Sunday, February 23, 2014

A word about our babies on Mother's Day

I always looked forward to celebrating Mother's Day, and on this day I reflect on how humble I have come to feel in this role. I thought that a baby would give me a sense of pride like never before that I could boastfully show off everywhere I went. Like a "Hey look! I brought this beautiful person in this world and she belongs to me!" kind of feeling. I sort of anticipated some entitlements to come along. 

I've been knocked to my knees in humility. It's as if God slapped me silly and said, "Woman, you think you've done things in your life? You think you can take all the credit for this beautiful being?" The truth is, she is a little individual! She has survived the evolutionary process and is a culmination of the best of me, her father, and all that she learned prior to this lifetime. I'd love to take credit, but the truth is, she was conceived and born with a strength and will within herself and I am humbled and honored to learn from her while showing her the way. I'm still not sure if she is learning more from me or I am learning from her. 

She makes me appreciate all that my life has been, good and bad, everything I have done and experienced in my life has led me to this moment in being her mother. Every joy, triumpth, failure, and struggle; has prepared me to mother this beautiful being in one way or another.

 Everything I have is to give to her. 
When this moment of early motherhood began, suddenly my  concerns seemed insignificant compared to the tremendous undertaking of ensuring her chance in this world. I felt as though she was renting my body as her habitat, and my duty as her landlord was to provide the best possible property for this tenant.
I feel like a foster mother more than anything, and what a responsibility! Her soul belongs to the universe and I am simply serving as her mother guide in this life. Its more than changing diapers, wiping a few tears, and saving for college. It's my duty to ensure that her life's purpose comes to fruition in this lifetime, and I am to be whoever and whatever she needs me to be. Wherever she came from and wherever she is going next, I was chosen to be a mother to her now, and I feel incredibly blessed.  It's given my life a whole new meaning. Wow.

When I observe mamas complain, truth me told,
I feel offended for the child. Okay so let's be honest, women love to bitch. It's one way we connect with each other. I'm not totally innocent of this behavior. But I do believe complaining about the hardships of motherhood disrespects the fundamental force which deemed you should have this gift of a child. I hear some mothers talk about how anxious they are to get back to their careers, how tired they are, how dad doesn't help, or how "difficult" their babies are being! I'm perplexed when I see mothers knowingly practice unhealthy habits which endanger their children and not seek assistance in quitting (although I am compassionate to those mamas out there who struggle with addiction and continue to fight the fight). 

Yes, being a mother is challenging. It's exhausting. Sometimes, it hurts incredibly bad (pre-labor, during labor, post labor). But the joy and privilege that comes with it is absolutely worth the pain, and I would like to empower every mother to remember this when things do get tough, and thank the Universal Powers for the opportunity to have this experience at all. The sacrifices that come with providing the best possible life to this soul that is merely stopping through your household until the next lifetime, are nothing compared to the absolute happiness that this soul will bring to the world.

Yes, we mothers deserve a day of honor for all we sacrifice and do. We must take care of ourselves if we are to be capable of taking care of a needy, innocent, helpless being in addition to everyone else we care for on a daily basis. But for this and my first Mother's Day, I feel an overwhelming sense of inspiration to dedicate all gratitude to our children who make this experience even possible. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I Ate My Placenta

Ok so it's not entirely what you are thinking...

This morning, which marks my daughter's 5 week birthday, I finished the last three capsules which contained my placenta. I decided to encapsulate my placenta after listening to a Preggie Pals podcast episode about the benefits of the practice. In case you're not aware of what this is all about, encapsulating your placenta involves careful processing; steaming, and in my case, infusing with Chinese herbs, drying, grinding into a fine powder, and then put into capsules for consumption. If you're absolutely disgusted, and wondering why in the world someone would take part in such a horrific-sounding practice, take note: I felt the exact same way before I came to truly understand it.

Consuming the placenta has been practiced for a long time by many cultures. Apparently, most animal species eat the placenta after birth. In the episode, "Placenta Benefits After Childbirth," Airalia and Brent Keime discuss the benefits and if there are any risks involved. Airalia is a Midwife, Herbalist, and Yoga Instructor, and Brent an Acupuncturist, and they run their business encapulating placentas, "The Placenta Whisperer" in San Diego.

