Friday, January 27, 2006

The wedding, the cruise...

Whew! It's over :) ...but it's over :(
-Here's a synopsis...

Thursday, January 12:
I got home from work and immediately started packing what I could. For the most part I had my clothes packed from earlier in the week, but I needed to gather up jewelry and other odds and ends. I also had to test-fit the recently picked up dry cleaning stuff to see if it'd fit in our garmet bag, finish up some last-minute laundry, etc. Soon, Ed came home and we left to drop the dog off at the vet for boarding and grab the last chicago-style pizza we'd have for a week (Oh noes!).

But since we chose Giordano's , Ed had to have some last-minute Cold Stone ice cream as well. When we were done there, we climbed back into the car and started back towards home to finish packing and get to bed. 1 block later I remembered that we needed to pick up a new garmet bag since our old one was too small, so off to Target we went. At 9:50pm (10 minutes before closing) we stood at the checkout panting, but with a (pretty nice) garmet bag on wheels in tow.

We got home and packed until 1am when we both collapsed onto the bed from exhaustion.

Friday, January 13:
Around 9am we woke up, packed up the last-minute items and then headed out to return our rental car (our WRX was in the shop due to an accident on New Year's Eve), then we had to mail a rebate for Ed's phone and pick up some cash for the trip. We got back around 10am and I remembered that I needed to send out my Thank-You cards for all my shower gifts! So, we addressed the envelopes, put stamps and return address stickers on them (assembly line style) and threw them in our carry-on hoping to find a mailbox somewhere. Just as we were finishing up the taxi arrived (early), so Ed started bringing out the luggage as I finished up the thank-you's and turned off all the lights. I then locked the doors ran out of the house before they left without me ;)

As we headed towards the expressway I checked to make sure we had the unreplaceables -the cruise tickets, our passports, etc. They were there. Anything else we forgot we could buy in Miami or on the ship, right? :P

As the taxi driver got on the on-ramp for I-88 he quickly slowed down and brought the car to a stop on the shoulder. "Don't worry" he said. Mmm... too late. What's up? -He turned the car off, then back on and headed back on the ramp. Soon after getting onto I-88 he pulled over again. Turns out he just got his car back from the shop where they replaced his transmission. Well, he's still having problems. It sometimes refuses to shift and he has to turn the car off then back on (resetting the TCU) and try again. Well, all the way to the airport whenever he slowed down (for tolls or whatever), he'd have to play with it. It was annoying, but I felt bad for the guy -I mean, his car is is livelyhood and he looses more money than just the cost of repairs when it's in the shop. We left ridiculously early anyway, so it was no big deal. I tipped him well for getting us there dispite the trouble with his car and for helping us with all of our heavy luggage.

By the time we got to the airport, the drizzle that just started as we got into the taxi turned to a full-blown snowstorm. I hoped it wouldn't delay our flight as we checked in via the automated system, turned over our luggage, slid through security, and headed for Chili's to eat lunch with inadequate plastic utensils. (We were hungry, though, so it didn't really matter.) After lunch, Ed hit Starbucks to get the last of his essentials before roughing it for a week :P -then we picked up a some Mrs. Fields cookies to eat on the plane and headed for our gate.

Soon after finding a place to sit at the gate, my Mom, Dad, Jeff, Grandma, and Aunt Dolores arrived there as well. Boarding was starting as they arrived, so they wolfed down some McDonalds and then we started thinking about joining the line of people waiting to board the plane. Takeoff was still about a half-hour away yet, so my Dad went for a last-minute potty break. Shortly afterwards, my brother decided he'd go too.

A few minutes later Jeff returns. "Where's Dad?" -My Mom goes into a panic and she and Jeff run towards the bathroom while Ed and I sit with my Grandma and Aunt Dolores. My Mom returns, still no Dad, so she goes back to continue looking. Ed and I think about getting the girls on board since it'll take my Grandma awhile to get to her seat, but my Mom has their boarding passes. Grr. So, I start looking for my Dad too. There's so many people... I go back to the gate. Still no Dad. Ed's getting nervous now... As we talk about what to do, they announce last-call for boarding -they're going to give our seats away to stand-by's if we don't get on in the next few minutes. Great! So, I run down the hall looking for everyone while dialing my brother's cell phone. He picks up, I tell him what's going on -they still haven't found my Dad yet. I go back to the gate and Ed's talking to the lady behind the counter, but there's nothing they can do. They need everyone on board now or they'll give away our seats. Then I spot my Mom, Dad, and Jeff walking towards the gate. "Run!" I yell as they make the final call for passengers. They got there just in time. Whew!

