Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Engagement Story: Under Pressure

There was a lot of pressure for me to get engaged to Mr. Magic. Some of the pressure came from external sources, some from internal sources (like, you know, my mind). It’s kind of like when you had to identify whether a conflict in a novel was either man versus man, man versus himself, or man versus his environment. This was like a perfect storm of all these conflicts, which resulted into a lot of pressure on me.

So here's the real deal on how our engagement went down. I know some folks rewrite their how we met stories or proposal tales to make them shinier and happier, but life isn't always 100% shiny and happy. I didn't edit our
less than romantic how we met story, and I'm going to be honest about our proposal story too.

Mr. Magic and I reunited at the end of 2004, and basically began living together soon after. Towards the end of 2005, I started talking engagement and marriage. I had just started my new career after graduating from UNC with a Masters in Social Work. We had a house and two cats. I felt like we were already "playing married" and thought we should make it legal. In my mind, I had us getting engaged in 2006 and getting married on October 27, 2007.

Yes, I had picked out the date. And isn't October 27, 2007 such a lovely date?

This is NOT the part where I say "Man, was I a crazy girl," because I don't think that is accurate or fair, nor do I think that statement sums up all the factors coming into play in our situation (which, while unique to us, I think many others can relate to).

Factor One: I think society, as a whole, puts pressure on us modern women that we should want to have it all, we can have it all, and we should have it all - so we need to make that happen, STAT! On the one hand, we are supposed to be successful career-having home-making breast feeding mothers. Actually, wait...I think that is enough for two hands!

We are supposed to find a man (
not a woman, society's not into that), and settle down, get married...but don't be desperate or fretful about it. We are supposed to move up in the career world, but not be too forceful or bitchy about it. And as mothers, we are supposed to basically be superheroes who use all organic products, breast feed, puree our own baby food, and God only knows what else - I don't know, because I am not a mother and haven't experienced the full brunt of societal expectations on that one.

Oh, and did I mention that us women need to do all this (career, spouse, kids) by age 35? [OK, that's my scary age for procreating. Your "scary age" might be slightly different, but science agrees still that having children after 35 has more get crackin' y'all!]

Mr. Magic loves My Cousin Vinny and does a great reenactment of this scene, which I think sums up my frustrations better than I ever could!

Factor Two: Family pressures came into play as well. First I heard the "joking" remarks that I wrote about
here. But later, it became more serious. "If he hasn't married you by now, he's never going to marry you." I heard this more than once from a close family member. I have no idea what this person's intentions were, if not to make me feel doubtful, resentful, angry, and sad (towards that person, myself, and Mr. Magic). Doubt makes people react in not good ways - like pleading "Just tell me if we are ever going to get married or not!!!!!!"

Factor Three: Anxiety. I am definitely one who is caught in the vicious circle of Anxiety and it's twin brother Depression. Know what makes people anxious? When they don't know what to expect in a given situation. I constantly perseverated on "When are we getting engaged?" and "When will we get married?" and "When are we planning on having all these kids that I don't even know for sure I want but I do know I'm getting older so we need to have these kids soon" and, scariest of all, "Are we ever actually going to get married?" Since I didn’t know what was going to happen, I became anxious, and then depressed, and then irritable. I was a joy to be around.

Factor Four: My personal history. My mother and father divorced when I was young. Both parents have remarried, but my mother is currently separating from my stepdad. In the past, I reacted to all this divorcing by being really anti-marriage. In fact, Mr. Magic once gave me this t-shirt as a funny gift!
I still have it and wear it to bed sometimes!

But in the past five years, I changed my tune. I decided I wanted to be with Mr. M and for us to be together forever. To make that happen, I needed to cling to him like a barnacle. This may have been a bit suffocating.
I also needed him to propose to me, as this promise was the first step in us being Together Forever. No, it doesn't make sense that I was (and still am) both totally embracing the sanctity of marriage and completely skeptical of it's longevity. I’m a Gemini, remember...that's just how I roll.
Factor Five: Communication was a problem for us, and still can be at some times. I'm direct and blunt and possibly inappropriate. I'm still not going to say I was acting "crazy" - I think again that folks are too general to label and judge in these situations (always labeling the woman, mind you). All the other factors were stressing me out, it was hard for us to talk about it, and I wasn’t getting an answer that would satisfy me.

