Monday, June 29, 2009


So, my little brother made the 350 pound security man with the very serious face laugh when he said, "Move along, people. No cause for alarm. There are not two large men on the floor at your feet."

Then, Jacob swore that Brent Albright denied the security man's offer of a hand up in preference for his own. I'm sure that Jacob could have pulled all 230 pounds of muscle up to a standing position all by himself but it was nice of the security man to step in. Claudio Castagnoli got up all by himself. Our trio's heartrates did not slow for at least an hour from having to stand up quickly and scurry out of the way from the two gigantic men flying in our general direction.

For any of you new to the blog, I am telling you stories about Ring of Honor, an indie professional wrestling league that comes to the Chicagoland area every two months or so. I go every time.

Just thought you'd like to know how my weekend was.

Also, did you think I was being sarcastic in my last wedding post when I said that I was doing the flowers for my friend's wedding?

Nope. Here they are in the car being transported. It's so neat to know that their wedding pictures from here until forever will have my creations in them. I have some thoughts from the wedding and will share them with you shortly but wanted to give you a quick update in the meantime.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Convocated and hooded

I have graduated before.

I struggled at first with how to dress in such a way that would be complemented by my gown and hat. In high school, I wore a very large ballgown style cotton sundress of my mother's that I loved for it's intricate quilting.

Looking back, I think, "Of course."

I also french braided my hair, which was very elegant and sophisticated in 1995.

But when I got to school and put on the white gown that was effectively transparent and that was shorter and narrower than my dress (which made it poof out the bottom and gave me a silhouette like a Buffy the Vampire Slayer monster) and looked around to see that almost all of the other girls wore small, white dresses, making their gowns lay flat and without other colors showing through, I felt like I was the groomsman at the wedding who wears his Metallica t-shirt under his tux shirt, which is fine until he starts sweating on the dance floor. He is oblivious but everyone else quickly forms an opinion about his character. Also, when I realized that everyone else had their hair loose to form an aurora around their heads under their mortarboards, I felt a little less fancy.
The only explanation I can offer is that I had all of this training in competitive speech (forensics) and choirs that taught me that when I dressed up, I needed to make sure that my hair didn't fall in my face. I didn't dress up much except to perform so the association was strong.
By the time I graduated from college, I'd learned my lesson about the dress and half-way with the hair. I think it helped that I had read Dorothy Sayer's Gaudy Night, which has a positively brilliant section where Harriet Vane carefully chooses her own outfit for her reunion at Oxford to complement the academic gown she would need to don again and then mentally pities the woman who has not had such forethought.
Look at my awesome family! We had picnic breakfast that morning in celebration. It was something we used to do when we visited my grandma, grandpa and great-aunts and uncles in Danville, IL all the time when I was a kid. Looking back, I realize that it was super labor intensive for the women. They would make pancake batter, pack up milk, orange juice, eggs, bacon, butter and jam into coolers and take it all out to the picnic shelter in a public park and use electric skillets to cook it fresh in the outdoors. They even used to bring pretty cloth tablecloths to cover the uggy picnic tables.
I think that I've finally figured out graduation fashion, which is good because I can't see myself going back to school again and it's nice to finally get it right.

Of course, getting my Master's Degree is about a little more than just fashion. It's also about being surrounded by magnificent architecture.
And good friends made during the experience.
And nostalgia for our freshman exuberance.

And good friends who stood in for family when my cousin decided to get married the same weekend. (She waited until Sunday so I could just make it to Florida in time for the ceremony but my immediate family were all taking the cheaper earlier flights.) But just look at that cheering section!

I have to admit that I'm struggling a little bit right now with having spent all of this money to get this degree. I learned during my first year that I absolutely abhor generating quantitative data about social phenomena and so didn't spend more time than the minimum required learning how. I figured that I wouldn't want a job doing that so I should focus on classes that would inform my professional interests. I can't think of another strategy that would have made more sense but now it seems like the only jobs out there are for quantitative data research. All other jobs for people with Master's Degrees in Public Policy require me to have the Catch-22 of management experience. You can't get a job without it but you can't get the experience without someone first hiring you to do it.

