I zipped up to Minnesota March 4th to the 6th to attend the Freeman-Gray Wedding. After I RSVP’ed to the wedding, I nagged some of my other pals who live in the tundra to hang out with me while I was up there (I mean, how many times do I happen to get to MN? never!). Lucky for me, they agreed and we arranged a get together at the Mall of America Friday afternoon. Then it was weddingpalooza Friday evening – Sunday morning.
Let me tell you what’s super ballin’ about good ole MCO – the express traveler security lane. Orlando Airport is the only airport I’ve ever been through to have such an amazing thing. There’s also no BS preferred line for fancy rich people with frequent flier miles. (Note, I am poor and am a US Air Silver Preferred flier, so don’t take my taxbracketist sentiments to heart). Anyways, the lines are divided by need: families, employees, total tourist clusters I have no desire to be anywhere near, and EXPERT traveler. From the door to the tram took me eight minutes – including printing my boarding pass at the Delta Kiosk.
My flight was a direct, thank goodness! And it was pretty empty. I had the window, a random businessman had the aisle, and the inbetween was empty. This flight had a good amount of turbulence, but surprisingly it didn’t bother me at all and I was fine. I spent the flight reading (I’ve been reading “A Gate at the Stairs” by Lorrie Moore, and I’ve had my Bible with me), listening to some jams on my ipod, and writing Matthew love letters – I wrote him at least one letter on every flight! Aww!
They played that stuttery King’s Speech movie on tiny little TV’s overhead. I didn’t watch it though because: A) the TV was so far away it was hard to even tell what was going on, and reading the footnotes telling me the place and date of a scene was totally impossible, B) Delta’s whole headphone/audio setup totally sucks and there’s this high pitched beeping that goes on nonstop during every movie, tv show, and radio station making trying to actually use the entertainment provided painful, and C) call me a jerk, but I had no interest to see this film.
The final thing I will say about this flight: within 2 minutes of sitting down and buckling up, I realized that my winter coat was sitting back at home on Viper’s kicthen table. Talk about an awful item to forget when traveling to Minnesota in winter. DOH!!
Friday Afternoon – MOA Mil Spouse G2G
I belong to a few online networks for military spouses/significant others. The support and networking I’ve found through these forums has been unreal. Two of my bestest friends these days came into my life on these sites. After years of chatting online, you feel like you really “know” someone, and getting to meet these pals in person is such a cool experience. It validates the internet trust you’ve built (so you know someone really IS a 25 year old mom, and not a 50 year old dude pretending to be a 25 year old mom), it helps solidify the friendships we’ve made, it satisfies a lot of curiosity (photos only go so far, you wonder what your friends sound like in person, how tall they are, will they be as funny and witty as they seem in text?, etc.), and well – its fun!!
At first I was kinda hush-hush about my involvement on these sites. I thought it seemed weird and that my real-life friends would judge me and find my internet friendships lame and pathetic. But not only are internet relationships becoming more and more socially mainstream everyday, but I’ve grown to a point where I’m not sweating what others think about me anymore. I am who I am, right? These women are a HUGE part of my life: we talk everyday, and during some of my darkest days, I’ve had forum friends be there for me in realer and more significant ways than the vast majority of my real life pals. So any chance I can get for a G2G (get together) – I take it!
I’m totally going off on a tangent here. Notice how I do that? I’m the worst. I did not mean to get into so much detail about the background info. Focus Rose, focus!
Carrie, a MN native, actually lives in New York where her hubs is stationed with the Army. While he’s deployed though, she and her adorable son Liam have come back to MN to be near family. Our husbands were sent to Afghan right around the same time, and I’m so grateful for having her as part of my support system. She was also REALLY there for me during my hardtimes around Christmas. Anyone who sends you a carepack with “Benny and Joon” on DVD is aces in my book.
Carrie basically spearheaded the whole day, thank you Carrie! She also picked me up from the airport, which was so sweet and fun. The game plan was lunch and rides at MOA – Mall of America. How fun!
