Wedding Update: 9 Months to go!

Down to the nine month mark! This past month has been more thinking and visualizing rather than actually making concrete decisions and plans. I mean, we have our venue and I got my dress, the rest is a cake-walk, right?

One thing I can happily say is that I haven’t been a bridezilla.

Right, Tom? RIGHT?!?!

But seriously, if I’m being completely honest, I haven’t done any crazy complaining or stressing. I mean, I’ve watched some of those shows with crazy brides, and they totally stress me out. I can’t make it more than 2 minutes before I need to either change the channel or walk out of the room.

Like, these women are nuts. And it makes me question the sanity of the chump that asked them to spend the rest of their lives together. You really want to spend each and every day with her? And then there are her friends/bridesmaids whom she treats like total garbage. How have they not ended the friendship? Why did they agree to be in her wedding? And how on Earth do they restrain themselves from punching her in the face?!

Breathe, Holliday. Breathe.

But since I haven’t been stressing too much, I was so surprised when I had this crazy wedding dream/nightmare a couple weeks ago. I wrote about it here, so check out how strange it was.

I guess the one thing that hit home the most with that dream was the part about my mom not coming. I’ve been stressing about this the most and trying to figure out possible ways to get her down here. And then the guilt sets in.

Am I selfish for having my wedding down in Long Island instead of upstate? It has been less stressful planning it down here, and yet I feel like a horrible daughter in making it more difficult for my mom to come.

So I’ve been looking into finding resources in order to get mom down here:

  1. Her friend offered to pay for transportation down here – plane, train, whatever – so that’s one less thing to worry about. Realistically, a plane would be the best way because she can’t sit in her chair for more than a few hours.
  2. From there, we’d need to find transportation from the airport to Long Island (and vice versa when she goes home).
  3. We would need to have an aide with her for whenever she needed meds, to use the bathroom, and transporting between her motorized chair to bed.
  4. Along with the aide, the nursing home uses a Hoyer lift for these transports, so we’d probably need one of those.

Is there such a thing as renting a nursing home room or assisted living space for a night? That would be great!

On top of all this, the most important thing is keeping her stress level as low as possible. Stress exacerbates her condition, so we would need to make everything as easy on her as we could. This was actually one of the reasons we didn’t hold it upstate.

No matter what we plan, in the end, her MS will rule the day and decide how she feels. So even if we did hold it upstate, there’s always a chance that she may wake up that morning and feel like total garbage and be unable to attend anyways. See my dilemma?

Whew, okay, let’s move on. I’m becoming a stress-ball again.

On a lighter note, I’ve been designing our Save the Dates. In the wedding world, they call these STDs for short; I know, weird. Tom suggested skipping the STDs…wait…ahem, let’s just use Save the Dates. Come on Holliday, be mature.

You know you were thinking it too.

So Tom suggested just skipping Save the Dates and going straight to the invitations. Because we are having a wedding that has the potential for a lot of out-of-town guests, it would be a great idea to get a head count earlier than typical timelines suggest. This way we will have an idea of how many hotel rooms we might need to block, how many guests in general for ceremony and meal preparations, and how many would attend a separate reception if we held one upstate.

On top of that, we need to figure out a picture we both like to put on the Save the Dates and/or Invitations; we might need a few depending on what design we go with. Tom and I both like the Save the Date postcard idea, so if we do send STDs, we’ll probably go with something like this:Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 10.47.25 AM copy

Except Tom isn’t a fan of the front picture. Which brings me to finding a photographer…

So an appointment had been made to meet with the photography company that works closely with our venue. Except someone (I won’t name names) slept through said appointment. Normally I think this would stress me (or anyone) out, but to be honest I’m not too impressed with that company’s portfolio.

Since they are based in Long Island, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the original appointment anyways, since I have grad school and work during the week. I’ve had my eye on two other photographers whose work I find so much better, but obviously they’re a bit pricier. I want the photos to be amazing, so I really don’t want to skimp and end up with crummy pictures just to save a few bucks. But I also don’t want to pay an arm and a leg, either.

So I made an appointment with one of the other photography companies I liked better, and I’m hoping that things will go well and we can decide to go with them. I’d also like to set up an engagement session with them. This way we can become comfortable with our photographer and we can all get an idea of what we want for the big day.

