Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Wedding Registry

Our decision to get married now was anything but planned. It was only after many debates that we even decided we wanted to tackle this legal debacle. Though, we've covered that previously and in hilarious detail in previous posts. Though, what we haven't talked about is how much sense this move makes to us financially. We've crunched some numbers, piled our savings, and came up with- THIS MAKES NO SENSE.  But, school, marriage, kids- we do these things because we love, not because we can afford. I don't know that we can emotionally afford not to do this. We wish we could make this happen here, but New York is the only place we can make this legal. Though, we realize that we have a large and supportive family made of people we've chosen to be in it together with us. We have cherished your input, encouragement, and relied on your support for all the challenges we've faced just trying to be in love in a world that isn't really all ready for us. So, I think we can ask for your support again.
 Most people register at Pottery Barn and Sur La Table, but, anyone who has visited us knows we don't need more things. One day, when we are getting BIG married, when it is legal in California- we'll invite everyone and join our love and our families, and by god will I register for a standing kitchen mixer! But, right now there is no where to put it, so maybe we can compromise.
  We have registered at PayPal. Please, what you would have spent on a gift, we could use in cash to pay for hotels, renting a car, taking a week-plus off of work, and all the little things. Thank you again for always being there. We'll keep you updated!

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A Loose Itenerary For NYC

  With only three weeks left to go, it seems like we should buckle down and start planning the important things- like where to eat! We're flying out 9th of October and touching down in JFK. New York City is our first stop! I've never been further East than Chicago, and all Tarra remembers about her visit to the Big Apple is being there for 5 hours, hitting the highlights, and being rushed out before nightfall hit. Though this is where we're actually going to be wed, so I think we may have to stay past nightfall this time!
  We're planning on taking the first night easy, navigating the legendary traffic to our hotel on Manhattan Island: The Bowery House. It's small, sure. It's also a hostel with a shared bathroom-but look how cuute! The next morning is reserved for finding the courthouse and obtaining our license to be married. I have never done anything like this and am expecting it to be something akin to the DMV, so our plans are open. There is a 24 hour waiting period, so we will return to the courthouse on 10-11-12 in the wedding skirts and veils we made ourselves, and the bouquets made of veggies, herbs, and flowers from whichever store we find, and our homemade love and handwritten vows to legally bind our lives and emotionally celebrate finding that one person that seems to make your future not only make sense, they make your future feel uncontrollably exciting.
  We chose the courthouse for a number of reasons, cost being a large one. Most officiants wanted $400-600 just to say those words in front of you and tell you when to kiss. Looking at the cost of what we thought a wedding should be- the dress probably the same as the officiant, lets say $500 being reasonable (for something to wear once and OH MY GOD fly on a plane!); then the bouquets $100X the both of us; veils $100X two of us; a venue- anywhere from $300 to several thousand...Somewhere along this line of thought, creating the "perfect" wedding that we were socialized to imagine, my feminist radar went off. When did love start being about how much money you could spend to make people believe your love was beautiful? Tarra's thoughts were that people felt insecure about their relationship and were compensating for it with extravagance. Whatever the sociological narrative people carry out, it just wasn't us. A simple courthouse will do, making a simple garment to celebrate made sense, flowers aren't hard to come by and my degree in art can finally be of use, and overused vows don't make much sense either- our relationship is anything but run-of-the-mill. So, fuck the system, we'll do it our way thanks, we don't want to "buy" your kind of love. I think this is where we all start chanting, "Make love, not profit!".
  Our trip to NYC will be dominated by this event, though, we thought we'd sneak a few other things in. Namely- TARRA GETS TO GO TO A BROADWAY SHOW! It'll be like glee, but with more costumes (that's how she explained it to me, I'm not much into musicals). We're going to see the Lion King the night of the 10th. Speaking of which, what the hell does one wear to that sort of thing. Speaking of THAT- I am nervous about wearing anything in New York City, I've watched enough Sex in the City to know everyone is thin and beautiful and wears $400 shoes. Right?! Anyway, the food is what's got me excited (oh, I mean besides the wedding and all). So, on the list we've got:
Posioden Bakery
Shorty's Cheesesteak
Empanada Mama
Bianca NY

  We haven't decided on a fancy one yet to celebrate our nuptuals. I mean it is NYC, the food capital of the world! We're willing to spend around $100 to taste some of the what the world's top chefs have to offer! Suggestions anyone?
  We're planning on doing some of the touristy sorts of things too, like Time's Square, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State building and such. Our last stop will be Grand Central Station. We're hoping to run into Hugo and have lunch, then hop on a train and get out of the city. Somewhere just outside the traffic, we're hoping to pick up a car and drive though some mountains to Ithaca and the Finger Lakes, but that's for another post.
  We'll nail things down solid in the next week, we both still have work, Tarra has interviews, and I have my second job- we'll get to it...we'll squeeze in the time!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Decision to go to New York

I've mentioned before that school was hard. Tarra's experience in grad school was wrought with trouble from the start.