Carrie and I had time to chat before the rest of the ladies trickled in. Which was great, because we are both pretty chatty!
We ate lunch at this tasty Mexican joint, La Cantina. We took our sweet time and just kept gabbing and gabbing. I was regaled with stories about winter temps that go way below zero, yikes! I was informed that the high of 30 for the day was considered a “heat wave” by MN winter standards, and that once it hit the 50’s, shorts and flip flops were permissible. They taught me about “Minnesota Nice,” and I experienced it for myself anyways. (Seriously, life in the midwest is America’s best kept secret. Every time I go to the midwest, I am so enamored by how incredibly nice, polite and friendly people are. Don’t get me wrong, I loooove Southern chattiness and hospitality – but midwesterners are so homey and pleasant).
It was decided by the group that I’m crazy and they don’t all have super incredibly thick Minnesota accents, in fact I am the one with an accent (southern). It was also decided that after lunch we’re going on rides! Even more than the queso blanco (btw Mariya, thank you for getting that!), I enjoyed getting to just be with the gals in person and see their mannerisms, hear their voices, etc. Sometimes with a g2g, I worry that conversation will be forced or awkward, or that the whole thing will just be weird. A lot of the ladies had met each other before at least once at a previous MN g2g, so that helped; in general the dynamic was really comfortable and laid back. We laughed a lot!
Here’s a random tidbit from that afternoon: being from Florida and now living in Hawaii, I somehow fabricated this idea in my head that people from MN would prefer a much colder average indoor air temp than those of us in the tropics, so I was totally braced for it to be freezing in there. Nope. Turns out comfy indoor temp is pretty standard in America, lol.
I’d also like to mention that the 3 bebes with us all day are SO BEAUTIFUL and CUTE, I was just in Heaven. These gal pals of mine sure know how to make lovely children.
Jack is the handsome son of Lindsay, and he was totally my buddy all day. He was not only so much fun, but he was such a great sport about being amidst so much estrogen. And as far as big brothers go, I’ve never met a boy so attentive, loving, and into his little sisters. One was with us (Rose Estelle) and the other was spending the day with her Grandma (Francis Grace). He was super loving and always willing to take care of Rose, and he kept asking his mom to call Gma and check in on Francis. What a great family Lindsay is raising, she should be so proud!
Finally around 5:00pm, I sadly realized I had to get going – I had to make it to Sasha’s rehearsal dinner. If I could have extended this g2g indefinitely, I so would have. I was enjoying everyone’s company so much. We all hugged goodbye, and Amber was gracious enough to drive me home. I loved getting to know Amber in the car; I had no idea how easily I could relate to her in person and the convo just flowed. It was a really pretty drive, cutting through backroads and seeing the craftsman style homes all covered in snow. I was falling in love with the city, its just so lovely.
Friday Night – Rehearsal Dinner
Now I was ready to kick off this wedding weekend! I was so excited to reunite with my college friends that were in town as Bridesmaids and guests. For many of us it had been too long since last we saw each other.
Sasha and I went to the University of North Florida together (Ospreys gotta swoop!). We didn’t really know each other as freshmen in 2001, but later became homies through our sorority, Alpha Chi Omega (well, we were homies in AXO up until I got the boot. More on that dramz some other day). After graduation from college, Sash and I both lingered around Jacksonville and eventually became roomies/bosom buddies/super pals.
In 2009 I moved out of Jacksonville (to Leesburg, a few hours away) and that Fall, Sasha took a job in Minneapolis. I was so happy for her but it was bittersweet realizing we’d be so far apart. Shortly after her move, she met this fella’ named Andy and the rest is history. I was honored to be involved in their special celebration, and I wish Mr. and Mrs. Gray the best forever and evers.
So Sasha and Andy are the whole reason we all came up to Minneapolis for this wedding. Even though I wasn’t in the wedding party, I was invited to the rehearsal dinner along with all the other out-of-town guests.