Consuming your placenta is said to help you recover quicker (especially after a difficult or complicated pregnancy or childbirth), produce more high quality breastmilk, prevent postpartum depression, and aid in overall health and energy post-childbirth, among other benefits. After doing a ton of research and discussing it directly with Airalia Keime, I couldn't find any risks involved. I could only find the massive potential benefits. Fortunately, advancements in the practice allow for people to simply swallow pills, rather than having to actually eat the placenta (although, some people still do that too), and I could "swallow" the idea of that just fine. The placenta is truly an incredible organ that is beautifully created to nourish mother and baby. I was totally intrigued and I couldn't pass up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I hired The Placenta Whisperer. I delivered my daughter Audra at Kaiser Zion in San Diego. Per my request, they carefully wrapped up the placenta after labor and delivery and stored it in the refrigerator. After a couple of days I delivered it to Airalia and Brent Keime for encapsulation. Brent called me to discuss how my pregnancy, labor and delivery went, and to gauge how I was feeling in order to determine what Chinese herbs he would use to infuse into the placenta. I told him I had dealt with migraines throughout my pregnancy, and that I had to be induced at 40 weeks, 3 days due to pre-eclampsia. I was in labor for 17 hours, and endured tearing and an episiotomy, and then massive hemorrhaging. I told him I was very sore, and feeling quite emotional. He said he completely understood and knew exactly how he was going to prepare my plaenta to give maximum benefits to my recovery. After a couple of days Airalia delivered my encapsulated placenta, along with a few other beautiful goodies: our umbilical cord, beautifully coiled and preserved, and an art print of the placenta pre-processing. Everything was beautifully wrapped up in a Chinese take out box (a clever business move on their part).

I took the pills, 6-8 a day, for the last 5 weeks. I've never been pregnant or had a baby before, so I have nothing to compare my experience to except the testimony of other Moms, but I'm pretty sure the placenta pills really benefited me. For one, I definitely had no signs of postpartum depression (a very common condition for new mommies). I'm happy, relaxed, sleeping well, and generally feel "high" from baby bonding. I stopped bleeding completely after only two weeks (I guess it can be quite common to bleed postpartum for 6 weeks!). I've had lots of energy and have lost nearly all of my 40 pounds of pregnancy weight in only 5 weeks. My milk supply has been abundant and my baby has gained 3 pounds already. As a bonus, my skin, hair and nails have been healthier than ever before, and I've had absolutely no migraines (I've suffered from migraines my entire life).

All in all, I'd eat my placenta (via capsules) again if I ever have another baby. Airalia and Brent Keime with the Placenta Whisperer were great to work with and I'd work with them again. As weird as I thought it all was when I first heard of it, it really ended up being a pretty fantastic experience and it felt pretty natural to consume my placenta. Plus, I ended up with the beautiful art print and preserved umbilical cord for my own personal memorabilia. One day, I may give it as a gift to my daughter if she doesn't think her Mom is totally bonkers for saving it. Baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

If My Newborn Is Gay

The other day, my month old daughter and I were laying by the pool. I was thinking about how unpredictable life is. As life would unfailingly surprise me in that exact moment, the most interesting lady swam up by me and chatted me up. She was in her late 50s and wore a hot pink bikini. We talked about motherhood, breast feeding, business, inventions, and charity. She told me how she was involved in our community, giving back, and helping gay youth. She mentioned that she had two sons, her youngest one being a gay man. We talked about how many people live their life being untrue to themselves, hiding who they are because they're afraid of their parents or their religion or their friends condemning them being gay. She mentioned that she served as a "second mom" to people in the community who are gay and need someone to support and love them. I wish everyone I met was this amazing.

Then I started thinking about my daughter. She's 5 weeks old. We have these ideas and dreams about what we think our kids will turn out like; I dream of my daughter growing up and going to the prom with some cute guy. I dream that she comes to mom for dating advice and we talk about what guys are worth going after (why not? Mom scored an amazing husband, after all). I think about her married to a loving, rich, successful, handsome, man and living happily ever after.