Still, its only Day 3 of the job search. I will persevere. Someone out there will think I'm awesome.

I think that my time in grad school was also inherently valuable. I think about the world in a completely different way (rational choice theory, anyone?). Actually, learning the analysis that I've learned simply provided a codified framework for what I've always kind of suspected. I am so much more mentally comfortable now that I have a little support for my thoughts, like finally finding a good bra.

I met good people and learned more about myself through them. I'm a little sheepish to admit that I also found a huband.

Plus, it was just plain fun to spend some time on a student's schedule, excercising my brain. How luxurious! Although it was sometimes frustrating to be spinning my wheels by writing papers about topics that my professors already knew about rather than actually effecting change in the world through my work, I know the practice will benefit my work (when I actually get to do some).

So, overall, the benefits of the effort outweigh the costs. Any policy-maker would evaluate that kind of endeavor as a success.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Today I thinking about budgets. The background is a general discomfort with a sense I have of the overriding wedding culture that has developed as a response to the Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC) which is represented by bridal magazines and bridal conventions that say that your wedding must be a spend-fest of strapless poufy white dresses and matching polyester bridesmaid and table number cards at a sit-down dinner in a dedicated event hall with flocked wallpaper and gold-veined mirrors. You know, prom grown-up style. You might be able to tell that I dislike the WIC as much as the next hipster. (However, my brother's wedding that completely matched this model has softened up my disdain quite a bit since it turned out to be just as full of love and personality and good tears as any indie wedding I've ever been to.)

But my discomfort with the WIC has been established since my first wedding 10 years ago when I read Bridal Bargains and it changed my world. My new discomfort is the movement that has grown up out of a community of brides like me that must, understandable, tear down the old model in order to be emotionally ready to design a new one. It is a necessary dynamic but both extremes need to be held in tension or the final cultural outcome is not greater freedom for all couples to do what is most meaningful for them but instead a polarization of only two options for them to choose from: traditional and alternative. I am a huge fan of Ariel and the Offbeat Bride community. Huge fan. I was surfing around and found her Halloween costume where she pulls together indie bride trends into one costume and it illustrates the less familiar extreme perfectly. Ariel is so impressive because she manages to celebrate individual couples' choices while also noting that trends emerge. And I agree: trends are totally fine. That is, as long as they stay trends and do not become new norms that must be followed if the wedding is to be considered "genuine" and "a perfect reflection of our personality."

One of these trends to choose a wedding style that involves rounding up all of your fabulously crafty and artistic friends and having everyone pitch in to pull this thing together for less than $2,000 or $5,000 or $10,000. And today that has me thinking about budgets.

I'm going to trace out the internet map of my reading this morning and then I'm going to discuss it a little. First, I read about this wedding in which a couple got married in the barn at Praire Crossings, where their Community Supported Agriculture farm is located. Awesome. I love shit like this. Especially the board games for folks that wanted to stick around but didn't want to dance. Like all of the weddings featured on this website, it follows a template of simple questions to tell the details of the wedding story. I've been reading for months but didn't notice that one of the questions was "What makes this wedding thrifty?" Like I said in the comments, this made me deflate a little since we're spending a fair amount of money on our wedding for a variety of reasons. I think everyone on these blogs has little dreams of having their own wedding featured someday and I was a little disappointed to realize that I probably shouldn't even ask since we're not really thrifty. (Which may not be true, as I think about it more.) Still, those were my feelings at the time. Magically, though, the next post I read was this one that railed against the very same low-budget-centric vibes that have been getting me down and was I felt flated again. Then, I left a comment on the first post and got a nice reply from the author affirming what I said and pointing out that the question in its complete form is "What makes this wedding thrifty, whatever that means to you?" and welcoming me to the community. Then, in my normal blog-reading routine, I found this post that perfectly illustrated the culture that I'm frustrated with. Don't get me wrong, this is a lovely couple and I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with their relationship or their wedding. I especially like her simple dress embroidered with the story of their relationship in pictures. But when they say:
"We started the wedding planning process by declaring a strict and modest budget: $2,000 to be exact. We wanted our wedding to be about sincerity, authenticity, connection, and a celebration and proclamation of love and commitment. We didn’t want it to be about monogrammed napkins and excessive amounts of fondant,"
with all the idealistic zeal of evangelists, it's easy to hear that a wedding that cost more than that would not be about sincerity, authenticity, or connection and that the monogrammed napkins and fondant would be more important than the celebration and proclamation of their love.