Amber dropped me off at the hotel and I ran into the bar to meet up with my pals to get the room key (my wonderful and generous friend Richard paid for a hotel room, and selflessly let me stay in the room without asking for a penny). I grabbed the key from Richard, and as I did I was looking like a total hot mess:
I bolted upstairs and did a super speedy costume change. I can’t believe I actually got ready that quick, whew!
The Rehearsal Dinner was held a few blocks away from the hotel at an apartment building on one of the top floors. We could see this really pretty view of the city and night. The whole lights + snow this is really pretty. I know I was only there for like 55 hours, but I totally developed a soft spot for Minneapolis. I just think its super pretty. (I just used the word “pretty” like 75 times in a row, just to really drive the point home. pretty, pretty, pretty).
Anyways, the dinner was nice. It was great to catch up with everyone! Our little group from Jax was laughing and joking around like no time had passed since the last time we’d all been together. We ate and played pool, and I took a couple sips of some beer (those were my first sips of booze since the SuperBowl. eeks).
So even though I’m in this pool photo, I don’t think I really played that much. First of all, I loathe pool and billiards – I’m terrible at them. Secondly, its just not that fun to me. I actually enjoy watching other people play. My hubs happens to be pretty good and I have fun watching him do work, and helping him trash talk (who me? trash talk?).
Speaking of my hubs and this pool game, he called me right in the middle! Hooray! I hadn’t talked to him since that call I got during retreat a week prior (he has a real knack for calling right in the thick of it). So I remember dropping the pool queue and leaping away from the crowd to talk to him. My phone battery was low, so I had to plug it in; the location I found ended up being a poor choice. It had been totally unoccupied when he first called… but then as soon as I was trying to talk to him, all these people came over and the noise level got so high I couldn’t even hear him. It was pretty stressful. I was literally crying and just saying to him, “I love you, I can’t hear you. I love you, be safe, I can’t hear anything you’re saying.” He called 24 hours later, during the reception and we merely exchanged an “I love you,” each, and I haven’t talked to him since.
It probably seems really weird to people that this was a big deal, an issue, for me. But it can be really tough to only get to talk to your husband once a week for 30-60 minutes. And in this case, less. Those phone calls become the most precious thing in your life, and to have it so close but so far away… I don’t even know how to describe it in words, just thinking about it makes me cry. On top of that sadness, I had to deal with the total embarrassment of being an adult woman crying in the midst of my dear friend’s rehearsal dinner. I snuck off to the bathroom and cleaned up.
The glass is always half full though, right? So even though I may not have been able to really talk to him about anything, have some deep convo – I heard his voice. That means he’s fine, alive, doing well. Just hearing his voice and hearing him say aloud, “I love you,” does my heart so good and gives me the fuel to keep on going. Oh I love that man so damn much.
The best part of this dinner: THE CAKE. They served the most delicious sheet cake, with buttercream frosting. I loved it so much, I asked Sash if I could bring some back to the hotel. Sasha gave me some tiny paper plates to transport said cake on, but I know without a top that would be a mess. So i scooped some cake into a solo cup.
Time to leave and head back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel = Party in Room #706!
I posted on Twitter some mishmash about having SUCH a blast and old friends being the best. This night took me back. We all hung out and shot the shit in the hotel room, and it was so silly and fun. I’m pretty sure that we (Sasha’s friends) scared off some folks from the Groom’s side. They seemed to scurry off pretty early. Let’s not kid though, we were getting pretty crass. And why not? We were amongst friends, no kids were around, and sometimes you gotta let your hair down and have fun.
We played “Circle of Death” or “King’s Cup.” Whatever it is that you want to call it. We merged GA Tech and UNF rules and I would say a good time was had by all.
