite thing of mine in Alabama, and maybe they do it other places, too, is that when people see a funeral procession, they still pull off onto the shoulder and let you pass. For just a moment, the world, at least on the highway, stops to pay its anonymous respects, a nice symbol just before a grave-side ceremony. Before the lowering of the casket, each of us took a rose off Daddy's blanket to keep, a suggestion B's Dad had from his own Mom's funeral.

B and I drove Mom home, a different drive than the one from the church. No police escorts. Stoplights, and indeed reality, seemed to apply to us again. We arrived home to find B's parents hard at work setting out the meal that the church family had prepared for us. Bottles of wine materialized and we sat around sharing memories, laughs, and a few more tears.

I don't know the right way to say goodbye to Daddy. I don't know what he would've wanted. I think I can't, and I won't, at least for now. I'd rather think of him, at home in his pink chair, waiting for my call, as he always made me think he was doing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Prayers, Please!

Just talked to Mom. Grandma (her Mom) is having a pacemaker put in tomorrow morning. She's 91 and, as the doctor put it, it's scarier that she doesn't have it than that she go ahead and get it. Regardless, say a prayer for Grandma tomorrow; she goes in at 9 am.

Newlywed Moment of the Day

B discovered that the light and fan in our room are on the same frequency as the light and fan in the kitchen upstairs. Hence, if we use the remote to, say, turn off the lights and turn on the fan, the same thing happens in the kitchen upstairs. His poor parents-- they may kick us out yet.

New Summer, New Firm

B and I officially "moved" to Atlanta about a week ago, but finally got my clothes and office goodies from Birmingham and settled here this Monday. For those of you who don't know, B and I are flagrantly wallowing in the kindness of his parents, who recently redid their basement into a fabulous "in-law suite," and then offered said suite to us for use during our seven weeks in Atlanta. Yes, you read that right: we're the boomerang kids that are living with the parents for the summer.

Aside from making a lot of financial sense (we're already paying two rents, yikes!), the decision, especially in light of the events of last week, has turned out to be an excellent one. Instead of being in a furniture-less apartment while I work from home (or in the local Starbucks for the free wi-fi), we've got a gorgeous house that his parents are generously sharing, and I've got a constant supply of hugs, should I need them during the day. B hasn't said it, but I'm sure it made it easier on him to leave me Tuesday morning knowing that I would be with his family all day, even if I did spend it working on the back porch listening to the rain.

So we're in Atlanta (woohoo!) and getting into the swing of the summer associate activities. B went for drinks with a partner on Tuesday, we had a cocktail reception at the MLK center last night, and tomorrow he's heading out on Outward Bound for the day with his fellow summer associates. Tonight we're celebrating his little brother's return from college and wishing him well on his summer in NYC-- he leaves Sunday!

Getting back to this new "normal" has been good for me. Instead of planning ceremony details or slide shows (for either the wedding or the funeral, to be quite frank), I'm working on, well, work. Today's topic is cheesecake--strawberry, mixed fruit, chocolate, light, and savory. It's good to have something new to focus on (the knockoff Cheesecake Factory slice has 39 grams of fat? Yikes!), instead of the backwards-gazing viewpoint I've been holding for a week or so.

So, topically, all is good. Living arrangements? Good. Made baked ziti for B as our first married meal at home together. Made meatloaf a few nights later for the family. Work situation? Good. Getting a lot done on my end, and B's loving the people he's with for the summer. Family? Good. Everyone made it home safely and is doing what they can and need to process Dad's death. Married life? Excellent. B's amazing. Brought me orange juice in bed before he left for work. I've promised him that at least one morning, I'll actually get up before he kisses me goodbye at 7:50. Maybe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

One Week

I woke up Wednesday morning at 5:45 to the sound of Mom making phone calls. I stayed in bed, reliving the night before, until 6, when Dad's alarm clock began to ring with the sound of bluegrass country music from the local station. Blinded by tears, I made my way to the radio and finally got it to turn off. Not to self, I thought, have B figure out how to turn this thing off.

As I looked at the faint numbers on the digital face of the clock, I remembered what Dad had said to me the morning of the wedding. "Something happened to the clock last night," he said. He'd used it as a stereo to sing me a song at the rehearsal dinner, "Daddy's Girl." "It used to light up but now the face is off." I looked closely and realized that a dimmer button had been hit. "I'll fix it," I said. I never did.