Then the thought occurred to me: what if she is gay? I'm forced to stop and re-think her future and what's really going to make her happy. I will admit: It's a little bit odd thinking about your month-old daughter growing up and being with another woman, but there's a very good chance that it could happen, given that over 9 million Americans are gay, and she's growing up in a very accepting community and open generation. Am I ready for that possibility?

I have to ask myself the hard question: is that what I would want for my daughter? Being openly gay is not the easiest life. Just as I never chose to be heterosexual, I don't believe homosexuals choose their orientation. I see it just as much of a choice as the color of the skin you are born with. If you think being gay is a choice, just ask any gay person if they would CHOOSE the ridicule and confusion and hatred that they inevitably face at some point in their life for being gay. Who would choose that course of life if they had the choice of being just as happy and true to themselves as a heterosexual person? Of course, some gay people have more support than others. But unfortunately, we still don't live in a society that 100% supports and accepts gay lifestyle and culture. I hope that by the time my daughter reaches the point where others might have an opinion about her sexual orientation, our society will have continued to shift for the better.

We all deserve to be happy, to be ourselves, to love those who we love, and to have the choice to get married to whom we love. I look at my daughter for who she is now: tiny, innocent and helpless, and imagine the grown up she will be one day. I can't imagine loving her any less for being gay, she will be the same person she is today, just grown. It makes me sad to think that there are parents out there who outcast their children because they are gay. As a mother, I would love my daughter regardless of the choices she made, for who she turned out to be, for what her sexual orientation would be. Some people say that homosexuality is not natural. What's not natural is for a mother to abandon her child, period, for any reason. We're designed to love whom we love, just as I love my daughter unconditionally, she will love someone (almost) as much someday, and whoever she ends up loving, I will love her just the same.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

5 Ways I'm Living Better Today

 Physically, mentally, and spiritually

Eat better, work out, lose weight, journal, volunteer. Year after year, I have made just about the same resolutions as everyone else. It's a new year again, and instead of focusing on what I am going to start doing, I've decided to reflect on what I've been doing right and share. We've all read the millions of articles on eating right, exercising, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, blah blah. Duh and duh. Here's a few of my daily must-do practices that I believe will make a significant impact on my long term health and well-being if I keep them up (I think it would benefit the world if everyone adopted similar practices). 

I Brush My Body

Body brushing is great for detoxing, exfoliating, and energizing. I use a dry wooden handle body brush, preferably first thing in the morning before a shower, and use long strokes from the outer limbs inward to brush the skin towards the heart, stimulating blood flow. This technique helps rid the body of toxins in the skin and fat just below the surface of the skin, and encourage better circulation. I've heard it also helps ward of cellulite (BONUS!). Long term, I aim to have better skin and all around better health with this practice.

I Use Natural Deodorant

I've read studies that suggest that antiperspirants/deodorants can lead to breast cancer, as the chemicals contained in these can seep into the breast tissue and stay there, causing abnormal cell division (men can get breast cancer too). No thanks! As a breastfeeding Mommy, I didn't like the idea of these chemicals getting into my breast milk either, so I ditched Secret for a natural Crystal stick. It's made from salts which inhibit the growth of bacteria, and you can buy it at Whole Foods for less than $3. It's the only natural product on the market that's worked for me thus far. Note: I also use natural, fluoride-free toothpaste (My research has led me to believe that fluoride is a big toxic scam and we DON'T need it). Swapping out personal hygiene products and cleaners that are used every day is an easy way to cut years and years of toxin build-up, in my humble opinion.

I Floss

I've heard that statistically, people who floss live longer than people who don't. Yes, it's the daily ritual that everyone despises, but I figure it takes about 30 seconds to floss so just get it over with. The long term benefits of flossing seriously outweigh the annoyance of the activity so just do it. 'Nuff said.

I Nourish My Mind

Every day I commit to taking care of my brain with mental stimulation, meditation, reading, self expression, giving, and learning. In the long run, I hope this adds up to make me smarter, quicker, wiser, more fun, more valuable, and more interesting.