So, we all settled into our seats for the flight and calmed down after that bit of excitement. Our flight time comes and goes while we sit and wait. "Hurry up and wait" is the motto of all travelers. I didn't let it get to me. It turned out we were waiting for the plane to be de-iced. When that was done, we got in line for take-off. As soon as we were up in the air we all relaxed with whatever diversion we brought with us -Ed on his laptop, me on my Palm, Jeff on his bean (an mp3 player).

We landed in Florida about a half-hour late, picked up our luggage, and got 2 taxis to bring us to the hotel. Once there we checked in, dropped off the huge mountain of luggage, and then grabbed 2 more taxis to go to Chili's for dinner.

Now, we chose Chili's just because we saw it on the way from the airport and they have a wide variety of food, so we figured it'd be the most convenient. Well, when the taxi pulled up to the restaurant we all just about died, the entire parking lot was full -I mean FULL of teenagers. The taxi couldn't hardly pull in because there were so many of them. So, we had to pick another place to eat. We chose a steak place which ended up being a lot like Texas Roadhouse, and everyone enjoyed it.

After dinner, we got 2 more taxis to get back to the hotel, then we all split up and went to bed. It'd be an early morning for all of us -especially Mom and I since I had an 8:30am appointment to get my hair and makeup done by Panache solon (near the pier).

Lying in bed was the first time I had a chance to really think about the fact that I was getting married. Nervousness started to set in. I tossed and turned a little, but luckily I was exhausted and eventually fell asleep.

Saturday, January 14:
When the alarm went off it was rush time again. I quickly got dressed in jeans and a zip-front shirt and met my Mom to grab a quick continental breakfast before heading to Panache salon in yet another taxi. This cab driver set herself apart, though. The entire ride was spent listening to horror stories about her children's weddings (that is, in-between her many many phone calls from her son). Bleh, but we got to the salon with a little time to spare.

When the hairdresser came in, she had me take a seat in her chair and she handed me two hairstyle books that looked like they came from the 1980's. The page she opened one of them to showed a bunch of up-do's -not what I was looking for. I ended up just explaining that I wanted maybe some curls and for her to somehow eliminate the harsh middle part in my hair. She immediately gathered the hair around my face and pulled it back and up just a little and said "what about something like this?". It looked nice, so we went with that.

For the next half hour I sat there while she sprayed small sections of hair with gallons of hair spray, curled it, sprayed it some more, then moved onto the next little section of hair. When she was done I had a beautiful helmet. No, really, it was beautiful! She even created these little florets of hair in the back -she did a really good job. And the hair wasn't going anywhere! -Which was good, 'cause it was really windy that day in Miami! (Actually, we lucked out because it was supposed to be rainy!)

After the hair was done, the makeup lady came to get me. I sat down in her chair surrounded by posters of women who looked like this. "How you wanna look?" she asked. "Uh... natural." I said while thinking about just how ironic it was that I was spending $80 for someone to make me look "natural". Anyway...

First she puts this lotion all over my face, then she dabs it off with some cheesecloth (or, at least, that's what it looked like). Next, she applies a gel all over. Then we get to the foundation, which was fine until she stuck her little foam applicator thingy up my nose -a little weird... I just sat there thinking that all those Hollywood people have to go through this at least once a day. I dunno if I could stand all that. Anyway, in the end she did a great job although it was weird looking at myself in the mirror -I looked like a porcelain doll!

We tipped both ladies, then decided to buy the lip gloss she used on me since the wedding was about 4 hours away. $28 later (for lip gloss!!!) we caught another taxi and headed for the pier. It was a short ride. We found our gate and waited for the rest of the family who arrived shortly after us.

When everyone was there and our baggage was checked, we headed upstairs to wait to board the ship. When we got there we found that Ed's family was already there. We took a minute to hug each other -we hadn't seen Doug and Yolanda in over a year, and it had been 6 months or so since we saw "Mom" or Sharon. After the hello's we introduced them to my family, and we all stood around talking and getting aquainted with one-another. No suprise that Jeff and Doug got along so well...

Soon Sue and Skip and their clan showed up (I was a little worried about them getting there since Keith didn't get into Ft Lauderdale until 9am) then we were herded to wait in a line. (During all of this we met our wedding coordinator who was a really nice girl, and our officiant who was also very nice. They went through how boarding and the ceremony would work, and the coordinator took down our request for wedding music and took really good care of the less moble people in our group.)

Eventually they let us through security and into registration. Our party got to go first since we had the earliest wedding. After getting through all that we waited some more (all this waiting resulted in Doug and my Dad getting a little silly. At 12:30pm we were finally allowed on the ship. That left us exactly a half hour to get to our rooms, change, and then get to the chapel.