Once the alarm was off, I wandered down to find Mom, then started getting ready. I put on yesterday's dress because I had no clothes with me, and the only items in my closet include college rejects (hello tiger-striped corset) and bridesmaids dresses. And they say you can't wear them again. B was arriving later with a bag for me. Bless his heart-- 10 days in and he's packing clothes and picking out things he never had to think about before.

True to the immortal mindset that is an M.D., Dad hadn't wanted to think about things like burial plots, so Mom and I headed off to the cemetery at 7:30, arriving at 8 for our first unwelcome appointment of the day. Already the phones were ringing off the hook. My office, Dad's friends, and family called for updates, news, and to express sadness. We walked out to see the available plots, located near other family members, and picked the one highest on the hill. "Dad would like that," Mom said, with a small smile. "He's looking out over everyone else."

After the ceremony, I cried to B that I hated thinking of Daddy alone, even though I knew he wasn't in the casket. "Well," he said, thoughtfully, "that's why you pick spots near family. He's not alone. He has him Mom and Dad, your cousin, and his aunt. He's not alone."

With the plot picked out, we headed to the funeral home, where we went over the details of the whens and wheres, then went to select a casket and signing book. Mom and I so needed that. First, that was the only room in the place above 60 degrees, so we stayed in the showroom for some time, looking at the baby blue Caddy-like options and debating the merits of pine verses steel for a good 20 minutes. Once decided, we headed toward the book section, which amazed me. These books, filled with lines for people to leave their names, started at $300. And they featured floating Jesuses on watery backgrounds on the cover. "I'm not leaving you with one of these," I told her. "In the car!"

So we finished our business and headed to Hobby Lobby, where we picked a black scrapbook that we would later fill with pages of Daddy and signatures of his friends and family. Finding moments of levity where we could, I had to laugh when Mom marched up to the Hobby Lobby lady and asked her where she kept her funeral scrapbooks. Mom and I must've been quite the pair. Me with a calendar covered with lists, Mom with a Baptist hymnal she forgot to leave in the car.

We headed home after that, where Mom went to work greeting friends that stopped by loaded down with food for the family and I got to work on Dad's obit, due by 4 pm that day to the paper. "You're talking to a writer," Mom had told the funeral home man earlier that day when we learned of the time constraint. "She loves a good deadline."

I sat down at the computer and began composing, calling my sister to have her start with the intro while I filled in the skeleton of the copy. I skimmed my calendar, now covered with intermingled lists. "First Dance: Stand by Me, My girl?; Wednesday, wedding announcement due to newspaper." "Thursday: program due to church; hymns selected, guest book finished." It was almost impossible to tell that the second note was for Dad's funeral, not my big day.

Moments later, B arrived, toting a bag full of freshly-washed clothes (amazing) and everything I'd need to get through the weekend, including big big hugs.

He sat with me, doing the final edits to the obit so that I could make calls to the Reverend and keep track that Mom was eating something while she visited, until the siblings arrived, then he went to help with the kids so the siblings could give the obit a once-over and final approval.

That night, Mom wanted to get out of the house, so I called Turtle Point and set up a private room so that we could get dinner. They were so kind-- Dad spent most of his free hours out there playing golf or visiting with the staff, so they were understandably heartbroken for not only us, but also themselves. When B and I arrived, I hadn't realized how hard it would be to walk in the doors, to see where the chair had been that Dad sat in beside the dance floor, to remember the rush of family photos on the steps, to think back to seeing him propped on the front gate when the limo pulled away-- I hadn't gotten to hug him that night. Thank God for the brunch the next day.

B was amazing, catching me when he knew I was about to lose it, or sometimes cornering me to make me calm down enough to just be. I hadn't expected to need this much of his strength so quickly, but he's been there every step of the way, even the ones when I needed to be carried.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Confusing the Holidays

I realized yesterday that I'll never again have to struggle to remember which holiday is in May: Labor Day or Memorial Day.

A Life in 30 Columns or Less

In keeping this place as my own little scrapbook, here's Daddy's obit, published the Thursday after his death, the day before his funeral:

Dr. Lloyd Johnson Jr., 70, passed away May 19, 2009. He is loved and will be dearly missed. He will be remembered by many as a wonderful doctor and friend, and he will be remembered by his family as an amazing husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle. His life was dedicated to serving God and helping others through medicine, to cheering on the Crimson Tide with friends, and to making his family feel loved and cherished. That family, as it celebrates him, recalls the days he spent with them cruising in the boat, driving out West in the RV, cheering through the lens of a video camera at countless sporting events and sitting in his chair at the dinner table.