We went to look at rings and I would feel hopeful. Months later, still no proposal and I would feel devastated. I was angry at myself for waiting, for wanting this so badly. I was angry at him for not proposing already. I was angry at those damn ring commercials that start playing in overdrive around the holidays.

By Thanksgiving 2009 there was no proposal. I had waited literally years and my October 27, 2007 date was long gone. I wasn’t getting the answers I needed. I'd watched friends, coworkers, and family members get engaged to people they had known for only a fraction of the time we had been together. I was starting to become really bitter.

It was, definitely, bad times but don't worry, it gets better because [SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!] we get engaged! Have you had a bad spot in your relationship?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thank You.

for agreeing to buy this dress that you will never, ever wear again.

That's what I told my bridesmaids when we went to David's Bridal yesterday. I had looked at the David's Bridal website and saw that they had a dress similar to the cute pocket dress I posted about here...and David's Bridal had it for 99$!

They had other cute dresses too, like these.
So the girls tried on a bunch to see what they liked best. One interesting thing about the David's Bridal dressing rooms is that they do not have mirrors in the you are forced to go outside the room to see what you look like. It's kinda weird. Anyway, the girls looked lovely in the dresses...see?

This dress is in the color Sangria, which might be the color we go with.

 Three of my bridesmaids in their chosen dresses!
I even got in the act myself. I tried on the charmeuse strapless pocket dress, thinking I could get it in white and wear it at the rehearsal.

And I loved it! But the even better news is this: David's Bridal has a policy where if the bride buys her dress at DB, then each bridesmaid can get 20$ off their dresses. And, the above dress is listed as a Bridal Gown. I called and asked if this dress was eligible for the coupon booklet, and they said even though it was not supposed to be (I guess too inexpensive?), they would let me have it. Score!

I felt really relieved that we found some affordable options that the girls liked. We don't have to place the order until July, so I might keep an eye out and see if anything better rolls around (hello, Anthropologie, I'm talkin' 'bout you here!) but if not, I think these will work well.

I swear, this is such a relief. Did you feel like the bridesmaid dress hunt was a challenge? What was more important to you: price, style, or something else?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It has pockets! Yay!

Over the Christmas holidays, my little sis came up to stay with me and the Mister. I bought her lots of presents and fed her food and stuff, and in return she went and tried on approximately one million bridesmaids dresses. OK in actuality, it was, like, twenty five.

To try on these dresses, we went to discount bridal heaven, also known as the Bridal Mart (and formerly known as the Bridal Barn...awesome, no?).

It might not look like much, but they carry a wide variety of brands at discount prices! And no, I am not paid to advertise. I just really, really, really like a good bargain.

It's the Jim Hjelm Occasions that really sucked me in, as I am a total label whore! Surprisingly, their dresses were not as awesome as I expected. Sad. 

Because my lil sis is nineteen years old, five foot nine inches tall, and a size two, every single dress looked amazing on her. This made her both the best and worst model ever. She is the best model because if something only looked "meh" on her, it sure as hell wasn't going to look good on anyone else either.

Kind of blah, and what is up with the funky length?

But on the other hand, she is the worst model because even if a dress looked good on her, it did not mean the dress would look good on anyone else. I mean, don't get me wrong, all my bridesmaids are gorgeous and beautiful and lovely and stunning, but they are not 19 frickin' years old with no hips and no butt.

See? 19 with no hips and no butt.
I love this dress but I think it is a little slim fitting. 

Here are the top contenders!
Oh lace keyhole back, how I love you, how I adore you, how I am putting you away because your price tag reads over 200$ at the Bridal Barn, and that is insane!!!

