Sunday, March 27, 2011

Having been led by example...

My parents have been married for 48 years today. They fight sometimes. I know that they drive each other completely crazy as often as not. They each have a few habits that make the other want to commit acts of violence. But, not once in my life have I doubted that they each married their best friend. They have made it through extremely difficult times, and times that seemed easy. They have lived apart for years at a time, not because they wanted to, but because the situation demanded it, and come through it on the other side, a little rough for the wear, but no less loving. They raised 6 kids, each of whom has become successful in his or her own way.

I hadn't really though much of wedding vows til recently. They seemed just rote phrases that every couple spewed on their nuptial day. But Mom and Dad have proved them. They have loved, honored, and cherished for richer and poorer, through sickness and health, for all the days of their lives. I don't know if these are the exact vows my parents took when they eloped nearly half a century ago, but they have spend all the time since living them.

I hope that my marriage will live up to the high standard that my parents have set. I have chosen a partner who is my favourite person and my best friend. I know that we won't always see eye to eye. I know we will drive each other crazy. But I believe that there are no insurmountable difficulties ahead for us. Mom and Dad have proved that, together, all things are possible.

I cannot thank them enough.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. I love you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sticks and stones may break my bones...

I have begun to struggle with my name. Well, not MY name, but my name as it might become. If you have been reading up to this point, you are aware that I pride myself on my independence. Part of that independence came with my name. I was not one of four girls in my twenty-four-person second grade class named Jennifer. I am not one of the many Sarahs with whom I graduated. I have been and still am the only Helen in each of my social circles. I am named for my mom, so at our house, I am "Helen A" or "Little Helen" for the sake of differentiation, but mine is not a common name. My last name, too, is perfect for me.  I am not a Smith or Jones, certainly, but I have a last name that everyone can pronounce and spell correctly, and that suits me just fine. I recognize that my given name will not change, but my last name is part of my name, part of who I am. Some of my friends use my first and last name together--something like a nickname. The idea of becoming someone else freaks me out. A lot.

I know, you will argue that I don't BECOME someone else by virtue of having a different name, but I think that names speak volumes about personality. Our name is the first thing someone knows about us. Before you are asked to a job interview, a potential employer looks over your resume, which has your name in bold print right at the top. If you join a book group, the first thing you do is put your name on the list a the front of the room. Your name identifies you. Changing it is a big deal. A massive deal. I would argue that the name question is the biggest decision that has to be made between now and the day I get hitched.

I thought I had made a decision. If I change my name to his, I loose part of myself, my initals become HAG, and my name sounds like a shrivelled old lady name. If I keep my maiden name alone, I would feel like I didn't enter into this thing for real. But, if I tack on my future husband's family name with a hyphen, then badabing, I have honored him, and kept myself intact. Being a creature of immediate gratification, I was satisfied, and didn't think about it further until I went to mark a new book.

I have a monogram that I use on all my personal property: Books and CDs, dishware that gets loaned out, even all my hand tools are monogrammed with my special little mark. It probably seems trivial, but I love that little mark. When I discovered it in high school, it delighted me, and I wrote it and reworked it til I had it just right.

When I realized that my simple little monogram would have to change if I add to my name, I called my sister, who is an excellent artist, and really good at visual puzzles. I asked her to try to find a way to incorporate the "G" that would be my new initial into the monogram in a way that didn't mess with its simplicity. This led to a conversation about the impression given by a hyphenated name.

I hadn't thought of the initial impression given by a hyphenated name, partly because I have a niece and nephew whose names have been hyphenated from birth, and partly because I don't know many women who chose to hyphenate. I know several women who kept their maiden names, many who took their husbands' names, and even one who reverted back to her maiden name after her second marriage (which seemed to me to be a really cool work-around). I can't remember having been presented with a hyphenated name before meeting the person to whom it is attached.

However, when my sister and I began to discuss it, she told me that the minute she sees a hyphenated name on a woman's paperwork, she assumes that woman is a bitch who was unwilling to immerse herself completely in her marriage. I tried to argue, but if that's the impression she gets, then that's the impression she gets, and surely she's not the only one who thinks that. So, I called another sister to get an opposing view. I just asked "What do you think when you see a married woman's hyphenated name?" Her first impression is "that woman is a feminist" (it shifted to femi-nazi later in the conversation). This was NOT the way I had hoped the conversation would go. We talked about it further, and she admitted that her impression of other women's hyphenated names is part of the reason that she didn't hyphenate hers. She also has a friend who initially opted to hyphenate, but for the sake of simplicity, has since dropped her maiden name entirely. CRAP. Of course I turned to other friends to ask, each with his or her own opinions about name changes. And I read articles on wedding websites and blogs; some of which added the entirely new choice of changing both our names entirely to something that doesn't belong to either of us. HA! All this did was get me even more fired up.