Lloyd was born July 2, 1938, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to loving parents. He grew up in Florence, Ala., where he played basketball at Coffee High School and reigned as Mr. Coffee High, graduating in 1956. He returned to Tuscaloosa to attend the University of Alabama. He excelled in the classroom and on the basketball court as team captain, despite the distance from his beloved mother's cooking. After a business school course in statistics, he decided to change his major to pre-med. He graduated from the Medical College of Alabama in 1961.

He met his wife, Joan, in the University of Alabama Emergency Room, where they both were in training. A man of efficiency, he proposed in the VA cafeteria. They married June 25, 1966, and would have celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary this summer.

Dedicated to a life of service, Lloyd worked as an orthopedic surgeon for 34 years, "retiring" in 2004. He still gave Social Security exams once a week and continued to work at area clinics. He supported Christian mission work around the world. Lloyd believed in ministering to those less fortunate, quietly providing food, favors, diagnoses, support and a helping hand to friends and strangers in need. He loved the islands of Hawaii, blue grass gospel, and Diet Mountain Dew, always in two-liter bottles. He memorized the front nine at Turtle Point, where he was a member, and always carried a customized calendar to show off pictures of his wife, four children, their spouses and six grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-4 p.m. Friday, May 22, in the atrium of First Baptist Church of Florence. The service will directly follow at 4 p.m. in First Baptist Church sanctuary. The Right Reverend John Harper, of Birmingham, will officiate. Elkins Funeral Home is assisting the family.

Lloyd is survived by his wife, Joan Palmer Johnson; his children and their spouses, Lloyd and Holly Johnson, Tim and Kristi Smith, Todd and Betsy Johnson, and Brian and Ashley Kappel; his grandchildren, Alex, Ella, Lily, Gabrielle, Sienna, Ethan, and a seventh, a girl due in August; his sister, Sissy Scroggins (Derrell); and his niece, Mary Sue Ridgway (Alan).

He was preceded in death by his father, Lloyd Johnson Sr.; his mother, Mary Sue Johnson; and his niece, Suzanne Scroggins.

Pallbearers will be David Crawford, Frank Hatchett, Still Hunter, John Lawson, Jim Northington, Uhland Redd, Ed Tease and Bob Yoder. Honorary pallbearers will be the members of the Florence Rotary and the Lauderdale County Medical Society.

In lieu of flowers, Lloyd's wife and children prefer donations be made to Habitat for Humanity, in honor of the loving home he built for them.

One Week

A week ago today, B and I had just returned from our honeymoon in Virgin Gorda. We crashed late Monday night, setting the alarm for the un-honeymoon-like time of 6 am so that I could get ready and on the road to Birmingham, where I'd work every Tuesday this summer. I threw basic supplies in a bag (make up for touch ups before the birthday party that night, contact solution, ...), kissed B good luck for his first day at the office, and headed off in the darkness driving with the sunrise at my back.

The nice thing about driving at dawn is that Mom is always up before I am, so I called and talked with her about the trip and a little about the wedding weekend. She told me she was driving down to bring my flowers to a preservation place, and could we get lunch? Perfect, I said. I have a meeting at 9:30 and another at 1, but if you can go late, then that's great! Mom said Dad might come, too, to which he replied that he wasn't feeling well and probably wouldn't make it. Fortuitous words, indeed.
I arrived at the office around 8:15, buzzing about speaking to everyone about the half of the ceremony that the priest forgot, the beauty of the beaches, and how nice it was to be back, if only for a day. Staff meeting came and went and, right before 1 pm, the second meeting was cancelled. I called Mom then dashed over to meet her at the flower place.
We hugged, dropped off the flowers, and grabbed lunch. She mentioned that Daddy wasn't feeling well, that his meds for the laryngitis he caught over the weekend had upset his stomach, but that he told her to go on and go. I'll be fine, he said. Mom called to check on him during lunch. Better, he said. Just resting.