This picture was posed, only slightly.
She was promised a full ride and a project from the get go, until it was taken back. Her first boss there was a flakey dragon lady who accused her of being flakey because while Tarra would show up to meetings they scheduled, Ms. Dragon would not. Silly Tarra did not understand that this was a carefully coded test she had been given to take more initiative and not rely on such comfy things like people keeping their word or advisers advising or giving direction. A rough start lead to rough quarters and overloads of work. I can't tell you how many times I consoled her with ice cream and bags from the grocery store filled with ranch flavored chips and candies as she tried to do 36 hours of work in 48. We even made a play list and Pandora station called "homework" filled with inoffensive background music to keep us just marginally sane.
Not much can be said for the cat's sanity.

Nothing more can be said here.
People there to support did not, and there were pitfalls in our relationship as Tarra came out to her family in the middle of it all (carefully planned around not created emotional havoc during finals). She struggled for another project, happening on one that lit her heart aflame only to be told she would find no one to fund it. She found one doing what I understand to be making poo like bubbles to more efficiently clean waste water. Days and nights were spent in the lab- weighing poo, drying poo, making graphs about poo. It was ok until the "sample" buckets came home in the trunk. She still argues that if I was allowed to tote my old compost pile in her trunk that I have no room to complain about "sample".

Her graduation was a challenge too. It had been a year since she came out, and she wanted to invite everyone to celebrate my family and hers. As expected, things did not go smoothly and feelings were hurt all around. It seemed like the universe was not on Tarra's side with this one and felt her going back to school to get a better position in the Peace Corps (giving up so much to do it) was just not noble enough and should not go unpunished. As her partner that struggled through the nights with bags of consolation candy and tears, and laughter as we measured the dimensions of a person squatting as she designed bathroom facilities for a school house in Ethipia (I am pretty sure she should be sainted or something)- it was hard for me to watch her suffer through what should have been such a happy time in her, and our lives.

Look how pretty she is!
She had helped me get to Peru to celebrate my triumph, I wanted to do something great for her. We both have a heavy case of wanderlust and talk about the places we'd like to go one day if we only had the money. I had asked her long before this if she could go anywhere right now within reason- where would it be? She answered (pretty well without hesitation) Niagara Falls. Of course she wants to go far away....ugh...why couldn't she have said "Tijuana!" But, that's her dream, I wanted to make it happen. I got to wrangling money. I cashed out my vacation fund and pinched precious dollars from my modest paychecks. I asked her friends to donate to the fund instead of buying her things (Lord does she not need more things). After it was all said and done, and the tickets were bought, I was only $50 short not bad for short notice on a minimum wage job and a handful of friends. (Thanks guys!)

I think I can see myself with you.
It dawned on us suddenly that we could get married, and the negotiations began. I'd like to tell you it was super cute and we were so excited, but I can't. We waffled and argued. If we got married there, do we want to get married here? If so, does that make our marriage there less of a marriage? Oh. My. God, which finger does the ring go on? What kind of ring symbolizes what? Wait- do we want to get married there? Does this still make sense? And on and on in circles for weeks. What we finally set upon was a series of what I would like to consider very adult compromises. Like, we'll keep our engagement rings on our fingers, use a plain ring (that we can also wear while doing messy things like working or farming) for this ceremony then boot it to the other finger as a remembrence but get a tattoo of a heart on our ring fingers because moving it after we got married in New York to save the finger for when we got married here felt impermanent and defeated the issue...Right? Oh, dear god. Sufficed to say this isn't clear and what we're doing makes as much emotional and physical sense as it is going to mean legally. What made it clear for us was borrowed a bit from a cute little movie about a lady named Sally and a fellow named Harry: We had the chance to be married there, we knew in our hearts that this was the person for us and we couldn't wait to start a family- share names, responsibility, debts, futures, all of that. We knew we couldn't miss this chance. "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