I Am Present

I first heard of Eckhart Tolle's book "The Power of Now" on Oprah. The book has powerfully changed the quality of my life, moment to moment, in teaching me to be present, aware, and in the now.  I can now draw as much happiness from small activities such as taking a shower, going for a walk, or just being with myself in whatever capacity, as I used to get from big giant exciting activities. Another quote I once heard that has allowed me to choose how I feel is, "you can choose peace instead of this." Substitute "happiness," "love," "relaxed," or whatever word you love to feel for "peace" in this quote. How we feel is entirely up to us. Of course, sometimes I feel sad, anxious, or depressed, but just being able to quietly acknowledge the feeling and be with it is truly powerful, and ultimately makes me happier. These practices help me stay grounded and have immense appreciation for each moment of this life that passes so quickly.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Good call...

Reusable glass water bottle at Target: $19.99

Voss glass bottle at convenient store: $2.99

Refill, look posh, drink plastic-free, save money, save the environment

Monday, October 7, 2013

How pregnancy helps me cope with pain

I'm 25, and I'm seven months into my first pregnancy. I've been careful to avoid all the things I'm supposed to. Prior to being pregnant, I was one to enjoy an alcoholic beverage (or three), socially, for celebratory purposes, for no reason at all except pure enjoyment, and occasionally after a stressful day. What can I say... I'm in my 20s, its a part of life. I've also been one to treat the occasional anxiety with a zanax or two, as needed. I haven't had a serious problem with either, but I will admit, there were times where I definitely self medicated with either or. For the last seven months, you could say I've been completely sober, yet gained a real understanding and appreciation for the real "highs" of life.

Being pregnant is a very long and sobering process of facing life head on, all feelings involved, downright raw and real, (what I imagine serving time in jail is like), with pregnancy hormones making everything that much more dramatic to top it off. This has been the longest I've gone (perhaps ever) without self medicating my emotional ups and downs in one way or another. Having 100% of myself exposed to the conditions of life for these months has given me perspective on several things:
  1. People really are irrational when they have been drinking (and annoying)- sorry guys
  2. Sometimes strong feelings can suck, but we absolutely have the ability within us to manage them naturally
  3. Life is amazingly beautiful and pleasurable without any outside chemical influence, if you have the right perspective 
  4. Experiencing pain is a wonderful opportunity to grow and feel pleasure
I recently noticed a very strong emotional reaction I was having that involved food. I was at work, spilled my lunch, and started to cry with a very intense emotional reaction. I thought, "that's odd, this isn't really that big of a deal, Sara, why the hell do I feel this way?" I realized that I have had these kinds of emotions around food for a very long time, and I am just now making space to observe this. 

I decided to bring this topic up to my Mom, who is studying to be a psychologist. She knew right away where it was coming from. We were sitting in the mall, and she began to tell me a story of when I was a little girl and there was an incident with a kitten we had. I remember the incident quite well, but I didn't know the true circumstances of what actually happened. I was about 6 years old, and the kittens were eating their dinner, when one of them somehow got under my feet, and I tripped on it. The kitten was injured so badly that it died. It wasn't a pretty sight. My Mother immediately picked me up and removed me from the situation. She took me to my bedroom and she was crying though trying to hold it together. To save my feelings, she told me that the kitten choked on a bone that was in the food. This was the story that I believed all these years, and was never able to process what had actually happened. 

Here I was, sitting in the middle of the mall with my Mom as she told me the real story, and I immediately gave way to tears and a flood of memory processes. My brain circuitry was on fire. This was the unprocessed memory stored deep in my brain that was causing an emotional trigger around food. The guilt I subconsciously carried of taking that kittens life while he was just trying to enjoy dinner was causing me to have guilt around eating. It was incredibly painful for days after this memory experience to continue to process this, but I knew I had to go through it if I were to move on; not forget, but deal with it. 

My Mom did the right thing at the time when it happened. At 6 years old, I couldn't have handled the truth of what happened. She does admit that she should have given me an opportunity to process this sooner, although it just hadn't come up. I believe everything happens in good time. I passionately questioned to my Mom, "How can I help my daughter avoid the pains that come in life?" She said the only thing I can do is let her feel the pain, process it, and move on. That is life. 