 Red dress. You are fine but mostly boring and I don't even remember where you came from. Yawn. 

This dress was cute, flattering, and came in a cute color. Plus, this dress keeps good company...see?
This is the above dress's friend....
Bari Jay #206. It has pockets! Yay!

I love this dress. LOVE it. I think it is the pockets. The dress is just so sassy to me!

Looking back on the twenty some pics we took, we realized a few things. One, these bridesmaids dresses kinda all look the same after awhile. Almost all the dresses are strapless. A little variety please, bridal designers? Two, pockets are rad. Three, shiny fabric might not go with cardigan sweaters like my original inspiration.
Four, we needed sustenance. Enter Cook Out. Because nothing says "Thank you for trying on a bazillion dresses" like a burger, fries, and milkshake from Cook Out! 

Do you think shiny fabric (yes, that is a technical term) is too, um, shiny to pair with a cardigan sweater? How was your bridesmaid dress shopping experience?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Budget Bride Tips: Saving Money on Online Shopping

OK, if you aren't into couponing (which you really, really should be, it is not as much work or as time consuming as you might imagine!) and you already use Groupon and Living Social to get some awesome deals, here is yet another way to save some money!

We all shop online, right? What if I told you that for almost every purchase you make online, you can get 2% to 10%, on average, cash back in the form of a check that is mailed to you? And, it's legal.

It's super duper freaking easy! Join either Ebates or Upromise. Every time you want to make an online purchase, log into one of those sites first, and then click over to the store from their site. You will automatically get a certain percentage of cash back on your order, and it is mailed to you in a check every three months or so.

I have been a member of Ebates since 2009, and for awhile I forgot to use it. This past Christmas though, I did all my shopping online, and soon I will be getting a check for $31.63! Just for shopping online!

Have you used Ebates or Upromise , or are you going to start using them now?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Budget Bride Tips: Groupon and Living Social

If you're not interested in trying your hand at couponing, there are still other easy ways to save money. Using sites such as Groupon and Living Social is a great way to score awesome deals on many things - some that are even wedding related!

You may have heard of these sites, but here's how they work. Each day, the site offers a "new deal." A certain number of people have to sign up for the deal and then it is "on" and anyone can buy it. I have never seen a deal NOT have enough people signed up for it for the deal to go live.

You can sign up for deals local to you. But, also be aware that sometimes a deal is listed for another city, but is actually available to anyone no matter where you live!. Check out this screen shot that I got from Southern Savers!

Groupon National Deals Roundup by Southern Savers

This screen shot lists deals that are open to anyone - you do not have to live in that city to get the deal! It's a pain to go through and check ever city each day to see what is up for grabs though, so I normally just check into Southern Savers and Jenny posts on there if there are good deals up for grabs.

It's important to read the fine print. Sometimes the deal is good for new customers only, or might have an expiration date.

I have seen and bought some great deals specifically for our wedding! So without further adieu, here they are!

Deal #1: I paid 30$ and got 75$ worth of merchandise from a fabric and sewing shop in town. I am using that material to make napkin rings and bunting.

Deal #2: 16x20 Personalized Canvas Print for 28$ and free shipping. I am going to get this pic done of us, to go with our tree theme!

Deal #3: Hot yoga to get my butt in shape before the big day! I swear I think I will pass out when I do this, but I bought it anyway: 15 Bikram Yoga classes for 25$!

Deal #4: 60% off Food and Drink at The General Store Cafe. They are our caterers, so we can now go eat some of their yummy food anytime at a great discount!

Other potentially awesome wedding deals I have seen include hair salon discounts, spa deals, wholesale flowers on sale, and dance lessons for only a fraction of the regular cost. I am totally waiting for those dance lesson deals to roll back around, and then I am snatching them up and me and the Mister are going to learn how to do a bit more than the seventh grade sway.

There is also Living Social Escapes! This site offers heavily discounted vacation packages. Right now there is one for an all inclusive resort in Cancun! I'm gonna go drool over that and imagine myself far away from this freakish Southern Winter!