Now, I am positive that these are good people and they would not ever want to make someone feel bad for having a different kind of wedding than they have. But, as any good psychoanalyst will tell you, it's not always important what was said: let's focus on what you heard. There's a good chance this says more about my own insecurities than anything else.

But the thing is, we're spending $15,000 on our wedding and there will not be a monogrammed napkin in sight. In fact, we have about 7 line items in our budget: location, band, officiants, outfits, flowers for a bouquet and some boutonnieres, some judaica for the ceremony and food that can be provided without servers: cheese trays, cupcakes and champagne. We're simply doing without everything else. Chicago is expensive, yo. And we are the type of people who develop large, deep friend networks and value our extended familes. A wedding with only 80 guests would leave out some very important people and would not "reflect who we really are." We've set our priorities and are spending our money on those things. Have we planned them as cheaply as possible?


But I'd rather spend the money on vendors than be a project manager for this event. Because, in the end, it's just one day. A very special day. But one day and one party. Again, this decision reflects who we are as a couple. Our relationship would be in tatters by the time we got to that day if I had to be a project manager, herding our friends into doing jobs to save us money.

My cousin had a wedding in this style that was amazingly lovely two weeks ago. But when her mom fell in the middle of the night 12 hours before the wedding, cracked three ribs and punctured her lung and none of us knew if they would release her for the hospital in time, the conversation revolved around whether or not the wedding would go ahead without her. The bride's mother! And I agreed with both sides. One said that none of the plans, none of the white christmas lights the homemade centerpieces or the song the couple sang to the crowd instead of a first dance would be worth it if her mother wasn't there. The other side said that marriages have to overcome a lot of disappointments and can only do so if they are actually a marriage. In fact, Jewish law holds that once a date has been set, nothing can postpone a wedding, even a death in the immediate family. What God is bringing together, let no one get in the way, indeed.

So, I am resolute that I will not sacrifice our relationship for a few thousand dollars. It will not reflect badly upon us and our relationship if strangers prepare the food and no one will believe it is inauthentic if there are not cute, hand-lettered signs all over the place. I DIYed the hell out of my first wedding to the delight of my guests who still tell me that it was the best wedding they have ever attended: bingo, homemade flowers, self-chosen bridesmaids' dresses, invitations created on our home printer, several small cakes, Halloween candy, no veil, costume rehearsal dinner, cartoon logo, Walt Whitman readings and CDs instead of a DJ long before iPods were even a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye. A great performance does not guarantee a good marriage. And when it comes down to it, I would marry Jacob at the courthouse tomorrow. But this wedding isn't about me.

It is about us. More importantly - and I really do mean more importantly - it is about validating the community that produced and shaped us. Why invite anyone or spend any money on a celebration if it is not about telling those people that their effort has been worthwhile? That their own marriages contributed in some way to this happiness? That their loneliness which gave them wisdom to share had purpose? That the lessons based on their own experience - taught through example, conversations and arguments - have produced fruit?

Their presence helps Jacob and I to understand on a deep soul level that despite disagreements and because of the moments where we share hearts and minds, they will continue being our community. They are committing to shape us and be shaped by us just like Jacob and I are committing to shape each other and to allow ourselves to be shaped in order to accomplish our common goal of mending the world: tikkun olam.

This is worth $15,000.

Besides, I can't marry Jacob at the courthouse tomorrow anyway. I will be doing the flowers for my friend's DIY wedding with a $4,000 budget. ---grin---

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shiny teeth and shiny soul

Yesterday, I went out to the suburbs to get my hair cut and to my teeth cleaned. I have had the same dentist my entire life and the women there have gotten to know me pretty well. I've had quite a few problems with my mouth, including knocking out my front tooth when I was 10 and riding a skate board. They've watched me grow up. My mom told me that they were very excited to hear about my wedding when she had been in there last.