Mom and I hugged again and I dashed back to work full of sweet tea, a black cocktail dress that she'd found for me on sale, and the cheer a lunch with Mom brings. I got reorganized, ready to rejoin the working world, and caught up with coworkers a little more.
Then the phone rang. 5:02. First Mom. Lloyd called. Dad's at the hospital. Something's wrong. I think this might be it. I cut her off. Mom, Dad's calling me right now. Let me get it. But I missed the call. I called back three times before I got an answer.

"Who is this?" the voice asked.
"This is A, and this is my Dad's phone. Who are you? Where is he?" I demanded, my voice rising in the office.
"An ambulance took your Dad to the hospital," he replied. "I'm with the sheriff's department and I need to know how to secure your home before I can leave it."
"Is he ok? What happened?" I asked as coworkers began to gather behind my desk.
"I wasn't here, ma'am." he replied. "I just need to lock the house."
I told him I'd call back and got off the phone to call Mom. It wasn't Dad. It was the sheriff.
I called him back and told him to lock up and close the door behind him. He offered to turn on lights, so people wouldn't know the house was empty, apparently a big problem with leaving in an ambulance: People know you're alone.
5:10 Mom, where are you? I'm coming over. Thankfully, she was visiting with her Mother, who lives only two miles from where I work.
En route, I called B, who was still at the office his first day of work. I couldn't get him and called his house, sobbing to his Mother that something was wrong with my Dad. B beeped in. Something's wrong with Daddy. I'm meeting Mom in a few minutes. Let me call you when I know something. No, don't start driving yet.

Got to Grandma's. Picked up Mom, plus two cokes. How can a mouth be this dry? she asked.
We got in the car and started driving, calling everyone we knew to crowd the silence out of the car. Lloyd called frequently with updates from the hospital. The speedometer inched upwards with each refrain; I could only hear Mom's side: What did they say? ... Can they keep him alive until we got there? ... Oh God, he's gone. ... Please don't let them move him until I can see him. ... I have to see him.

Is that it? I asked Mom, willing her to tell me that there was hope, a reason to keep inching toward 80 on the back roads of Alabama.
No, sweetie. He's gone. She said.
The phone calls changed from frantic to somber. I let the car inch back down to 65. The fact that there was no longer a reason to hurry, to rush, that there was nothing, no one, waiting for us on the other side of the road trip was devastating. Instead of driving home, it now felt more like driving into reality.
Mom and I arrived at the hospital, where we were greeted in the parking lot by two doctors, friends of Dad's, along with a few members from the church. We prayed and then walked in, turning into a room where Dad was waiting for us. Is he... tubes... was all I could say. No, one of the doctors replied. He looks just like he always did.

And he did. There was Dad, looking as if he was napping in his bed, only instead of wearing his trademark gray sweatshirt or red hoodie, he now sported a rough hospital gown. Mom reached for his hand. I couldn't. Everywhere I looked for signs. The clock was still ticking, not stopped at any particular minute or hour. The machines registered no heartbeats or breath, for they stood alone in the corner. A trash can filled with gloves and packaging, but nothing else. Too clean, too normal.
The doctor called us out. Did everything we could. The room was filled with the doctors and nurses with which he'd worked years before. His organs are gone, but his corneas are still good.
I didn't ask what time he died, but found out later that it was 5:45 pm. Mom had spoken with him at 2:13, meaning he'd had to call the ambulance at about 2:45. He said he was feeling better, that he'd see her when she got home. Did he know then? Was he protecting us?
Mom and I left the hospital and headed home where we found that the sheriff had left every light on in the house, even the ones in the showers and a few shining on the deck that we'd forgotten about. Later my sister would say, "How fitting that the man who would string the front yard with at least 600 strands of Christmas lights would leave home with the house ablaze."
We got home and I checked the house, fearfully expecting to find signs of anything. Blood or twisted sheets. Instead, we found only an unmade bed and a phone among the pillows.
Mom stayed up calling people until well after 10 pm, neither of us settling until around 1 am, when Mom finally climbed into her bed to rest, if not sleep. I showered upstairs, then joined her, like I used to do when I was scared. Tomorrow was a big day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Losing a Father, Losing a Dad

Losing a Father means I'm suddenly thinking about all the things he always took care of.  Taxes, investments, insurance, car repairs.

Losing a Dad reminds me of the mornings he woke me up for school and didn't flinch at plugging in the curlers to save me 10 extra minutes.

Losing a Father means I'm worried about my Mom being by herself, about the things that need to be taken care of around the house, and the details about holiday logistics.