Do you use Groupon or Living Social? What are some of your fave deals that you have scored?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I Was Wrong, You Were Right

I was feeling pretty anxious about my dress and, despite many folks' urging to try it on to reassure myself, I was scared to put the gown on. A couple of nights ago though, some of my lovely and loving friends asked me to try it on for them. Only one out of these four ladies had seen the dress before.

I put on my dress and my veil, and looked in the mirror, and knew (AGAIN) that this was The Dress. I don't know why my brain deludes me into thinking that the dress is too yellow, or too tight (ok, it is a little tight around the middle), or too trendy, or too boring.... OK, I guess I do know. It's the damn dress doubt disoder. Or, just generalized anxiety. Whatevs.

So I would like to thank all of my friends and blog readers who have supported me during these crazy times. I was wrong, you were right. Please watch this clip below as both an apology (for calling y'all liars when you said the dress was awesome) and a sign of thanks for being such great friends.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Budget Bride Tips: Couponing

I started out as a "budget bride" but I think I have blown the wedding budget. Good thing I am saving money on all the other stuff in my life! If you need to learn how to save money too, this mini-series is for you.

I used to HATE going to the grocery store. There were too many choices and a bunch of small children with their itty bitty mini shopping carts were all up in my way, and then the next thing I would know, I would end up paying a bunch of hard earned money for things like paper towels and milk. Ugh. I would spend a ton of money, have a bunch of items that required cooking before eating, and be really grumpy too. It totally sucked.

Yes, you're cute. Now please get the hell out of my way.

But about a year ago I learned about extreme couponing. I am NOT crazy like the people on that new TLC show Extreme Couponing. (TLC is really attracting a lot of freaks these days, by the way.) I am just being efficient in my shopping. I get to save more money and the added benefit is, I no longer hate grocery shopping because now it's more like a game that I always win!

Exhibit A:
These groceries came to $102.98 with tax and before any discounts. By using the grocery store's discount card, I saved $33.97. Almost everything I bought was on sale with the discount card.

-$33.97 savings with Harris Teeter VIC card

Then I used coupons, and since this was Super Doubles week, coupons up to $1.99 were doubled! I saved $52.45 with coupons.

- $52.45 savings with coupons
= final total of $16.56

Yes, that does mean I only spent $16.56 on $102.98 worth of groceries! I would calculate what percentage I saved, but I have already done enough math for one day.

I know, Isabella was amazed too!
Actually, she just wants some of those Pounce treats that I ended up getting, of course, for free.

Here are the very basics of extreme couponing.

1. Buy stuff when it is on sale. Ok, maybe that is, like, sooooooo obvious to everyone else but it was not to me. Don't wait to buy things when you need them...always buy what is on sale!

2. Use coupons. There are two types of coupons, manufacturer (the majority of the coupons in the world) and store coupons. Manufacturer coupons can be used anywhere. Store coupons are like "Target coupon" or "CVS Coupon." A lot of times you can print store coupons from their site. Usually, you can pair a manufacturer coupon with a store coupon. Crazy, I know!

3. If you're lazy and hate math, like me, you don't want to be bothered with looking at sale papers and comparing stores and items and prices. Who has time? So instead, find a (free) coupon website that will tell you what you need to know. I use Southern Savers. A magical angel named Jenny runs it, and she lists all the popular stores in the South including grocery stores and drug stores. Moreover, she lists what is on sale at a good price each week, and links the coupons to it. Yes, she basically does all the work for you. A LOT of the coupons are printable, so you don't even need the Sunday paper necessarily, although, of course, a lot of great coupons come in it as well.

Southern Savers screenshot

4. Pick one or two stores and start small! It took me a bit of practice to understand the systems at even one store. I regularly shop at Harris Teeter and CVS. Both are considered "pricier" stores, but if you understand their sales policies and their coupon/reward policies, in the long run they both are the most economical. At first I was stoked to save five or ten dollars. Then I regularly began saving between 40-60% on groceries. And on super special weeks like the one I broke down earlier, I save a lot more!