Ed and I quickly dressed, then he headed to the chapel as instructed. I was to stay until the wedding coordinator came to get me. It seemed like forever sitting there waiting with nothing to do but get more and more nervous. -There was no time for worrying while rushing to get onboard, but now... Eventually there was a knock on the door, and we talked about how much she loved my Dad on the way to the chapel. We stopped short of the chapel where I met the photographer, Vlad, and he took a few pictures. Then it was up to the chapel -my Mom was just arriving; she was a wreck! -in full panic mode again. She started crying as she said "You're beautiful!" then she totally broke down about forgetting her camera in the stateroom. "Don't worry" I said -there was a professional photographer, plus Doug, Sue, Jenny, and Sharon were all taking pictures too!

They were still working on getting my Grandma and my Dad up the stairs on a chair-lift, so I had to stand out of the way and wait. I continued getting nervous while peeking at the chapel full of relatives. The officiant came out and explained that I'd walk out with my Dad, stop when he told me to, then he'd ask "Who gives this woman to this man", my Dad would say "I do" (he's been practicing for weeks now), then my Dad would kiss me, I'd take Ed's right hand (or was it the left), then turn around and stand on his left (or was it right?) with my ? hand on his ? arm.

Well, none of it went quite as planned, but it all worked out. Slightly misty (Marines don't cry), my Dad gave me away, I eventually got into the proper position, and the ceremony went on. It was quite nice. The officiant was great (although I was sometimes distracted by smiling for the photographer). We exchanged rings and vows, kissed, and walked out of the chapel as man and wife. -It still sounds weird saying that.

After walking back down the aisle and out of the chapel, we were ushered back in for more pictures. Stand here like this, smile. Now put your hand here, the bouquet there -smile. Now, come over here. And on and on. "Okay now to the reception."

The reception was held in Cloud Nine lounge -a pretty place with windows overlooking Miami and the harbor below. As soon as we got there, they lead us to the cake. After a quick picture of just the cake, it was time for a picture of us before cutting the cake. Then as we started cutting the cake. With the cake cut. Ready to feed each other the cake. Feeding each other the cake...
Then someone said "Come on, this is far too civil." -That's all Ed needed to hear, so he proceded to try to put the remaining cake DOWN MY DRESS!!! Luckily, with a few quick threats, I got him to stop short of actually doing it. There is a picture of that too, of course. :-P

After that came the toast, which my Dad made. Followed by his toast, Ed's Mom welcomed me to the family, which was sweet. A few others made short comments, then straight on to pictures of us with various family members. (Although I'm disappointed we never got Sharon in one of the family pictures...)

Anyway, after the family pictures Vlad sold us on another hour of photography around the ship. I'm very happy we did that, 'cause the pictures turned out great! (You can see all of them here.) So, we got about 1 minute to wolf down some cake before bringing everyone down to a staircase mid-ship for a group picture. On the way we took several pictures next to an old car and in front of a cafe. The group shot took awhile to compose, but worth the work 'cause it came out great too!

After the group shot, the family was free to explore the ship. We did the same, but lead by the photographer and at a lightning pace! We visited the dungeon, where we took humerous pictures, Boleros bar, the helicopter pad, the casino, the dining room, and a few other places. When our hour finally came to an end I thought my feet were going to fall off and I was unsure how the pictures would turn out. They ended up being beautiful, though IMO.

When all that was done we went straight to our cabin and... changed. :-P Then we explored the ship. At 4:30pm the muster drill was called. We grabbed our life jackets and met everyone else at our muster station. After that, the ship left Miami, so we went outside with Sharon to watch land slip out of sight behind us.

It was nice meeting up with everyone again at dinner although Sonny and Kay had been given an early dining time, so they weren't with us. We got the head waiter to change them over to our table during late dining for the rest of the trip, though.

After dinner Ed and I walked down the promenade, which looks like a city street, but it's on the inside of the ship (the Navigator of the Seas). When we got there, there were a whole bunch of people crowding around. We stuck around to see what was happening, it ended up being a Bon Voyage parade!

When that was done, we went outside to get some air. The full moon was out. It was a beautiful night. We both got some pictures and talked about how great everything worked out.

Sunday, January 15:
This was a full day at sea. We spent the day exploring, taking in a show at the Metropolis theater, buying art (a Brodinsky), etc.