So, I took a picture of Jacob to show them and the drawings of my wedding dress.

My mom was right. They WERE very excited. As Therese and I were talking, she pointed to me in the photo and said, "It's good to see this Rebecca again." Then, she talked a little bit about how hard it was to watch me after my ex-husband turned out to be "unfortunate." I cried right there in the dentist's office because her concern made me realize that these women love me. The dentist's assistants!

One of the reasons why it is important for societies to have ceremonies and traditions is that it gives people a chance to say things that the normal, everyday interactions of life do not allow for. I am grateful for it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A little exercise

On Monday, I rode a bike for the first time since I was probably 12 years ago. That's two decades, folks.

I was a little nervous.

I won't say it all came back to me you know, like riding a bicycle. It will be awhile until I feel like I won't fall off at any moment. But it also felt good.

I'm riding a bike because I discovered that the Curves I was going to sign up for as part of my weight-loss regimen is closing at the end of the month. The next closest one is a mile and a half away and I refuse to drive a car such a small distance every day and but it would be really time-consuming to walk.

So, a bike.

On my first ride I was not surprised at all that I got tired very quickly. But I want to dance and dance and dance at my wedding so I forged on along the path the runs along Chicago's lakeshore. Thank you Daniel Burnham for our lakeshore.

I smiled at homeless people and stayed as far right as I possibly could. I looked ridiculous and didn't care. I endured the sewage smell of an unintentional retention pond and moved carefully through sandy patches. I was not encouraged by the tiny woman in spandex who passed me and promptly wiped out. I wore sunblock and took my journal, just in case I needed to rest. And I didn't.

It was good. I can do this every morning. Maybe to the Curves. Maybe all by itself.

A little exercise can be a wondrous thing.

Monday, June 22, 2009


My friend just sent me an email with this description of what he had seen and his appreciation for the experiences that being in Chicago offers.

I couldn't agree more.

"I just walked past a yarmulke wearing, Jewish dwarf sitting and reading about Islam in the library of Loyola University... a Jesuit University."

I also appreciate that I have such good friends who single me out as someone who would appreciate such a story. It's good to be known.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Spiritual Communities

Hi, folks. I'm home from a week in Florida and catching up. Until I can get a few things jotted down, enjoy this video some folks at my church made.

You can visit the church's website at It is a community of folks who have made me feel completely accepted and able to explore my relationship with God more fully than I have ever been able to.
Last night, Jacob and I went to visit a Reconstructionist synagogue for Shabbat service. We read the website wrong and didn't realize that it would be the family service. It was fun to watch these loved kids run around and recite prayers. I felt really welcome. Also, I like that the Rabbi added "and all of his creation" to the prayer that thanked God for loving the people of Israel. I also really like the doctrine of Reconstructionism and that the synagogue's publications all have a section on Tikkun Olam, which is the idea that we should be mending the world. It's a little far away but I think we'll manage to make the jaunt if we like the community since it's no further than Wicker Park Grace. We'll keep lookng around, though, to make sure we're completely happy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quilts are not so very different from marriages

So, all of my professors freaked out about getting their grades in for the early graduation deadline and I was done with my coursework 2 weeks before graduation. So, what have I been doing with all my extra time?

I made a quilt.

My cousin is getting married this weekend and I made her a wedding quilt like I have been making. I started with fabric that I made custom for them at Spoonflower. When I asked for a piece of text that was important to them, they gave me a verse from scripture: "mortals make elaborate plans but God has the last word." I really like that one. When I plugged in Proverbs 16:1 into BibleGateway, I discovered that the English-language translations were all very different and I didn't know which one they would want. So I used them all and added a bunch of international ones to cover my confusion. Gotta love copy/paste!