I would like to state here that I am not a feminist. I am a confident, selfish woman, who wants everything to be the way I want it. The more I read, and the more I talked, the more irritated I got that I have to be the one to make this choice while my husband-to-be just gets to stay who he is, and noone questions why HE didn't decide to change his identity, why HE isn't having babies, why isn't HE wearing white, why HE isn't ordering flowers, why HE... I digress, but you catch my drift. I feel like Favourite Person has virtually no decisions put on him, while I have the motherload. I'm the one who didn't care to get married in the first place, remember?

It all comes to this: I know the choice of name is a decision only I can make. I know that everyone is going to have an opinion one way or another, and that I have to take into account or disregard those opinions as I see fit. I don't know what I'm going to do. I have a year to decide, and it will probably take all of that year, and I'm sure that whatever I decide it will be the right choice for me. I hope.

...but names will never hurt me.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Note on Perspective

I have been engaged to be married for exactly one month today. I have been alternately stressed and excited about the prospects of all the things that need to be accomplished over the next fifteen months. I have been deliberating over things like what color paper to use for invitations, whether I really need to buy a specific "wedding planner," whether flowers are really necessary to having a wedding, what is the exact protocol for a rehearsal dinner, and is it really necessary? And on and on the list goes. And while each of these things matters in its own insignificant way, ultimately, none of these things matters much after the wedding day is over.

I will continue to plan, and, no doubt, stress over these details. It's in my nature to fret over details. But occasionally the Universe has a way of dropping reminders to concentrate on the things that are really important: family, friends, home, health, and way of life; being happy with the things that are, and not borrowing trouble from things that may or may not be. I hope that I am able to remember this lesson when next I am confronted with the simple choices of table settings and caterers. Otherwise, I'm afraid the universe will drop more reminders, and, honestly, a tablecloth is just not worth that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One down. Ninety-nine to go.

My apologies for the mental vomit that occurred in yesterday's post. I had too many things in the caucus race going on in my brain, and if I didn't purge, I was going to lose it. (Apologies, again, for the mixed metaphor). Since those of you who are following this blog seem interested in the thought process, I thought I'd enlighten you. Surprisingly, that haphazard list actually seems to have helped. I am much more calm today than I was at this time yesterday.

At lunch (the time when I seem to always ambush him with wedding stuff), FP and I had a brief, but enlightening conversation about some of the issues of rentals, and how blasted expensive everything is! Those of you who might not know: it can cost $3 and more to rent a single chair for a single day. That seems preposterous to me. So I went back to an idea I had right at the very beginning of this adventure: to spend the next year collecting mismatched chairs and tables from anywhere I can find them for really, really cheap.

And, as seems to happen, once a decision has been made, it is either validated, or invalidated almost immediately. While on our way from school today, the boys and I spotted a perfectly servicable dining room chair sitting on the curb. Never one to take what doesn't belong to me, I went about some errand and returned. That chair was still waiting for me, now buried under some other stuff that was clearly set out for garbage. I unburied it, flipped it into my car, and have now officially begun the collection. This particular chair has a screw sticking out the bottom, and paint splotches of several colors on the back and the seat, but a little sandpaper, a can of spray paint, and an hour of time, and I've got a lovely chair that matches absolutely nothing. It's perfect.

One down, ninety-nine to go.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pinwheels, Rainbows, and Rings

Pinwheels, Flowers, Flagstones, Concrete, Steps, Kennels, Grey chiffon, Rainbows, Colorful spines, Shirtsleeves, Extreme Bocce, Pizza, Blue Hat, Flat shoes, Poker, Cheese tray, Lemonade, Rain delay, Parking, Chipotle, Beer, Wine, Booze, Dog poo, Picnics, Veggies, Chickens, Kitchen, Toilets, Paint, Shelves, Freezer, Pepsi, Bilbo Baggins, Rings, Tents, Favors, Bowing out, Music, Elves, Umbrellas, Tableclothes, Chairs, Fonts, Stamps, Sanding, Citronella, Chiggers, Mosquitos, Parents, Hotels, Honeymoon, Passports, Bonfire, S'mores, Hot dogs, Printers, Steps, Dancing, String bands, Mad-libs, Scrabble, Dishes, Officiant, Stain, Friends, Candy, Jam, Ring Bears, Programs, Flower girls, Help, Money, Marriage, Love, Life, Lists.