I seriously hadn’t touched a drop of booze since the Super Bowl and I was so nervous to drink again. (The ole Super Bowl was my first time boozing in like 5 months and it didn’t end up so nicely for me, we’ll just leave it at that). So I had half a beer at the dinner, a full one in the hotel, and then Richard made me a very mild vodka/diet coke (one of my fave college cocktails). I didin’t get ill or wasted, or feel yucky the next day at all. So I say job well done! I know with all my health stuff going on I need to be really careful too. The whole weekend felt like such an exercise in regressing though, it seemed like having a lil booze was the most natural of things to do.
The Big Day
Sasha had asked those of us not in the wedding party if we could help do a couple things to set up the ballroom the day of the wedding. So Claire, Leigh, Richard and I were Sasha’s workerladies. We spent the whole day in the ballroom, and even though there was so much to do (prepping glass vases, arranging the centerpieces, putting out all of the flowers, and assembling/hanging the infamous puffs) we really had a fun time. I was laughing so hard I was in tears on more than one occasion.
Claire is one of my all-time dearest friends and I hadn’t seen her in 10 months, so I was grateful to have so much time with her! Besides, both she and Leigh are pregnant with little girls, and due within a week or so of each other in late June/early July. It was fun to hear about their plans, how the pregnancy was going, talk about baby names, etc. My due date would have been right inbetween their’s actually. Going into this wedding I was a little nervous about how I’d feel being around them. But my own sadness and loss doesn’t diminish the happiness I feel for my friends. A baby is a blessing and worth celebrating! I’m so happy for Claire and Leigh and I praise God that their little girls are growing and healthy inside their happy, glowing mommies. I know God has a plan for Matthew and me, and our turn will come when its meant to.
So these puffs. If you’ve never dealt with them before, they are more elaborate than they look! I promise. There are so many layers of super thin tissue, and you have to very carefully pull them apart and fluff them all out.
After the puffs were fluffed, we had to tie fishing line around them and then tape them to the ceiling. Well, we had to play with them for a photo-op first.
Then we had to tie fishing line around them and hang them:
Just remember: A wedding in need deserves puffs indeed!
Once they were all finally up we only had but thirty minutes to scurry up the rooms and get ready super fast. The puff adventure was really fun and silly, and even though we griped about the slave labor, we had some fun and I’m pretty sure we’ll remember this forever. My only real regret is that I didn’t get to spend a minute of the day with Sasha. It would have been lovely to see her get ready, see her put on the dress. But since we all pitched in and did our part, everything came together to make a beautiful wedding!
Even though we had to do a quick costume change (once again), I think we did a pretty crackerjack job! I mean, honestly, its not like we had to decide on what to wear – that’s the beauty of getting ready out of a suitcase. The hard part of choosing what to wear is already over.
The Freeman-Gray wedding ceremony was a Catholic Wedding held in a beautiful church right in the city, Saint Lawrence Church. As the school bus pulled up, there was snow all around us, neatly plowed and shoveled. The air was super crisp, and it was just a pretty wintery day for a wedding. And yes, you read that right. We took a school bus to the wedding! It was fun; I told you this weekend was a nonstop regression for me, lol.
And when I say crisp… I mean it:
We got there pretty early (because we were on the bus with the immediate fams) so we had plenty of time to joke around and take silly pics (see above).
But then… ooohhh eeee, IT WAS WEDDING TIME!! Our little girl was to become a woman… or something like that. All jokes aside, Sahsa looked more beautiful than I’d ever seen her. And I am so happy to have celebrated that special day with the Freeman and Gray families.
They did a Catholic service, with both Readings, the Gospel, a Homily, and then the exchange of Vows and Rings. They decided to omit Communion so that non-Catholics attending wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. I think that was pretty thoughtful. It can be an awkward/weird moment in a wedding service when they announce that only Catholics are allowed to receive (they’re pretty hardcore, huh?).
And Now its Time to Party!!
We all piled in the bus and headed back to the hotel for the reception. Sasha was way smart and did all of her church photos before the service, so that after the ceremony was done – everyone could head to the reception together and get this party started!