A couple weeks ago, we asked Tom’s dad to take a few pictures at the beach where we got engaged since he has a pretty nice camera. We have this running joke about not wanting super awkward pictures, so I mentioned poses like the ‘peering around a tree at each other’ pose. So we made a point to take a picture like that for fun, knowing that it is something we want to avoid with actual engagement pictures.IMG_0241 copy

Even with our desire not to get awkward pictures, we got plenty of them that day. Not because we were super pose-y or cheesey, but because it was super windy and sunny at the beach. We wanted candid, we got candid. All I have to say is watch what you wish for. Outtakes might be posted on our wedding website, so wear a diaper for that experience.

Speaking of, Tom and I got to sit down and work on the website together last weekend. Tom did most of the work while I sat next to him and made my suggestions for overall look and functions. I’m always so amazed when I watch him do stuff with computers!

How did you know what to do to fix that? How did you know to type that? Where did you learn all this stuff?!

I’ve learned a lot along the way because he knows how to break things down and explain them to someone who is not completely technology illiterate but is nowhere near his level of knowledge. It was a nice bonding time for us and hopefully the site will be up soon.

On top of all that, I realized that this year will be the first time we get to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas together! Tomorrow, November 17, is the three year mark since we met, but we haven’t actually spent a major holiday together because of the whole 400-miles-between-us thing. We’ve talked over Skype on such days, but to actually be able to be with each other and share the joy that those days bring makes me really excited.

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October 2011

And (okay, let’s get cheesy for a second) kind of emotional. I mean, you have no idea how long I’ve waited to be able to spend special days – holidays, birthdays, even just going out on dates – with Tom. It’s crazy thinking about all the time we spent so far away, all the things we couldn’t do, all the experiences and memories we couldn’t share because of the distance between us.

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September 2012

Through the difficult times, the frustrations, the doubts, the short visits, the extreme loneliness following the short visits, and the inability to share all the good times without a screen between us. After 2 years of that, you can imagine how ecstatic I am knowing that Tom and I no longer have to endure these!

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. –Romans 5: 1-5

Yes, we will still have frustrating times; I understand that marriage does not magically take away problems. If anything, problems will be brought to light or created as a married couple spending a lot of time together. But we’ll be able to work through them face to face. God seriously tested our relationship, and now we’re going to be joined in marriage! And I’m pumped!

So I told Tom the other day that we might just need to get one of those cheesy “Our First Christmas” ornaments for the tree this year! And we can put one of our awkward beach photos on it. Like this one:IMG_0184 copy 2

Or maybe something more like this:

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All I know is there are plenty of awkward pictures to choose from. And all I can say is that we’re a couple of awkward people. And we must embrace it.

So, to put a twist on Romans 5: 3-5,

We rejoice in our shared awkwardness because it produces our endurance to deal with each other’s awkward characters. Let us hope that we can get pictures a little less awkward. If not, we have no shame because God loves us no matter what.

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Wedding Update: 10 Months to go!

A little less than 10 months to go! As much as I would like to write about all of the things we got done this past month, there honestly hasn’t been many changes since my last post. But with good reason…

Long Island knows how to do weddings. I mean, it’s like a wedding factory down here. And not in a bad “get in, get out, bring on the next one,” wedding-a-minute type thing. But down here, it’s so competitive that they are all ready to offer you as much as they can, all in one place, to make your wedding and life easier. I mean, who wouldn’t want that?

Some of my friends that have gotten or are getting married upstate were/are so stressed dealing with so many different vendors because each aspect of their ceremonies and receptions was being taken care of by a separate entity. Our venue is our ceremony and reception site, is our caterer, and will be taking care of linens. So it was so exciting getting to check multiple things off the to-do list just by booking our venue.

Plus, down here most venues are partnered with photographers, cake bakeries, florists, etc. whom they have worked with and trust enough to recommend. We have an appointment in a couple weeks with the photographer they recommended, so hopefully they fit our vision. Since they have worked at our venue many times, they know all the good spots for pictures. Bottom line: nothing corny. Like these.

Pricing down here makes much more sense, too; at some of the upstate venues I looked at, it was if you were casually eating out at a restaurant and had to pay for everything separately. And I mean everything. You want chicken? That’ll be $5 per person. Steak? $9. Choose your sides: you want potatoes? That’s going to be another $4 per potato-eating person. And so on, and so forth.