Monday, January 16:
We didn't arrive in Puerto Rico until 2pm, so we had the morning to relax and eat a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer restaurant. As we came into port, Ed and I grabbed his Mom and brought her up to an outside deck to get a nice view of San Juan. When we docked, Ed's Mom went with Doug and Yolanda while Sharon came with us to tour Old San Juan. We did a little shopping, then went to fort San Christobal.

After we'd seen everything there, we did some more shopping, then Sharon took off for the casino while Ed and I toured around some more. We went to a small park, saw some statues, and took pictures of the ship at night.

Eventually, it came time to get back on the ship, and we had dinner, then got our stuff ready for our dive early the next morning.

Tuesday, January 17:
The alarm went off at an hour that was never meant to be seen by vacationers. Luckily, the excitement of our first "real" dive enabled us to get out of bed, grab our gear, and meet the other divers at the onboard dive shop.

At the ship's dive shop we rented 3mil shorties for $10 apiece. The rest of our equipment we rented from the land-based dive shop, Water World Outfitters. After getting off the ship, we did a brief stop at their store for some people to pick up masks, snorkels, and fins, then we headed for the dive boat "Reef Safari" owned by Underwater Safari.

On the boat, our equipment was all set up already. The Dive Master showed each of us to a BC (buoyancy control vest) and tank that would fit them and we were underway. From here we had no idea what to do, so we just watched everyone else. We unpacked our bag, piled our mask, snorkel, and fins out of the way, clipped our whistle and Sensus Pro's (dive loggers, they record our depth, etc for future review) to our BC's with some carabiners I brought along, and I put my EMT shears, flashlight, and DiveRite (waterproof) notepad in my BC pocket. The safety sausages (signaling devices) we brought we left behind -I had no idea where to clip them. We figured we'd play with them next time we went to the quarry.

After getting all that settled, the DM (Dive Master) started handing out weight. Neither Ed nor I knew how much we needed, so he made his best guess. I (5'2", 135lbs) had 12lbs, which was perfect. Ed ended up needing 2lbs more on the 2nd dive, but that's still pretty accurate! Next came the pre-dive briefing which we listed to as we started getting into our wetsuits. The DM explained that there were something like 18 divers on board, 6 students and 12 certified divers. We'd dive as 2 groups, each going a different direction on both dives. We would do both a reef dive and a wreck dive without the boat moving in-between.

Soon after he was done talking, we arrived at our dive spot where we were the 3rd boat I think. The other boats just had snorkelers aboard, so the area wasn't croweded at all. Ed and I started gearing up. When I was ready, the DM checked me over, I checked my pressure guage (3100psi) and jumped in. The water was a nice warm 80 degrees. Shortly after I was in, Ed jumped in, and we switched from our reg to our snorkels to conserve air while the others got in the water.

When everyone was in, the DM gave us the okay to go down. Happily, I had no trouble with my ears and was able to descend easily. After getting close to the bottom, Ed and I adjusted our BC's to get neutral, then the DM signaled for our group to follow him. The "reef" was basically a pile of rocks with some coral and sponges growing on them. There was enough to see, but it wasn't nearly as nice as some I've seen snorkeling. We saw plenty of yellowtails, though, along with some squirrelfish, a big blowfish, and a small sea turtle! There were some bright purple sponges (at least I think they were sponges), coral, sea fans, etc that made for nice scenery too. We toured around a bit, then our ascent was slow. Max depth was around 65 feet and we were down for about 40min including a 3min safety stop.

After surfacing both Ed and I had big grins on our faces. We climbed back on the boat, then headed for a sunny spot to warm up. After a short break while the DM and his assistant switched our BC's to fresh tanks, we put the equipment back on, Ed got 2 more pounds of weight, and we jumped off the other side of the boat for the wreck dive.

The wreck we dove, the DM told us, was a drug boat sunk by the coast guard in about 80-100 feet of water. After a hurricane threw it up on land, in ended up back in the water where it now sits in 3 pieces at about 40-50 feet. It turns out it was really the Cartanza, a WWI steamer. Anyway...

A short swim brought us to the hull where Ed gave me "ok" signs with both hands and had a big grin on his face that could be seen, even behind his regulator! We toured it for awhile and saw lots of sargeant major fish swimming around. Some coral had started to grow on the boat, but not a whole lot.