The truth is, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Suffering comes from unprocessed pain or resistance to it. I haven't studied Buddhism too deep but I believe this is the basic premise of the teachings. Being pregnant has taught me patience and the necessary skills of what I really need to do to cope with feelings. I've learned how to be more present, and pay closer attention to my emotions and the physical reactions from my feelings. When I feel anxious, stressed, sad, or in pain, I take a deep breath, I scan myself to get a thorough understanding of what exactly it is I am feeling, and I just be with it. I have to; I have no other choice. I can't numb it with alcohol or medication. I've learned amazing techniques through meditation, yoga, and present moment awareness exercises, and I plan to use these skills to help me through an un-medicated childbirth. I'm grateful for this process that has taught me to slow down and be with whatever it is I am feeling. It's given me an opportunity to learn about myself and embrace life fully; both the wonderful aspects and the sometimes very painful moments. That is why I am choosing to have a natural birth. I'm no longer afraid of the pain involved, I will embrace it, and look forward to the high that comes afterward. I plan to teach my daughter the skills she has given me an opportunity to learn; to be aware of how she feels, to notice everything (something we can really only do when we are completely present), to create space, to be non-judgmental, and just feel. It's beautiful, and this realization means we have nothing to be afraid of. 

This post is dedicated to my Mom, who has really come to learn what it means to feel. I hope I can be as good of a Mother as you. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Change for the Good

I wonder what it's like to have a life of monotony, everything mostly the same, year after year. There seem to be a lot of people who live this life, and I don't get it. I know there are, because there are those people you run into and you genuinely ask them how everything's going, what's new, etc... And it's just the "same old same old" every time! 

Are they telling the truth- is it possible- that literally there is nothing new, exciting, difficult, or scarey going on in their life since the last time we had this same encounter, or do they, for some reason, not feel connected enough to share what's really going on, perhaps? 

In some ways, I long for that type of life. Standard, average, predictable. Just like I've kind of always admired people who pick a career (yes ONE career!) and stick with it their entire life until they retire from that career. It seems so... safe.

But I still can't figure out how it's even possible. It is so contrary from how my life has developed this far. Over the course of my 25 years, I've lived in six vastly different cities, pursued eight broadly contrasting careers (which I attribute to both opportunity and my deep magnitude of and then quickly waning interest in), and I'm in my second marriage (attributed to entirely different reasons than my career changes).   

Now, before you think of me as totally unpredictable, trigger-happy, and impulsive, I will add that there are a few things that I have unquestionably dedicated myself to long term: lasting relationships, my husband and soon to be daughter and other future children, lifelong learning, happiness, and making the greatest impact.

An interesting note I learned from the documentary "Happy" (available on Netflix): the happiest people are the ones who do not carry the same routine every day, and that even making minor tweets to our average day, such as taking a different route to work, or brushing our teeth in the opposite direction, actually makes us happier. In fact, doing even little things a bit out of the ordinary is excellent brain exercise. I was having a discussion with my Mom about this today and she pointed out that those who live a life of monotony stop seeing life altogether, and the beauties all around. It's like how our noses get used to a particular smell, and we can't smell them anymore. How scarey!
My husband and I have both admitted we love change, and we've come to be okay with that. Neither of us are the type to commit to one job or specific career path for the duration of our lives. We moved from Southern California to Northern California last year, and this year decided we want to go back, so we're turning right around with all of our stuff, and a years worth of experience backing up our decision. In some ways, there's guilt there, and a question of whether we're running from something or not. We've considered all aspects of our decision and feel confident about it, though.

Despite our love and almost ironically predictable desire for solid life transformations, by our mid-twenties, we can honestly say we're pretty proud of the experiences we've had; we built and sold a company, volunteered for a wide array of different causes, got married, and we're expecting our first baby here in a couple months. We've had a crap-load of fun along the way, too. Most importantly, we haven't settled into a life that is just okay for us. When we don't like something, we change it. When we're not happy, we address it. Yes, sometimes it's hard to uproot everything that has seemed familiar, it can be a lot of work, but ultimately, once you weigh all of your options and find a path that is totally do-able and would bring you greater joy, it's a sin against yourself not to do it. That's why, we try out things we've always wanted to do, we get out of situations that we're not happy in, we don't live in neighborhoods or cities that are just okay. And we make it a rule to never regret our decisions.