I realize that’s not how all places are up there, but there is nothing that complicated down here. You get a menu that lays out every single thing offered: you get to choose 8 hors d’oeuvres from a list of 20, then you get to choose 3 entrees (usually you choose chicken, beef, and fish) which all come with sides, you choose whether you want an open bar or just the beer/wine/signature drink choice, and so much more…and you get all this for one flat rate per person depending on what month you are getting married.

Note: June-October are the most expensive. Obviously. If you’re looking for a bargain, get hitched in December or January – it’s about $30 less per person! But personally I would not want to be trudging around in the cold with the possibility of snow.

So needless to say I’m extremely happy to be saved from all the stress that I’ve heard and seen others go through when planning their weddings. The biggest thing on my mind lately has been my dress, but I guess I wouldn’t say it has been really stressing me out. Of course I want to look amazing on my wedding day, but I knew I would find one that I liked. Plus, we have 10 months; I was told to find one no later than 9 months before the wedding in order to allow time for fittings, alterations, etc.

I have been scouring websites and building up my ‘Love and Marriage’ board on Pinterest with dresses for a couple weeks now. Plus, my friend and maid of honor Courtney had been planning to come down this week so that we could go dress shopping with my future mother-in-law, so I wasn’t too worried.

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And I’m happy to say that I found my dress!!!!!!!!

There’s an awesome story behind it, but I think I’ll wait awhile to tell you. It’s actually one of the dresses on my Pinterest board, so that’s fun! I thought it was pretty when I saw it online, but it’s so hardto know how a dress flows and what it feels and looks on you until it’s actually on you.

All I know is that as soon as I saw it on me, I was so overwhelmed with happiness. And there were tears. I didn’t get this way with any of the dresses the first time I tried some on, and I was kind of unsure as to whether I would have a teary reaction at all. But I know myself and if there wasn’t a tiny bit of water works, it wasn’t the dress.

And it happened. I cried. Mrs. Harrigan cried. Although she had tears for pretty much all of the dresses I had tried on previously 🙂 But that’s to be expected.

I originally wasn’t much into the idea of a veil, but when the lady at the bridal salon put one on me, it all just fit together. After awhile of ogling at myself, she asked if I wanted to try other dresses on. I was kind of unsure. I figured since we were already out, why not? But when she asked what style I wanted, I just looked at myself, still wearing the dress, and said, “This.” She smiled and said, “So is this your dress?” And I said, “Yes, I love this.” And that was it!

The biggest thing for this next month is to get the wedding website all set and looking pretty so that people can actually start using it. I’ve been putting content on there and trying to make it look nice, and Tom has to do more functionality stuff to make things work better and so that people can RSVP on it. Other than that, this month has been smooth sailing.

It’s been nice without added stress of having to take care of so many things this past month. Especially since I wasn’t with Tom (other than short Skype chats here and there) for 3 of the last 4 weeks. With work, school, my friend visiting from out of town, and Tom going to Amsterdam for a weeklong work trip, it was very hectic for both of us. But then we got to spend last weekend (and it was a long weekend for me with Columbus Day!) together, and it was wonderful. ♥

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My Year With Crohn’s Disease

I realized yesterday that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease exactly one year ago. Happy Autoimmune Disease Birthday to me! It took me awhile to write and edit this post, so it’s not exactly to the day, but it’ll do. I figured I would write about my journey with this disease – from flare-ups, finally being diagnosed, medications, and now, one year later, how I’m dealing.

*Just a warning, there are some gross parts, so I apologize if you don’t find it appealing, but this is what happened. Also, it’s kind of a long story…it’s been a long time coming and it felt like even longer when I was actually going through it all. I warned you. So if you’re still willing to read, let’s proceed.*

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November 2010 – My roommate Becky and I

Okay, so I have had two flare-ups in my life, but it wasn’t until the second one that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s. I have no doubt that my flare-ups have been stress-induced. To start off my first flare-up, let’s take a trip to my senior year at Geneseo. Fall 2010 began pretty rough: my 6+ year relationship had become very rocky, I was going to college full-time, working at Walmart part-time, and on top of this my mom’s Multiple Sclerosis was a constant worry.

My health decline started with stomachaches that would not go away no matter what I did. If I was in my dorm room, I would lay down for the 5 or 10 minutes it took for the pain to go away on its own. There was no pattern to them – I thought maybe it was something I ate, but then they began happening before I ate as well as after. I then began noticing little bumps on my legs one day when I was shaving; they looked like whiteheads or ingrown hairs, but they seemed a little more on the green side than on the white side. Weird.