I splurged on some fancy fabric from the local quilt store because I just couldn't resist. It was so fun and coordinated with itself so well and Megan and Isaac are super-design-forward (like fashion-forward but more about whole life trends) that the currently popular bird motifs and retro-seventies flair would be appreciated. (Normally I try to work with my stash or fabric from Hancock or JoAnn's since quality of fabric and designer brand names aren't necessary to my experience.)

While I was piecing and stitching, I had a few thoughts about the spirituality of quilting. A lot of quilters would be somewhat horrified at my technique. It's very jumblety, lines are rarely straight and there are lots of puckers. I thought, "If I had more practice, this would turn out much better." This could be said about a lot of things in life, couldn't it? But the reality is that we don't get practice for many things in life. We can't afford to just throw away the results of our work so the first time has to count. We just have to jump in and do it. Looking a my upcoming marriage feels like this. I know this is funny to some of you since I have been married before. In fact, Jacob was apologizing recently and said in a voice full of remorse, "I feel like a complete asshole." My empathy kicked in like that Pablo Neruda poem, "so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close." I didn't want him to feel bad anymore and said, "You're not a complete asshole; I wouldn't marry a complete asshole." It took a full minute for me to say, "Oh shit! I did marry a complete asshole." I backpedaled and said something that was nevertheless true, "You're so awesome that you made me forget my first marriage." All of this is to say that I don't consider my first marriage practice. It was such a different creature. I love Megan's engagement because she has been as terrified as I have been about this. So many people getting married that I know have been together for more than five years or are in other ways absolutely certain that their lives are compatible and joyful. Megan is honest about the uncertainty she has and I love her for it. I couldn't wait until I got good at quilts to celebrate her marriage and she and I couldn't wait to get good at life with our men before marrying them.
I have become comfortable with a spirituality of imperfection for my life. This extends to my quilts. Like life, the lines of stiching are rarely perfect. Interestingly, though, when I was quilting on top of the lines of scripture, my lines got more straight. Do I even need to spell out that metaphor? Also, I think that Megan and Isaac should think of any puckers that their fingers find as kisses. Much nicer than thinking about my mis-measurement or inability to keep the fabric smooth under the needle.
Jacob and I have been talking about how difficult it will be to forge a third path of an interfaith family that practices both religions. Lots of quilters use patterns to create their quilts but I've always wondered where the fun was in that. If you work hard and do it all right, you end up with exactly what you expected. I like discovering as I go along. Jacob is still a little dubious but loves me and is willing to trust me until he believes it himself. You know, "Come on in! The water's great once you get used to the cold." I love that man.
When it comes down to it the process of making a quilt is very similar to courtship and marriage. So much work goes into selecting the fabrics, measuring them, cutting them, piecing them, quilting all the layers together and binding the edges. Lots of mistakes were made and cursing happened but we persevered and produced a final product. But the day after the wedding, you finally get to use it. Our partners help keep us warm and secure. They allow us to accomplish goals we could not have accomplished if we were cold and lonely. Our partners delight us every time we look at their bright colors and custom designs. And that is a great gift, indeed.
I wish Megan and Isaac all of the happiness in the world. I appreciate that she timed her wedding so that I could be in Florida immediately after graduating. I'll stay for a week with my family in a rental house on the beach with a suitcase full of books. Jacob can only stay for a few days in order to conserve vacation time for the honeymoon. With that exception, I expect a week of bliss. Thanks Megan and Isaac!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

An easy-peasy quilting tutorial

So, I posted this over on the wedding blog and I figured I might as well share it with you all, as well. I thought it might be helpful to offer up a little advice for folks who want to help Jacob and I symbolically mend the world a little bit with our wedding quilt. We would love it if all our friends and family would put together a 6 inch by 6 inch square of patchwork out of green fabric for us. If you have some sewing experience, please feel free to use whatever pattern you'd like.

If this is your first time considering a project like this, there's a chance you are feeling a little overwhelmed or saying in your head, "Oh, I'm not a sewer/artist" or "I don't have a sewing machine." I've felt and said all of those things to myself as I was learning how to make stuff, too.

But really, what we're asking for is not complicated at all. Let me show you . . .