The food at the reception was the best wedding food I’ve ever had. Everyone was raving all night long, it was just sooooo good! My entree was sea bass, but I didn’t get any pics of it or anything. The speeches were nice and from the heart, Andy’s dad especially gave a heartfelt talk about welcoming their new daughter into the fam, it was really touching. Sasha’s dad described Sasha’s childhood as being full of “sports and problems.” I’m not sure if it came out how he meant it or what, but it was epically hilarious.
After all the toasting and eating, it was time to boogie woogie. I’ll just come right out and say it, we kept that party alive!! The groom’s guests were party poopers and they didn’t dance at all. They just sat around their tables all night. The only jam they got up and danced for was “Stereo Love.” Have you heard that song? The Romanian accordion trance song? I had no idea what the eff that was, and neither did Claire. So we started speculating. Because of the accordion component we were convinced it was some kind of niche cultural thing, that there was some pocket of slavic culture in Minneapolis and this was their jam. We are so lame, too much NPR and not enough Top 40 I suppose.
Now, I know the sequin applique butterflies on my dress are really pushing the whimsical line into ridic. I know. But I do like this dress. Its a Betsey Johnson, and its one of the few “name brand,” fancy things I even own. This is only the second time I’ve ever worn it to anything and I was glad to get to do so, it was fun being all puffy and dolled up. I heart the shoes I had on. My hubs picked them out actually. They are so sexy, but so painful, especially with all that dancing. I toughed it out and kept them on all night! The accessories I’m rocking really did help balance out the whole butterfly thing. Its hard to see in these smaller pics, but I’m wearing super dark, heavy metal around my wrist and neck – almost like finished bike chains (but not really bike chains).
Richard GENEROUSLY brought us all some goodies from his place of work (Ann Taylor) and thus we had costume jewelry at our disposal to try on and play with. He gifted them to us, so all of us ladies (even the mother of the bride) were able to take home a piece or two. How nice is that!?!? Thank you Mr. Davis! I ended up keeping some giant stud earrings and the bracelet I wore to the Rehearsal Dinner. It was so nice that I was able to borrow what I did for the main event, it really pulled everything together flawlessly.
Of course everyone loved Richard’s bow tie. Its very much his signature, and part of this tossed up playful preppy thing he always has going on. The show-stopper, and rightfully so, was the bride. Check out this gown:
I don’t know any deets on the dress other than how pleasing to my peepers it was. And that’s all that really matters!
Towards the end of the night we took a bunch of silly pics with Sasha (before she snuck out – yeah. I just called her out on leaving her own wedding early!) – and during our photoshoot we did some throw back poses. The best of which being the sorority door pile squat. Richard was the Sweetheart of our sorority, so its all too fitting to include him in all of our re-make silliness.
Bye Bye Minneapolis
The next day, Sunday, everyone seemed to join up in small groups and head to the airport. The walk to the train felt so good. It was COLD and I was honestly enjoying it so much. I was really impressed with my cold tolerance. I know it was only for a weekend and I was hardly outside at all – but being from Florida and Hawaii, I think I did a great job, better than they average tropical bear.
I had one of the later flights, leaving around 4pm. I had wanted to change and get on an earlier flight at the last minute, but the rat bastards at Delta wanted to charge me a bunch of money for that. Rude! It all worked out though. I ended up getting to hang out with Chris, Sasha’s brother, at the airport and we got to just catch up, talk about life, etc. Both of Sasha’s brothers went to the same college we did (UNF), so they’re part of our extended group as friends as well as being her family.
The Maryland gang, Chris included, boarded and headed home. I wanedered the airport, grabbed a quick bite to eat and then headed to my own gate.
The next stop for me: Orlando, Florida. My sister will be picking me up and I’m spending four nights in the Daytona Beach area with my mom’s side of the fam, including my sister who lives over there. Yay!!
*** I totally snagged at least half the pics from my friends’ FB pages – not even sure who to give specific photo credit too, but just wanted to toss that out there.