For those who make choices and stick with them for years and years on end, I state: they have a brilliant way of "getting it right the first time" and I admire that. It's either that, or they are too afraid of saying they want something else. I may never know for sure what the alternative feels like or the reasons behind it. But I am looking forward to having some pretty bad ass years ahead. 

I dedicate this post to my amazingly un-boring husband, Greg Muender. Thanks for telling me that "we'll figure it out, we always do." 

Friday, October 4, 2013

How I made my $20k wedding look like a solid $50k'er

In March, I married my bestie.The minute we got engaged in Rome (romantic, right?!), I immediately said, "I guess this means I get to start planning our wedding!" I had secretly been planning already for 3 years, and I have a feeling I'm not the first to have plotted such a scheme.

He let me do all of the planning and I made it my part time job to not only plan the perfect wedding for us (keyword: perfect for us), but to save as much money as possible, while making it look like we spent way more than we did. I began my mission to turn over every rock I could find in value.


Everything that was paid for was thoroughly researched and compared. What could be DIY, I did myself. What could be done without, I did without, according to our preferences. I didn't believe we needed to include something as part of our wedding just because it was tradition or done at every single wedding in prior history. 

My main goals were:
  1. I wanted everyone to have as much fun as possible
  2. We would splurge on the food
  3. There would be plenty of booze
  4. To have the wedding at a location that was already beautiful unto itself; that way I could keep the decorations minimal
We chose to have our wedding at the Hyatt Mission Bay in San Diego. It was the perfect location weather wise, and scenically. It truly felt like a paradisaical luxury resort, but the pricing packages were very reasonable compared to other posh resorts. Yes, it took a lot of touring other locations and scouring packages, but it was so worth it to know that we really did pick the absolute best spot. The landscaping and built-in decor made it an easy start to a gorgeous wedding. I liked having it at a hotel, where everything was taken care of.

DIY Flowers
Months before, I made all of the floral arrangements. I wanted pink and white peonies and roses, but couldn't stomach paying a florist thousands of dollars for a day's worth of beauty. I found the exact flowers in the exact colors I was going for... at the Dollar Tree. I bought a few hundred dollars worth of bushes, stripped them of the leaves, and made all my own bouquets to fulfill the floral needs of our entire wedding. 

The bouquet of pink and white roses and peonies with rhinestones I wanted that had been previously quote at nearly $1000 by a florist (yes, $1000 for ONE bouquet), I made for under $15 (8 bushes from Dollar tree, ribbon, floral tape, and rhinestones). Since my bridesmaid's bouquets were not as extravagant or as large as mine, they cost under $10 each to make. I may do a blog post on how to make bouquets, another time. Feel free to reach out to me if you want to know how I did it.

I also made all of the pew/altar bouquets, table arrangements, boutonnieres and corsages, and even a tossing bouquet. And all with everything I bought from the dollar store (except the rhinestones and rhinestone ribbon for the vases (below) which I got at Michael's for fairly cheap).

I Fired My MUA and Stylist 
After having my makeup done several times by "professional" make-up artists and being extremely frustrated with the results, I decided I was going to do my own makeup. I asked a lot of questions when I was having my makeup done so I could at least learn some professional techniques. Tip: it's all about blending and "building up". 

I recruited my bridesmaids to help with my hair. Unless you're a crackhead with missing chunks of hair and broken teeth, it's really not hard to put together a professional look yourself. Your guests won't know the difference.

For the rest of my outfit, I found my perfect dress at David's Bridal, on sale for $750. I got a good deal and still I can't imagine ever paying more for a dress that's currently sitting dirty in my closet. I bought super cute $5 jewelry for me and my bridesmaids at Charlotte Russe and Forever 21. For that price, I was able to buy a few extra pieces so I could decide what I wanted to wear on the actual wedding day. Fun!