By the end of October my relationship ended, my schoolwork was getting more difficult, and it seemed I never had time to relax, let alone sleep. I was constantly feeling alone and left out because none of my friends had to worry about working and school, so they were able to enjoy their nights watching TV, going to dinner together, just hanging out. But I didn’t have a second to stop and chill.

And eating? Forget it. I began feeling nauseous at the thought of food because the stomach pains had become so intense and unbearable. I quickly began losing weight and by November, I was down to 112 pounds; my normal weight at that point was around 124. I mean, we’re talking my butt was becoming flat. Obviously something was wrong.

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December 2010 – I was completely exhausted here and at my lowest weight. But I had to support the Sabres!

Throughout this time, those small “pimples” on my legs grew and became large open sores. At one point, I would try using a cotton ball with either hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean them, put some Neosporin on them, and cover them in band-aids every single day. No matter what I did, though, they never got better. I mean they were getting so deep and wide that I had craters in my legs. Yeah, gross.

I also was getting swollen joints – I wore a knee brace under my pants because I couldn’t bear all of my weight on my knee without it feeling like it would buckle. Up until this point, I had really only had my nauseous episodes while in my room, so it was easy enough to just lay down for a bit to let the feeling go away. But then it started happening at work; I almost passed out a couple times during my shifts at Walmart because of the pain, nausea, and lack of nutrients.

Wow, what a mess I was!

Okay, so by this point you’re probably asking, “Why the hell did you not see a doctor?!” Well, you see, I did not have insurance. I had just turned 21 in August and my dad took me off his plan. I didn’t have money to pay for my own plan, let alone a bunch of medical bills. I was in the process of enrolling in a state-funded insurance but that takes forever, so unfortunately I never saw anyone for this until it was well-developed.

I ended up going to the ER, though, over winter break because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Something had to be wrong and things were still not getting better, even after being home on break from school and work. Because I did not have insurance, they were not willing to do much for me. I mean, the doctor tried to give me a pelvic exam – I think she thought I was either pregnant (I assured her I was not) or had cysts. After a long and frustrating night, I went home with no more answers than I had entered with.

I eventually got approved for insurance and started making appointments with a doctor in my hometown as well as the doctor on campus. Cultures of my sores were taken but showed no signs of what they were assuming would be strep or staph infections. Antibiotics and corticosteroid creams were tried but nothing was helping. Strangely though, everything just sort of went away on its own by about mid-March 2011; I wasn’t taking meds or applying any creams at that point, so my mysterious condition was still very mysterious.

It left some pretty mean scars on my legs, so I was extremely self-conscious with the warmer weather, wanting to wear things that would show my legs. But lo and behold, my skin was healing and I could eat again! Without knowing why, my condition was gone!

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May 2011 – Thank goodness I had gained my health back in time to participate in the IV Powderpuff game!

Or so I thought.

Fast forward to 2012. I had been accepted into Columbia University for graduate school in July and decided to defer admission until spring 2013 because there was no way I could go with such little time. And since my mom had been in the nursing home for over a year now, I had been spending my time alone in my house except when I was substitute teaching or working at Walmart. So I was pretty stressed. Add on the fact that I had just gotten a long-term substitute job for a maternity leave for the first 10 weeks of the 2012-2013 school year. I was so excited to get more experience teaching middle and high school kids, but man oh man did the stress get to me.

By the first week of September, my symptoms started coming back. The pain. The nausea. The extreme weight loss. The sores. Everything was back. And with a vengeance. I mean, I was literally waking up in so much pain all over my body, I had to hobble like a 90-year old woman. At one point, I was hardly able to put my shoes on because my one ankle was so swollen. The sores started as painful lumps under my skin before they actually opened. Again, gross, but that was my reality.

Luckily I took action much sooner this time, although it was really frustrating. I went to my general practitioner multiple times without getting answers. During my third visit, I broke down and cried telling her how stressed out I had been and how much my health issues were making things worse. She prescribed me a low-dose anti-anxiety pill. This did not do a darn thing.

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School ID as a teacher. Looking kind of gaunt. Cool.