After touring the hull, the DM banged his tank to signal us to follow him again. This time we saw the engine room. 2 engines were clearly visible (Ed and I are car geeks, so we thought they were cool) and as we were looking around someone ahead was pointing at something down inside the wreck. We swam towards them and finally I saw what they were pointing at. It was a barracuda -about 3 feet long! He poked his head out from down inside the wreck and slowly swam out so I could get his picture! ;-)

After that one by one we made our way over to the engine room where the ship had been broken in two. During the briefing for this dive, the DM explained that there was a small swim-through -entirely optional. We just had to swim inside an empty room about 8 feet square, the DM was inside standing under the 2.5-3 foot hole. We swam up to him, took a deep breath to start ascending up towards the hole, and the DM gave our tank a little push to help us out. It was easy, and a lot of fun. When everyone had gone through the DM banged his tank again and we headed to the 3rd piece of the ship for a quick look. There we saw more yellowtails, sargeant majors, and more purple sponges.

Another bang signaled that it was time to head back to the boat. As we swam we heard a low humming noise and everyone started looking around. It grew louder and louder and finally I saw a boat moving fast straight above us. We had no dive flag -I assumed the area was marked off so that boats didn't go through it, but I guess not! Anyway, we were still at about 30 feet, so we were all fine, but it was a little scary!

The rest of the swim back was non-eventful and we slowly ascended as we swam so when we got back to the boat we just held our safety stop. After that we boarded the same as before and Ed and I agreed we'd be diving again ASAP -we both had a great time!

When we got back, we went back to the ship to change, then headed to Charlotte Amelie for more shopping. When we were tired of that, we went back to the ship and got washed up for dinner, but not before stopping at a Cold Stone Creamery near the pier for some ice cream. (Who knew there'd be one in St Thomas!)

Wednesday, January18:
We arrived in St Maarten early and had plans to go on a bus tour with both sides of the family. My Dad, however, had a "bad night", so he slept all day and my Mom took the day for herself (it did her a world of good too!) So after a room service breakfast, Ed, Sharon, Jeff, and I took my Grandma, Aunt Dolores, and Ed's Mom on the bus tour instead. It was an entertaining ride; St Maarten is an interesting island. During the ride we got a feel for how the islanders live, then we stopped on the french side for some shopping.

We went through a mall, then to an open-air market where my Grandma was looking for a specific kind of bag to bring back for my Aunt Del and Aunt Marie. Well, in the quest we lost Ed, Sharon, and his Mom. And Jeff was off buying a beautiful ring for some lucky girl, so I was left to watch the clock and get us back to the bus on time. Well... I didn't. I got back late, but the driver waited for us (and we weren't the last ones on the bus either).

The next stop was a lookout where only Ed, Sharon, and I got out. It was nice, though, and Ed made friends with one of the island's many stray dogs. After that the driver brought us to the shopping district on the Dutch side where Ed, Sharon, Mom, and I got off. Gram and Dolores wanted to go back to the ship (I think they felt they were a burden -they were not). Jeff stayed with them.

When we were done shopping, we took a water taxi back to the ship to go relax before the ice show. Who ever heard of an ice skating show on a cruise ship, but hey -we had to go. I mean Ed's Mom, my Grandma, and my Aunt Dolores are big ice skating fans, so this was not to be skipped!

After the show was dinner, and we all agreed that we had had a whirlwind of a few days there. Luckily, the next day was another day at sea so we could take it a little easier and just relax. We got a jump on the relaxation by sitting in the hot tub for awhile after dinner with Jeff.

Thursday, January 19:
Ah, a day at sea. We all needed it. Ed and I slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, and then met up with my Mom, Grandma, Aunt Dolores, Jeff, and Kay on the promenade. It turned out they were going to bingo, so Ed and I followed. I spent $35 on cards and won absolutely nothing. Neither did anyone else. Jeff provided entertainment, however. He played bingo whenever he could throughout the trip, and by the end I think he started everyone saying "Yes!" everytime they got a number (any number). It was his shtick.

His other shtick, which did not catch on, was ripping limbs off his stuffed dog. -I guess they handed these dogs out or sold them at one of the first bingo games. The dog was good for a free card at each bingo game. It was supposed to bring him luck and Jeff thought he'd increase his odds by threatening the dog that he'd rip off a limb for each round of bingo he didn't win. Well, it didn't work. By the end of the cruise there was nothing left of the dog, and Jeff never did win a game. :(

Anyway, we spent the rest of the day at another art auction (we bought another piece of art, a Gockel this time) and doing similarly mellow activities.

After dinner we got together with the photographer, Vlad to go over our pictures. I was genuinely worried about them 'cause I usually take such bad pictures, but they turned out wonderfully. He even made us a slideshow which blew me away. When we were done going through the prints, we discussed what prints we wanted, and ended up leaving it in his hands after he got an idea of what we wanted to give to our parents, etc. When he wrote up the total cost I about died, but in the end it was worth it. I really love the pictures and the slide show, as I said is amazing.