5. Be flexible. If you are a picky eater or are only loyal to one brand and flavor and size of toothpaste, you are not going to be as successful at couponing. Lucky for me, I eat anything and I don't really care about what deodorant or toothpaste I use. I especially don't care even more when I know it's free. Being flexible in terms of cleaning products and health and beauty brands will get you far.

So, that's it! I really recommend finding a coupon site that does most of the work for you. Once you get into the hang of it, it's easy. For the shopping trip I profiled, I spent about 45 minutes making a list and printing and cutting coupons, and then 45 minutes actually shopping in the store. For a savings of, um, some high percentage, that is well worth it to me!

Do you coupon*? Do you think it's ok for me to call myself a budget bride even though my budget blew up, if I am saving money in other ways? What if I keep using the quotations marks like this: I'm a "budget bride." Yeah...probably not....

*Yes, "coupon" is now being used as a verb especially to those of us who, well, coupon!

Dress Doubt Disorder: A Case Study

I've self diagnosed myself with Dress Doubt Disorder. I can do that...I'm an LCSW, so I am fully qualified. Plus, I made the disorder up, and the person who makes up the disorder can diagnose anyone they want. I just made that rule up, too.

Anyway, I've got the DDD. My behaviors include lusting after classically all lace dresses, and wondering if I should have gone that route. An all lace dress was my second choice gown, after all. Untill I decided they were "trite." What was I thinking????
Oh Vineyard Nora, how I could have maybe loved you....

Or looking at all the new lines coming out, and sighing, and wondering if I should have waited. I also obsessively replay all the positive and negative comments (and facial expressions) that people have made regarding my dress, and I weigh them against one another. The positive comments weigh as much as a feather pillow while the negative ones tend to resemble bricks. That's part of the disorder too.

I think about just walking upstairs to try on my dress that is just hanging up there [side note: I read somewhere that you aren't supposed to hang your dress for a long time, and instead should wrap it in a sheet and stick it under the bed. That sounds like a really, really bad idea since I have a Peeing Princess, aka my cat Isabella, in the house and she likes to pee on things. Thoughts?] and reassure myself that my dress is The One...but then I decide that 1) I don't trust my own opinion, obviously and 2) Maybe the problem is that I look in the mirror and think the dress looks nice, but really the problem is that it does not look good in photos. All the photos of me in the sample dress are not good. So even if I did try my dress on and was happy with how it looked in the mirror, it doesn't matter, because the pics don't lie.

Then I think "But my friends love it, and they aren't fashion disasters. Quite the opposite!" These are the same friends who once plotted and executed a (semi) successful intervention to extricate me from the throes of too many 3/4 length sleeved rugby shirts. Clearly, they must have some fashion knowledge!
OK, maybe I wore these types of shirts like they were my uniform in college.

But then, on the other hand, I worry that maybe my friends just saw how much I loved (thought I loved???) the dress, and just agreed with me that it was a beautiful dress, and now they are stuck because I went and bought the damn thing, and they never DREAMED I would make such a disastrous mistake!!! Well I showed them, didn't I???

In the end, no matter the reassurance my friends give me, it doesn't help at all because my disordered brain has decided that they are all lying to protect my feelings. Really the dress is hideous but they all know it's bought and paid off and I can't afford another one, so they will just tell me it's gorgeous and maybe I can delude myself into thinking it is on the day of until I see the photos from our wedding and realize I looked completely ridiculous and sooooooooo 2011.

Catastrophizing much? I think so. I clearly have a problem.