So, we decided against all good, responsible reasoning that flying across the country to enter into a place of legal and emotional limbo was where we were. We don't have the money to do this, but I don't think we can afford to pass it up. We can't have our family there and it breaks our hearts, but we hope that this blog can keep you with us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tarra's Proposal

I knew from when I picked up the rings that there could only be two possible places for me to propose to Ashley. One of those places was the top of the extravagant ancient city of Machu Picchu; a place that screams epic and romanticism. It is a place that was built to survive anything and against all odds. The other place was where I saw an exciting future flash before my eyes while looking into hers. Not as “epic” as Machu Picchu in beauty or grandeur, but just as beautiful in the fact that it was where I knew I wanted to spend the rest my life with her. This place was a cow pasture in Point Reyes on November 7, 2010 at sunset. We had gotten lost on a hike that we hadn’t planned and walked amongst angry cows and flat lands. We stopped on a hill and watched the sunset. And as I looked into her eyes and took a deep sigh, her face transformed from her 25 year old face to a beautiful old lady with visions of children and us holding hands. I was certain that day that she was the one for me. 

So I chose Point Reyes as the place where I would propose. I knew she expected me to do it in Peru, as it would have been perfect for any other couple that didn’t have the Point Reyes life changing experience. After we left all the magical places in Peru, Ashley asked me when I was going to propose, almost angry that I hadn’t done it in Peru as she had in the rainforest.

After we got back from Peru, I asked her if she wanted to take a day trip out to Point Reyes and have a picnic. We packed up a backpack, some hiking shoes, bathing suits, (I packed the ring), and the $100 bottle of wine that we bought for $30 at Grocery Outlet and went to Point Reyes. Along the way we stopped for cheese at various cheese makers and some sausage and bread and then made out way out to the beach. We did some body surfing where we both changed into and out of our bathing suits behind a rock on the beach. We ate our fancy cheese and sausage and even cracked open the wine and poured it into my plastic Nalgene bottle (because we are classy like that). 

At sunset I got down on one knee and proposed with my pre-prepared speech that I had practiced about 15 times to myself at home. The speech went something like this:
“You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.  You are the most caring, strong, intelligent, beautiful, person I have ever met.  You push me to do the right thing and think about what the consequences are of my actions; whether it be affecting the environment, other people, or myself.  I am a much healthier person now: both physically and emotionally.  I feel like I am actually myself.  You make me be a better person and I feel like I can actually be myself and do the things I want to do.  I feel like we complement each other in so many ways that I really do feel like you are my better half and I am your better half.  Together, we make the perfect person.  You are an extraordinary woman who deserves the best that life can offer and the best that things beyond this world can offer.  I am so blessed to be able to stand here today looking at the woman I love and know that we are meant to be together forever, no more, no less.  I know that we are meant to be together not only because we match so well, but because our love has never felt anything other than natural.  I look into your eyes and I see us growing old together.  From swinging a child between our linked arms to seeing your wrinkley eyes looking back at me.  That is what I saw here at Point Reyes.  I saw us growing old together and I saw how happy we were together.  This was the start for our future for me. This was the place I knew we were to be together forever.  Ashley Thomas, my owl, my love, will you marry me.”

And she said yes, both of us crying and hugging and kissing on this secluded beach. We both stood up and I sung her a medley of love songs and we slow-danced.

I am a lucky lady to have found this one. And as you read the rest of this blog about my struggles with my family, you will definitely understand that I am so very blessed to have a loving and patient fiancĂ©e. She was there through it all and has subdued her feelings about everything for me, which is something no one should have to endure. I am forever grateful for her constant love and support. And I know more now than I did when I proposed to her that she is the one for me in every aspect. She understands me and is there constantly pushing me to be the best and be treated no less than what I deserve. And I am so very excited to announce that we are getting married in New York October 11, 2012! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ashley's Proposal

The UC life had not always treated us well. For all the times we felt like we were on the precipice of realizing our fullest potential (which was three steps away from achieving world fame and Nobel prizes of various calibers), there were times where googling the LD50 dose of caffeine was a necessary precaution. There were many hours spent analyzing the splatter pattern of critical red ink across our papers that shattered our self worth, and groggy mornings spent searching for answers in half-empty red cups. We came into Davis carried by a flotilla of inflated expectations and tried to land safely along its prickly shores of hard truth. When I graduated last year, it was a triumph not only over hardships and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but of my own expectations of what I could achieve.