When we left Vlad, it was about 1am and we were exhausted, so we went straight to bed.

Friday, January 20:
We woke up at about 9am and headed down to breakfast. On the way we saw Vlad in the centrum selling those 3D pictures in a glass cube things. We went down to say "hi" and ask him if he slept at all. "Does it look like I slept?" was his answer. Wow. The staff on cruise ships really put in the hours -and for 7 days a week! Plus, you never see anyone without a smile on their face. Anyway, we watched him manually editing each dot for one of those 3D crystal images on his laptop before the data was fed into the "printer". It's crazy how much work goes into those things. Well, Vlad's a perfectionist. Still, my brother bought a $25 keychain with a 3D image of his head in it for some girl's Mom. To think that hours of editing went into it... $25 almost seems unreasonable cheap!

We eventually did make it to breakfast, and the ship arrived in Nassau at about 1pm. Before getting off we met up with Jeff, so we ventured out together in search of a beach to spend our last day on. We found the free beach, but our attempt at finding rental equipment for snorkeling failed. No biggie. We set our stuff down in the sand, and headed for the water. It was cold!

The water in St Thomas was 80*F. This water was more like 70 I think. But we got used to it and ended up sitting in the water for quite awhile skipping rocks, splashing each other, just soaking up the sun, taking goofy pictures, and watching Jeff put coral up his nose.

Eventually we moved onto a quick bit of shopping, then headed to Senor Frog's for some lunch. The food wasn't bad (there sure was enough of it!) but it was kinda expensive -$72 for 3 people, no alcohol. I don't think I'll be going back there.

Anyway, after that we went back to the ship and washed up. When we were back out and about on the ship we ran into Vlad in the photo gallery while picking up some prints we had ordered. He was "printing" the crystal cube pictures. We got to watch. It was really neat to see.

When the crystal was on it's way to completion, Vlad told us that our pictures were ready and asked if we had brought along a bag to carry them back in. We had not, so we ran back up to the room and grabbed a bag from our stateroom that was about the size of a paper grocery bag. When Vlad saw that he laughed and said maybe he could find something else in the back. He disappeared behind the photo desk, and came out a little while later with our bag, another (bigger) bag, and a box full of stuff for us. Plus our other prints. Wow! -We had no idea we were getting so much stuff!

We got 2 silver frames, 4 portfolios, 2 large photo albums, 4 small photo albums, 3 complete sets of pictures, plus selected 8x10's and various other prints AND the negatives, the slide show, and all the pictures on CD. Whew!

We brought it all up to the room and quickly sorted the 5x7 pictures into 3 seperate sets to give out (1 to my Mom, one to Ed's Mom). Then we headed to dinner where we invited our families back to our cabin after dinner. My Grandma and Aunt Dolores opted out -they were pooped, but my Mom, Ed's Mom, and Sharon made it. We showed them all the slide show, then gave them the pictures and a small photo album.

Everyone loved the pictures as much as we did and after watching the slideshow a few times I've realized something. All along throughout the planning of the wedding I kept thinking of the event as a formality. Ed and I already lived together and we were already committed to each other, so I saw little significance to the wedding. After the fact, however, especially after viewing the slideshow which really touched me, I do see the significance. Both to us and to our families. It's an event that I'll never forget. -My love for Ed hasn't changed, but is made more significant somehow by... not only the ceremony itself, but the two families meeting each other, how well everyone got along... I don't know, but it was kinda sad to see the week come to an end.

But come to an end it did. We said our good-byes to Ed's family, then after everyone left our room we scrambled to get everything packed. The deadline for getting your luggage out in the hall to be collected was midnight and I think we got ours out at 11:59pm! We skipped our showers and fell into bed. In the morning the alarm went off at 6:30am and we got dressed, packed up our last-minute items, and met the family to wait for our luggage tag color to be called so we could get off the ship.

When we were called, we went down to baggage claim to collect our luggage. We got everything but our garmet bag and my Mom's big suitcase fairly quickly, but we waited and waited for those last two items. Eventually, new luggage tag colors started coming out. We started to get worried, and sent people to check the other carrousels for our missing luggage. Soon we found that others with our color were missing their luggage too. Royal Caribbean employees were notified and were making efforts to find our luggage. As we debated what time we'd be forced to leave for the airport to avoid missing our flight, our garmet bag turned up. We waited some more for my Mom's big suitcase, but we ended up having to leave before it was found. (In a way it was a good thing. The suitcase was overweighted, so my Mom had to pay $50 extra for American Airlines to fly it to Miami with us. So, since Royal Caribbean had to ship it to her, it saved her $50!)