Losing a Dad make me realize that Alabama football games will never feel the same, that I'll always keep my Sports Illustrated subscription that he got for me ("so the boys have something to read in your dorm"), and that my TV schedule reminder will now have to be in print or online, instead of a phone call away.

Dads and Fathers are different.  Sometimes people are lucky enough to have both-- B and I both fall into that category.  For me, it certainly made life better, but it sure does make right now harder.

Feels Wrong

Right now, almost a week after losing Dad, everything feels wrong.  Blogging.  Emailing. Answering my phone.  It's not even that I feel like I should be mourning or avoiding others, but more that I honestly don't know how to start again.  How to go "back" to whatever normal used to be.  Ignore it? Embrace it?  How to move forward, to return to real life, without fearing that everything will always feel "off," somehow.  

So I'm starting.  A friend once asked me what I'd blog about once the wedding was over and darned if I wasn't provided a clear answer.  Don't worry-- this blog won't morph into a Dad-only tribute, but it has always been a window into my life and so it shall continue to be.  It may be sad, as I'm updating about the memories and the funeral plans, but it will also be happy, when I get around to writing about the amazing honeymoon and indescribable wedding weekend.  

In short, though things feel wrong, I know they'll eventually return.  Back to whatever the new normal is.  Back to what Dad would've always wanted for B & myself for the first summer of our life as a married couple.  Now I just have to figure out what that is.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Today I thought I would be writing about my wedding weekend, about priest foibles and savored honeymoons hundreds of miles from here, from which I returned last night.  Instead, today is the day that my Dad died.

It's a strange thing to type, and a harder one to say.  My Dad died. And yet, he did.  Suddenly and unexpectedly.  

I'm thankful that I was in Birmingham, that I'd arranged to work from the office on Tuesdays, and that I didn't slack off on this particular Tuesday, as I almost did because it was the first day back from the honeymoon.  Because of that trip to Birmingham, I got to see and have lunch with my Mom.  Because of that, I was less than five minutes from her when she called me with the news that Daddy was very sick. On the way to the hospital.  Coding.  Unresponsive.

Blessedly, Mom had stopped at Grandma's house on the way out of town, so she wasn't alone or driving in rush hour traffic when she heard the news that Daddy was in the ambulance.  By the time we got word that he was gone, we were a mere 50 miles from Florence.

I almost blogged nearly a dozen times today, but didn't because I needed to focus and get work done.  "I'm married!" I wanted to exclaim.  "I'm back, and mostly tan... at least in patches," I wanted to share.  But I didn't.  And now I simply can't.

Someday, maybe soon or maybe much later, I'll blog about the amazing wedding (complete with a marshmallow-filled bouquet), and about how I'm thankful to have had those few days near Daddy, with all the kids back home with their babies for one more celebration before what we never knew we would face.  I'll blog about the glorious honeymoon, about careening around rail-less cliffs on the "wrong" side of the road with B at the wheel.  Someday.

For now, it's all I can do to think.  To move.  To breathe.  This isn't happening.  This didn't happen.  My Dad loves. Lives. Pulls.  Fights.  The past tense is not welcome here.  

My Dad died today.  And I'll always remember.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Amazing!  Finally forced myself to sneak a few minutes away from the fun to document the goings-on.  I wouldn't, normally, but I'm just so happy to have any kind of a record of all the craziness.  So, speaking of craziness, here we go:

B and I avoided loading the car due to a huge downpour, so we didn't get on the road until about 12.  We rolled into Florence in time to unload the cars, grab a quick turkey sandwich, and head to meet Al, our video man.  At the church, we walked through the entire ceremony, which was both helpful (who stands where) and kind of moving (holy heck this is happening!).  Post Al, we headed to meet B's parents, then off to dinner at Turtle Point with allll the kiddos.  B stayed the night at my house-- the last time he'll stay at Casa A before being we're married.

Got off to a roaring start.  With four kids under the age of three in the house, it had to!  B was on the couch in the playroom, God bless him, but he says he slept through all the mid-night wake ups. Thursday morning we got up and tackled the "welcome" bags for the hotel, loading them with all the goodies and information sheets, then helped the parents get the hospitality suite set up before grabbing lunch at Trowbridges (yum) with his Dad and his brother.  Friends and family started rolling in, so I met a few newbies and visited with other members of B's family that I hadn't seen in about six years when I'd attended his grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary party just three months after we started dating.