Our story, for this blog anyway, starts here. One year ago almost to the date. I had one last paper to write (one analyzing how drag queens call into question the assumption that gender expression is inherit). I worked into the hours of morning going to bed late, and waking early the next morning- scrambling to finish my last academic thoughts of my undergrad. Tarra awoke and went to work packing our bags and checking off our list for Peru (bless her soul for taking this on- I had a full time job and two summer courses- but she forgot my pants [we'll forget for the sake of self-respect that my college nickname makes this irresistibly funny] and I had to share hers on the trip). I wanted to do something big for myself, and Maccu Picchu on its Centennial along with the rainforest and floating islands and exotic foods and and seemed perfect! The whole trip I was so nervous though, as a tiny box wrapped in an hanky floated in the bottom of my backpack that contained a small, purposeful bit of precious metal. We had talked about getting engaged for awhile, and decided since no one felt like "the man of the relationship" we would both propose at a time undisclosed to one another. We went to a shop in Old Sacramento where a set of brothers who were 5th generation jewelers helped us design our rings. We didn't show each other the rings to keep it a surprise for when the other proposed.

To be honest, I didn't know where I would do it exactly. I had prepared a speech, but had no firm ideas about where along our trip I would pop the question. Maccu Picchu seemed epic- the view was absolutely breath taking. Though, somewhere along the way between the rude llama and the tour guide yelling in three different languages over the cell phone it became a bit tainted. The rainforest was my next bet. The three hour boat ride wasn't promising, nor were the sand flies or the hike up to the lodge. Though, as the trees parted to a clearing and the log structure on stilts appeared, my heart began a'pitter-pattin and I knew this was the place. Our "room" had no door, only a curtain. I could play toss with the room next to us as we shared a roof and our "wall" was nothing more than a partition that if you were creepily determined enough- you could find a hole and spy on the room next to you. We only had 3 of those walls as one side of the room was more a porch where we could watch monkeys carreen through the canopy of the rainforest jungle just outside. That night as we lit our candle (the hotel had no electricity after 5p.m.) and watched the fireflies drift into our room from beneath our mosquito net- I knew this was the place.

We went for a 5 hour hike to an oxbow lake the next morning. We sweated so profusely that while we were in the conoe we drew the attention of the local butterfly population who gladly consumed the salty sweat our bodies were dripping trying to keep us cool. We learned about magical wish trees, walking trees, and saw bullet ants and parrots. If there is a heaven, and it takes a physical form, I am sure it is something like this. When we got back to the hotel we showered and watched the monkeys and birds flit about just feet away. I got out first and dressed, rifling the hanky-wrapped box from the bottom of my bag I had so closely guarded for almost a week. I unwrapped it listening to the neighboring rooms hoot and holler from the shock of the cold water mingled with the cacophonous white noise of the jungle. I opened the box and set it along the railing waiting for Tarra to dress and come out. My heart pounded and the blood in my ears was deafening. I was so excited to show her how beautiful her ring turned out and to promise my life to her. I laid in bed with her worrying the whole time that some cheeky monkey would come along and snatch the shiny in the box. I whispered to her, "There's a present for you on the railing". I saw her face light up and her eyes well. We walked over to the railing and I handed her the box. I forgot my speech, and my knees felt to shakey to kneel, I could only manage, "you make me so happy" and we both fell into a puddle of happy sobs (which I am sure confused the hell out of the people around us).

This was our happiest moment together, and our first lesson on being PC about our joy. Peru isn't really on board with same sex relationships. While were in the country, we were hissed at a few times for holding hands (not that it's any better here). At dinner that night we quietly celebrated, deciding against telling anyone to avoid anything awkward that would ruin our happiness. The rest of the trip I remember Tarra exclaiming, "This is my first swim with my ring!" or "This is my first boat ride with my ring!". It was so happy, even though we had to keep quiet.

Upon returning home we lugged our things into the house (more like Tarra did most of it because I had been violently ill for weeks [I can only now barely think about or say "ceviche" without becoming physically ill]) and fell into our own bed. Tarra had to go to school the next day and that night we were going back to Berkeley to see Bon Iver (most people brought flasks- for me it was the Pepto). Our lives split again into a flurry, but something had shifted. Even though we spent nearly every moment of the day either together physically, or texting, or chatting, something felt different and more permanent. It was the most wonderfully terrifying thing. I knew she was the one for me, the mother for my children and the face I couldn't wait to watch grow old. The rest of our lives had just started, and I had never felt more sure and safe.