The next step was boarding a bus to the airport. That went smoothly, thank goodness, as did check-in at the airport. We arrived at our gate as boarding was started -we had just enough time to grab some pizza to eat on the plane. Baggage claim at OHare went smoothly as well. From there Ed and I said goodbye to everyone, called a cab, and started for home.

Once home we debated going straight to bed (at 3:30pm!) vs grabbing something to eat. We decided to eat, but still ended up in bed fairly early. The next morning was laundry day. Back to the real world...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wedding bands turned out nice!

We got our wedding bands from Bruce Boone last week ( They are beautiful. I got a good picture of them too:

Mine fits inside of Ed's, which is oddly amusing. Anyway, to see the full size, click here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wow! Been busy...

The wedding:
For those of you out there who are single -don't get married. No matter how "simple" you think your ceremony's going to be it's a big PITA. Live in sin for as long as possible. If the day comes where you realize how much cheaper your auto insurance, health insurance, etc will be if you get married, then proceed with your pracitical position on the matter and arrange some time at the local courthouse. If you want it to be special, book $50 rt airfare to Vegas and have Elvis marry you. All other options suck.

Every step of the planning has been painful. We originally decided to do the ceremony on a cruise because it'd make the planning much easier. No hall to book, reception, etc. They even take care of the flowers! What we didn't anticipate was: our original date, the one we put on our wedding announcements/invitations to be changed -the ship was chartered. Getting my grandma a passport being a big hassle. I think we started the paperwork in October, then found out that she didn't have a birth certificate 'cause she was born at home. Wait, no, she has one, but it's just a copy, we need a certified copy. We got that from Springfield in November and sent off for the passport. The post office delayed the application, she still doesn't have it. I just checked the law and it turns out they postponed it until next year. She could sail with a certified copy of her birth certificate. But, guess what? It was sent off with the passport application! So, we're 2 weeks away from sail date -everyone on the edge of their seat waiting for it to arrive in the mail. -I can just see us sailing away, leaving her on the dock. :-(

Blah. What else? Everything with the Travel Agent was a nightmare. I don't know how many times I had to ask her to put us down for late seating for dinner. Every invoice said "Early". Luckily, our tickets confirm we're set for the late as we wanted. The TA sent out reminder cards to all our guests with the wrong groom's name. I called and politely told her about it. She appologized profusely and I dropped it. The day before the next post cards were to go out, I reminded her about the groom's name and she said it wouldn't happen again. Well, guess what? Yep, 2nd post card goes out with the same (WRONG) groom's name. Geez! Then there's hotel reservations, renting medical equipment for Ed's mom, trying to arrange a pre-cruise dinner in Miami the night before the cruise, just a ton of little details...

But, we're finally ready I think. It's January 2nd and we just picked up my jewelry and Ed's shirt and tie for the wedding. Wednesday I get my dress back from the tailor (I'm shaped funny apparently). Next weekend we'll throw everything we own in a suitcase or two and head to Miami.

Left to do: Wait for a whole bunch of stuff for diving to be delivered. Stupid Xmas. I couldn't order anything I needed until Xmas was done incase I got some of it as gifts (I did, thanks Mom!). Make sure Ed has dress shoes -he's not sure. Make sure I have dress shoes -I'm not sure. (We're not "dress up" people.) Learn to walk in the thong heels I bought for the wedding. (Stupid, I know, but they're so cute!)

I know what you're thinking... They're green!?! Yep. I'm not one to do things "normal". My dress is white, fear not. It's actually just a white cotton sundress with a hawaiian hibiscus pattern in white on it. It's simple and pretty (like me?). *Smile*.

So, hair and makeup need to be scheduled, we need to pre-register, get the bus tour of St Maarten reserved for the whole family. Find out if we need to do anything before showing up at the airport (Am I the only one that finds e-tickets confusing?)

Oh yeah! The rings. Doh. We procrastinated due to some money issues when Ed was out of work, but since he's now much more happily employed at Performix (at least I think that's their name) we finally sent off for our rings. They're matching, titanium with a band of "mokume" -a japanese art form of folding different metals to make them look like wood grain when cooled. They're pretty cool. Once again, we're ordering from Boone. See them here: Hopefully they'll get here in time. We do have cheap rings in the wings just in case, but I don't want the "real" ones sitting on our doorstep while we're on vacation...

I have to get my nails done. Ew. I'm not looking forward to that at all! I can't stand to file my nails. I've never been able to do it -it makes shivers run down my spine.