I headed home to change, then we all dug into a delicious barbecue dinner at Outpost 72, where we celebrated my sister (and matron of honor)'s birthday, which is actually the day we nabbed for our wedding.  Say it with me, it's all about the bride. Ok, not really.  We called her before announcing the date and asked if we could borrow hers.  She agreed, with the condition that no attention be called to her at the wedding or rehearsal dinner.  She neglected to cancel out Thursday, so we celebrated with a big cookie cake and a sheet cake, which the kids just LOVED.
So here I am, Friday morning, curlers in my hair typing on my blog.  B's playing golf with his groomsmen and I'm getting ready for the bridesmaids luncheon in... about 90 minutes.  Can't wait to see all my girls!

B and I have had such fun this week, it's almost hard to describe.  It's so rare to feel tangible love and yet, with each arrival of a friend or relative or a card sent by someone who can't celebrate with us, we're feeling a concrete representation of love and support from those around us.  It's amazing and humbling and a million other things that I'll chastise myself later for not being able to capture in words.

So much to look forward to, today and, well, forever.  But, for today, I'm excited to see my girlfriends, greet my family arriving today, dive into a delicious dinner tonight, and hopefully sleep well before tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Final Night in Town

B and I celebrated tonight. He'd had a great interview in the city, I'd finished my final pre-wedding day of work, and we'd made a huge dent in the wedding to do list.  As if we didn't have enough excuses, it's also Cinco de Mayo and, obviously, we love Mexican food.

So we headed to our favorite Mexican dive and, color us surprised, we found that the strip mall had set up one-way traffic to accommodate the dual bands (complete with warbling singers) entertaining the crowds inside, the card tables outside, and the throngs of people milling around the parking lot, drink in hand, waiting for a table.

B and I considered joining the wait list, as we heard the woman bellow "FORTY FIVE!" But then we noticed that others were holding numbers up into the 70s.  And should I mention that we've never waited for a table at this festive joint?

Instead, we decided to go full-on Southern and call in our order from the parking lot (three soft chicken tacos and a number sixteen, por favor), then hit the bar to get margaritas.  We tried to go sit on our tailgate but the cops (there for crowd control) said we had to stay close to the restaurant.  Easy fix.  I moved the car to the front spot, popped the tailgate, and we drank to our hearts' content.

The conundrum came when our meal was ready.  Do we drive home?  That's no fun.  Plus we had our margaritas to think about.  So instead, I grabbed the take-out bag and we had a full-on tailgate picnic (adult-style) in the tailgate of my Murano right in front of the cops, who gave us props for "Most Creativity." Amazingly, following the margarita consumption right in front of them, they let us drive away. I mean, we'd only had one each and had definitely indulged in a heavy dinner, so there was no swerving involved, but still. It felt bad.  Dangerous.  B thinks I need to get out more.

Tomorrow morning we head home.  I can't wait!

Mr. & Mrs.

I got an email today addressed to Mr. & Mrs. K and totally assumed it was meant for B's parents.  Not so!  Times, they are a changing.

The Final Countdown

Ok, so not "final" just yet, but it sure feels that way! B got in last night, making this whole "wedding weekend" thing finally feel real. It's so much better tying up the loose ends together-- it makes me feel like we're doing something for our guests instead of simply tying ribbons. Can't really describe it, but I like it!

It hit me last night that I won't ever be apart from B again. I mean, sure, for work travel and little things, but we'll never (Lord willing) have to do the long-distance, no-end-in-sight relationship again. I'm so thankful! I told him I'm going to drive him nuts by waking up every day and saying, "You're still here!"

Things really are getting fun. Today's my last day of work before the wedding. It's a busy, full day, but that's good. I'm sneaking in a last-minute lunch with my friend L just to chat, then nose to the grindstone until around 5:30 when I'll head out and celebrate Cinco de Mayo with B at one of our favorite Mexican dives. Bring on the mariachi!

Say prayers for B today around 1:30-- he has a meeting/interview with a judge here in town. I love how cool and collected he is. I tend to freak out and over analyze before interviews or meetings with people I don't know. But B? Not a chance. He was working late into the night making sure the DVD worked, the camera was functional, formatting our information sheet, and negotiating our benefits package. It's such an amazing blessing to have him here for a few days before we descend into the (happy!) mayhem that will be the wedding weekend. It's nice to have a dinner or two where we can just enjoy each other and not think about details.