Custom Touches
If you don't hate me enough already, I'm going to tell you that I decided to make my own wedding cake. I had recently gotten into cake baking as hobby, and I thought, "I can totally do this." 

I baked the cakes (champagne cake: replace water with champagne in the recipe, yum, and fancy) earlier in the week of the wedding and wrapped them up super well in plastic wrap and foil. They turned out extremely moist. I made the frosting two days before, and stored that in an air tight container. The morning of the wedding, I set aside an hour to assemble the cake. I watched a LOT of YouTube videos on how to successfully do this. I dedicated it to my Great Grandma, Mary B. Martin, and embraced the imperfections. It was lopsided, but it was special. And delicious...

My husband is a race car driver, and I love champagne... so I found these to be the perfect cake toppers. I didn't use them on top of the cake, but next to the cake on the table, and my photographers got creative with putting our rings on top for a photo opp. After discovering these cake toppers online, I immediately went into "turn over every rock" mode and found them 2 for the price of 1 on some other website. DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!

Drink & Be Married 
The hotel wanted to charge us $40 or more for their cheapest bottles of wine. We decided to buy a few cases of Charles Shaw, scrape off the label, and put our own labels on. Not only did everyone love the wine and the fact that we had our "own" wine bottles, but we saved a TON of money. No one knew the difference.

I splurged a little on drapery, table cloths, and swagging. I figured I'd rather spend money on items that were going to make the largest impact at the wedding, like the linens and drapery rather than tiny pieces of expensive jewelry or wedding cake that was to be demolished in my husband's face. 

I did thorough research and found the absolute best company to work with and even negotiated their original contract to meet my needs and the price I was looking to pay. See the crystal tiers on either side of us two pictures down below? The company who I found them through wanted to rent them to me for $300 a pop. The company I ended up working with custom made them for me and charged me $75 each. And NO ONE KNEW THE DIFFERENCE!


By the end of the night, I was certainly exhausted. But it was so well worth the savings. I changed into my dance dress (which by the way, I bought at one of those cheap mall stores for around $40). This was another reason I am glad I didn't spend any more on my wedding dress, I couldn't WAIT to get it off and just be comfortable, spill wine on myself, and have the best night of my life.

It was a lot of work to prepare and compare every little detail of the wedding to ensure we were getting the best value, but ultimately, it was fun and extremely rewarding. For the things we skipped out on, I really don't think our guests knew the difference (we skipped on favors, top shelf liquors, extra dinner courses, etc). Everyone had massive amounts of fun. Even though I took so much upon myself the day of the wedding, please believe I had a timeline, and made sure to take the necessary time to just relax, drink champagne, get massages, and cry with my bridesmaids pre-nuptuals. 

A Quick Cheat Sheet
  • Do your wedding YOUR way 
  • Think of the marginal benefit of everything you're spending money on
  • Figure out what you like- then go find the same thing for a better deal 
  • Skip the small stuff that costs largely
  • Spend more on things that go further 
  • Figure out what you are willing and can DIY
  • Personalize whatever you can to make it special (homemade lopsided cake dedicated to Grandma, for example)
  • Have as much fun as you conceivably can- it's about the experience and the memory, not the size of your bouquet or the brand of wine you served

Photos by AS Photography

Here's to Thee, Mary B.

When I was 12 years old, I lived with my Great-Grandmother, Mary B. Martin. One day we were enjoying eachother's company over lunch, and I proclaimed,

"Grandma, when I grow up, I think I want to be a manicurist."

"No you don't, honey. You want to be a writer," she intervened. "You're a writer."

It's not that Mary B. didn't understand or appreciate the value of a nice set of fingernails. She herself had once owned a beauty salon.  I guess she saw a stronger talent in me from an early age; I authored published poems, received excellent grades in writing, and helped her illustrate and design her own children's' books.

I won't say that this is my first attempt at living up to those writer dreams she once aspired for me to pursue- I've had my fair share of blog ambitions, college writing classes taken, and a couple of solid years writing successful press and web content for my husband's previous company, TicketKick.
But here I am, and I dedicate this post to you, Mary Bentley. Thanks for helping me aim higher.

Mary B. Martin 1933-2012