My Mom and I are grating on each other. Wow. Now that she's retired she's calling me every day at work. Besides that she's telling everyone that my Dad's delusional and he's not. Every time he gets mad and starts yelling, if I take him to a quiet place and try to figure out what he's trying to say, it makes sense -like one of his new meds seems to be making him dizzy or shaky.

Well, he's still weak on the right side and his speach hasn't improved, but it looks like his meds are finally straightened out as far as his mood goes. I mean, he's still grouchy at times, but he's in a frustrating situation not being able to speak and my Mom drives him crazy at times too.

It's, well, interesting. I mean, we're getting sued by the State's Attourney, CUB, the ICC. We've also filed for bankruptcy, but they say that it'll all get straightened out.

The Cars:
The Eclipse is still Engineless, but we talked to Mitch a few days ago and it should be ready by February. It would have been ready about now, but we agreed to some changes that'll take a little more time. In the meantime I'll be bugging Ed to get working on the fuel upgrades, getting the front mount in -or at least figuring out the routing for the pipes. He can get the oil sump in and the hoses run as necessary... This car HAS to be up by the Shootout in August or we'll never hear the end of it!

My Laser is still broken. All it needs is the new(ish) transfer case installed and the new driveshaft bearings. The parts are on the way to do that. It's taken me, what, 4 months to get them ordered? Bleh. I'm just so sick of working on the thing. Everytime I think it's fixed something else breaks. I guess that's how it goes with a 14 year old car. But it's a lot of fun when it works. I just need to drive it again and I'll love it again, but for now it's referred to as the POS.

The WRX... click here for a pic, but it's BIG For those of you on dial up or who are too lazy to click the pic, the WRX is no longer in it's previous shape. The whole front end has been, er, "reconfigured" to take up less horizontal space. Okay, we got in an accident. On New Years Eve. Out partying? Nope, we're old, remember? We were coming back from my Mom's place at about 9pm -to get home before the "crazies" hit the road, and about a mile from their house we were sitting at a light on Blakhawk waiting to turn left onto Sauk Trail -the light was green, but we couldn't turn 'cause there was a car stalled in the intersection heading South on Blackhawk. The light turned red, so we stayed put. Traffic started moving around the stalled car, then the kid got it started and darted forward. A guy in a SUV was unable to see him until it was too late. BAM! The kid was T-boned by the SUV and then he ran head-on into us. Lovely. Why did it have to happen in this car? It's 6 months old!

The Jeep: What can I say, its still running. The only one, in fact, that we own that still works. Bleh. It also still sucks to drive with those huge knobby tires -great in the mud! Lousy for gas mileage and generally driving around, but at least it works.

Ed got certified in October, I was certified about 7 years ago, but until now never had anyone to go with. I went with him to the classes, pool session, and even on the Open Water dives in the quarry. It was a good refresher for me since it had been so long since I dove. We both did really well and are quickly accumulating all the little stuff we need to dive in St Thomas. -We're renting all the equipment, but there's a bunch little stuff that I wanted for safety before we jump in the big scary ocean :-P

I got a new digital camera -an Olympus C-5000 for super cheap on eBay plus an underwater housing for it so I can bring it diving with us. I've played with it a little on land and it takes good pictures -sometimes. The exposure and focus are tricky. Hopefully my underwater shots will turn out...

As far as my gallery goes... I don't know what I'm going to do about this, but the database is messed up again. It's all there and working, but I can't add any pics. Ed's current solution is to re-create it all. There's probably hudreds of pics in there right now! The pictures are still there, I'd just have to re-do all the captions, titles, etc. Grr... That's a lot of work. I'm not sure if I'm going to do that and then we'll start backing it up before he playes with potentially database-corrupting updates, changes, whatever -or maybe I'll just start using something without a database. A photoblog would kinda work, but I liked the Gallery layout. I'll probably go back to it. I just don't want to think about all the work involved. :-(

Xmas / Shower:
Another Xmas over with. This one was particularly stressful since I knew my Mom's side of the family was also throwing me a wedding shower. Ugh. I hate being the center of attention like that. Turned out my Dad's side did the same thing. But, we got through it and got some lovely things to boot! The gift Ed likes best is the breadmaker I think. He's made 3 loaves of bread in the 9 days that we've had it!

So, that's why this blog hasn't been updated in awhile. This should hold you for awhile, don't ya' think? I'm sure I'll have more to say after the cruise. I honestly can't wait until January 15th. The wedding will be over (see previous statement about me not liking to be in the spotlight), and I can enjoy the cruise. Even with my family being there -it's a big ship! Then, when I get back, no more wedding plans. Life will go back to normal. ...well my version of normal anyway.