Should I try the dress on, or wrap it up in a sheet and put it under the bed for Isabella to pee on?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dress Doubt Disorder

Diagnostic Criteria for Dress Doubt DisorderUnsure


A diagnosis of dress doubt disorder is made when the following criteria from A, B, and C are met.
  1. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):

    1. Qualitative impairment in cognition, as manifested by at least two of the following, one of which must include (a):
      1. extreme feelings of doubt or uncertainty regarding dress decision
      2. marked impairment in or decreased thoughts of topics other than dress
      3. failure to attend to topics other than dress
      4. increased cognition directed solely toward dress
      5. lack of insight into rational processes regarding dress

    2. Qualitative impairments in social emotional behavior as manifested by at least one of the following:
      1. increased anxiety regarding dress that can be exhibited by nail biting, lack of sleep, physical pain, headaches, crying, and/or irritability
      2. marked impairment in ability to trust others who were previously deemed trustworthy fashion advisers
      3. extremely labile mood exhibited by twirling in dress and then quickly crying while still wearing said dress (or other similar behaviors)
      4. inability to be soothed or calmed about dress decision

    3. Restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interest, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
      1. encompassing preoccupation with dresses, both one's own and others
      2. repetitive thoughts and/or language regarding dress
      3. repetitive behaviors regarding dresses (as evidenced by trying dress on or reading magazines with known high dress counts)
      4. persistent preoccupation with parts of dresses, such as lace boleros, sashes, trains, veils, as well as dress styles and fashion trends

  2. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

  3. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Buyer's Remorse Disorder.
Research shows that between 10% and 70% of brides suffer from some degree of dress doubt disorder. Treatment usually involves multiple repetitive conversations with attempts to placate the bride, with limited results. Anti anxiety pills are sometimes prescribed, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. In some extreme cases, exposure or in-vivo therapy is indicated.

Have you suffered from DDD? I think I might have it....

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Two Thousand Eleven

I got really annoyed when people said "twenty ten" to indicate "2010." I don't know why. It's not like I didn't say "nineteen ninety eight" to mean "1998." But for some reason, I prefer to say our brand new year's name as Two Thousand Eleven.

So, happy Two Thousand Eleven to you! And what does our new year bring? New goals to attempt!

I like to make a lot of resolutions...that way, the odds improve that at least one of them will get accomplished. Sometimes, I make sorta tricky fake resolutions that are impossible to NOT accomplish. For instance, in two thousand and nine, I resolved to drink more milk. I accomplished it easily, as I rarely, rarely, rarely EVER drank any milk before that. Dunzo.


Here are my resolutions for Two Thousand Eleven, in no particular order!

1. Drink more water. I am purposefully not trying to eat more healthily...why set myself up for failure like that? But drinking more water is something I can hopefully do.

2. Join a gym...and use it. I think the upcoming wedding and the tightness of my dress around my midsection might provide me the motivation I need to do a little cardio and a few sit ups.

3. Get my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)! I'm thinking the licensure process will be finished by the end of February. Thank goodness.

4. Begin to see some clients privately, after I have my license. Yay for private practice! Yay!

5. Be in less debt and have more savings by the end of the year.

6. Work less. I know, this doesn't make a lot of sense with the previous goals of starting to see clients privately and making money and paying off debts. But hopefully I can cut back more on my current second job and perhaps my current #1 job and maybe introduce job #3 (private practice) and be my own boss and make more money. Good plan, huh?

7. Enjoy my wedding day and let the little things go. This might involve medication.

8. Count to ten before I lash out verbally in anger or sarcasm. This also might involve medication, and maybe some yoga practice too.

9. Get to the beach at least three times in the summer and a total of at least six times in the whole year.

10. Learn some new recipes and cook more at home.

11. Run at least one 5K.

12. Get tickets to and attend the NKOTB and BSB reunion tour. They are not performing here in North Carolina but they are performing in Nashville and Atlanta. I don't care so much about the Backstreet Boys but the New Kids on the Block were around when I was growing up, back in the nineteen eighties and nineteen nineties. I about had a heart attack last night when I saw their mash up.

In case you missed it...


Who's your favorite singer of NKOTBSB? I mean, what are some of your resolutions? And do you say "twenty eleven" or "two thousand eleven?"

Talk to you soon. I gotta go drink some water....