All you need is two pieces of green fabric, a pair of scissors (sharp is better but average is OK), a ruler or measuring tape, thread and a needle.tutorial2Cut out 2 squares of each fabric so that they measure 3.25 inches on both sides. Notice that my square does not have perfectly straight lines. Just do the best you can. It will be fine. You will end up with 4 squares. (If you need to err in one direction, make them a little bit bigger but all the same size.)tutorial3

Take 2 squares of opposite designs and put one on top of the other with the right side of the designs together.

Unspool about a foot (12 inches) or a little more of your thread, stick one end into the needle and pull the needle to the center of the thread. Place the two ends of the thread together and tie an overhand knot in the end.


Sew a seam .25 inches away from the edge of your two squares. Just stick the needle down from the top and up from the bottom over and over again.
tutorial5Then, pull it through. When you get to the edge of the squares, make sure that the fabric is smooth with no puckers.

To make a knot at the end, stick the tip of the needle into just a little bit of fabric and out again. Pull through until there is a loop about the circumference of a quarter.tutorial7Put the needle back through loop to make a knot. Repeat for a stronger knot.
tutorial8Repeat the process to make two rectangles.
tutorial9Place the right sides of the two rectangles together. If you can make the .25 inch seams point different directions like the picture, that will be fantastic. If it doesn't happen, don't sweat it. If you have an extra needle or a couple of pins, go ahead and stabilize your set-up before you start sewing.
tutorial10Create a .25 inch seam to sew the two rectangles together.

When you open it up, it should look like this. And that's perfect.

Of course, if you want, give us a call and we'll come over and walk you through it. In fact, that would be a whole lot of fun. :-) Otherwise, send an email or give me a call and I'll do the best I can to help you out.

We are so excited that you want to put your energy into helping us with this project and can't wait to see the fabrics you choose.


I was checking my email account for work where I am currently receiving resumes of folks who want to be teachers and this is what I saw in my inbox.

Sure enough, when I opened up the email, it turns out that he was looking for a job and had several links websites that he had created.

In all his years with internet technology, he never learned to log out when using public computers or to keep his password secret, especially from girlfriends who might become ex-girlfriends?

Monday, June 08, 2009


I'm a little mortified that yesterday, I gave a wedding videographer the finger during a reception.

Yeah. That's classy.

I was fighting with Jacob because he was taking huge bites of the piece of cake we were sharing (he'll concur with that statement) and then invaded what I had privately considered to be "my half." Of course, the fight actually stemmed out of my feelings of insecurity being at a wedding that was almost entirely attended by Jewish people and so had a completely different energy than the Christian, secular and mixed weddings I've been to. I was feeling bad because I am taking that experience away from Jacob by marrying him. It's not a rational feeling since he insists to anyone who will listen that he feels more Jewish with me than he did with any of his Jewish ex-girlfriends and that he wants the wedding that we will have, not the gorgeous wedding that his two friends had. But it's a feeling I had that followed my nervousness that all of the strangers at the wedding would be hostile towards me since I was contributing to the depopulation of the Jewish people by marying Jacob without converting. So, I flipped out about the cake.

Still, when I looked up from this very private fight that Jacob and I were having, the last thing I expected to see was one of the videographers zoomed in on us (everyone else was dancing so I am sure it was us he was filming). Since he was 20 feet away, I felt completely helpless for how to tell him to go away. Shouting would have attracted more attention, as would making big swatting "shoo" motions. I used the only silent, discreet and undeniable piece of sign language I knew.

Still, that is so not a part of my personality 99.7% of the time and I'm embarassed that it is now permanently documented and owned by someone else.

But nothing relieves private mortification like making it public and hearing other people laugh about it. Jacob and I were able to get past the cake argument in time to dance to "At Last" and laugh about it. I'm happy to report that the other videographer got that on film, too.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

This is my kind of bride

Recently, a woman on the way from her ceremony to her reception saved the lives of a family in a burning house.

"'My shoes got messed up, but what are you going to do?' Clemons said later."

Read the whole story here. (via)