That said, I can't WAIT to get home and start the celebration. On Wednesday, I get to meet my nephew, born in December, and see all the monkeys again. B's parents will arrive and we'll have a fun, intimate family dinner of 17. Crazy!

Mostly right now I'm feeling so happy and blessed that I can hardly stand it. Sure there are things to do, and they'll be done tonight (I promise!), but it just warms my heart to know that friends and family are making big efforts to celebrate with us in a few days. Bring on the party!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Favors, Favors, Favors

I tried to post all weekend, but there wasn't a long enough stretch where I didn't have chocolate on my hands or pretzel bits on my clothing. That's right, it was favor-palooza at the A household this weekend. I had (childishly) assumed that I'd be done with the dipping on Saturday and the wrapping would commence on Sunday. Actually, there were a number of incorrect assumptions related to this weekend:

1) That dipping 600 pretzel sticks would take only a portion of a day instead of a total of two

2) That I had enough counter space in my apartment to lay 600 of anything flat to dry

3) That a candy squeeze bottle would make white chocolate easier to spread

4) That they wouldn't turn out as cute as they did

Let's start from the beginning, shall we? I wanted to have some form of favor at the wedding, but I wanted it to be edible so it was something people could enjoy and move on from instead of packing into their suitcases or leaving in bulk at the reception. Cookies!, I thought, only to find out that ordered cookies would run about $3.95 per cookie (you do the math) and that there was no way I could bake enough the night before, which is the only way I could ensure they'd be fresh.

So I moved on, thinking I could surely come up with something else just as fabulous. And I think I did: Chocolate-dipped pretzel rods with white chocolate drizzle. Pretzel? Pretty much stale bread. Chocolate? Always a winner. So I dipped and drizzled and wrapped and packed until, quite literally, my back hurt (from squeezing the white chocolate from the tiny bottle in which I melted it) and my hand ached (from--get this--holding the cup of chocolate I was dipping the rods into).

But you know what? I was happy. I've loved doing little things for our guests, things that they might never notice or pick up on, but that I feel good having given to them. The pretzels didn't cost much. In fact, the biggest expense was probably the air-tight bin I picked up to hold them in until the wedding, but it was a great excuse for me to think about the wedding for about six hours straight... ok, more like 10 scattered over two days. Plus, I was covered in chocolate, and what's a good Sunday without a little chocolate coating?

The wedding is THIS Saturday and I couldn't be more excited. Tonight I'm packing, cleaning, and nabbing all those little loose ends with B, who arrives in town tonight. I can't wait to give him a hug! It's been, I think, three weeks since I've seen him. Normally I know exactly how long it's been, but let's just say there have been other countdowns on my mind.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Biscotti Fail

Ok, that's a little much of a title. The real story is that my first six batches of biscotti went seamlessly. It was only the last bugger that got me and nearly burned down my apartment.

One of the fun treats I'm making for the hotel welcome bags is chocolate-walnut biscotti. It's a fairly simple process, just slightly time-consuming, so I've been working at it a few days.

Last night, the final batch had just finished baking and I decided it needed a few more minutes, so I pushed the cookie sheet back into the oven, but somehow the biscotti (still in logs--phase 2) and the parchment paper (a LIFEsaver, btw) stayed mid-air instead of moving back inside with the tray.

So as I yelled, "nooooooo!" I watched helplessly as half the biscotti on the tray waterfalled over the edge and onto the inner door and bottom of the oven. I quickly pushed the rest back onto the tray, then started scooping out the fallen biscotti with a silicone spatula before it could cement to the toasty oven walls. I thought the spatula was brilliant--silicone never melts!

I managed to get most of it out, only slightly burning my forearm in the process (really? My Mom's going to kill me.), but realized there was a big chunk down by the coils. So, for some reason, I decided to wrap the fire-proof spatula in paper towels to scoot the rest of the biscotti batter out of the oven.

You guessed it. Instant flames, which I swing around (More oxygen, More!) to the sink and throw underneath running water.

So let's take inventory:

1 burned arm
1 charred-paper wrapped spatula
1 half recipe biscotti in my trash
1 screamed "NO NO NO!"
2 episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker watched with ice pack on said arm
89 total packages of biscotti (double-occupancy bags) completed