She finally referred me to a GI specialist and wanted me to get a colonoscopy. Because of my age, the GI specialist decided to “simply” perform a sigmoidoscopy first. Tom came up to stay with me for a few days and take me to my appointment since I was going under anesthesia and would be in no shape to drive myself home. Apparently I was very persistent in trying to share my cookies with him once I woke up after the procedure. Unfortunately I missed a day of school for this test and it showed nothing.

Two weeks later, I ended up in the ER again. This time, because I had proper insurance, the doctors ran a whole slew of tests. Blood tests and cultures, a CT Scan, and a chest X-ray. Around 2:30 a.m., after about 5 hours of being there, the doctor came in and said that all tests pointed to either Crohn’s disease or colitis, but to get a definitive answer I would need to get a full colonoscopy. Until then, she gave me steroids, antibiotics, and mesalamine (anti-inflammatory meds for those with ulcerative colitis flare-ups). Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful.

Within the next few days, I felt much better. I went to Baltimore with my friends as planned the following weekend and boy did I enjoy eating food again! I can tell by the pictures of that weekend how skinny I was! I mean, look at my face! It’s usually a bit rounder than that.

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September 29, 2012 – Baltimore with Megan

The GI specialist received my ER tests and made an appointment within the next week; obviously something was wrong or they wouldn’t be so quick in doing this. So on October 8, 2012, I went in for a colonoscopy and came out with a definitive answer: I have Crohn’s disease.

I continued taking the steroid Prednisone to help with the inflammation (since Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease, my body was attacking itself, causing inflammation and bleeding and all that good stuff in my intestines). Unfortunately, steroids are known to cause “moonface” – puffiness of the face due to fat depositing in that area after long-term use of the steroids. I obviously began gaining weight because I was finally able to eat again, which was a great feeling. Except I felt like my face was getting very fat and puffy. Everyone kept telling me I looked great and that I didn’t look fat. All I will say is they all lied. Just take a gander at my passport photo which was taken after a month of being on steroids. Thanks everyone.

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November 2, 2012 – Moonface Holliday

Since that day, things have been great. It sucks that I have to take 12 pills every day (I take Delzicol, if anyone’s wondering: 6 with breakfast, 6 with dinner) but I would much rather deal with that than with the excruciating pain I was in. I’m back to a healthy weight and I haven’t had any problems thusfar with my medications. I try to be a little better with my diet, but the doctor has not restricted me in any way. Many people ask if I’m not allowed to have nuts or seeds, but my GI doctor said, “If you like it, it tastes good, and it doesn’t bother you, eat it.” And I have. And I do.

I even emailed the doctor at Geneseo with my story (a bit more condensed) so that maybe if he ever comes across these symptoms again, that person won’t have to go through this huge mess like I did. I feel like I should be on that show Mystery Diagnosis. That could be interesting…

Wedding Update: 11 months to go!

Wowee what a crazy couple of weeks. It’s insane that I’ve been engaged for almost a month now! We just went to a wedding 2 weeks ago, so it was nice to get ideas for our own. And it was fun getting to dance together…for the first time since we met almost 3 years ago!

Annnd of course I don’t have a single picture of the two of us from that night. I know the photographer got at least one, but I don’t know about getting my hands on one. If I can find one somewhere (anywhere!) I will insert it here.

In these quick 4 weeks, we’ve made progress on our own wedding! We were able to check off the most important thing: the ceremony/reception venue.

Deciding where we wanted the ceremony/reception was a big decision. No, not what building to hold them in (that was super easy for us, actually), but what part of the state. I’m from Batavia (between Buffalo and Rochester; “practically Canada” I tell most downstaters) and Tom is from Stony Brook (Long Island. And, no, that is not considered part of New York City), so it was a tough decision to make since most of our respective families live close to where we each grew up.

One of the biggest factors was my mom; if we held it in Long Island, there’s no way she would be able to make the 6+ hour trip by any mode of transportation (I realize a plane would be shorter, but then you have to think of getting there early and going through security, and then trying to get her on the plane in her motorized chair…). Plus, the stress of all that would do her in. Then, when she got down here, what would happen if she needed to use the bathroom? We would honestly need to hire a nurse or something to do all that.

Okay, so we’d have it upstate. Again, she would have to travel a distance to get to the venue since there’s nowhere in my hometown that I want to get married in. Again, stress would ensue and make matters worse. And again, bathroom situation.

We went so far as to make a pros/cons chart:

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Long story short (too late?), after Tom and I discussed it with my mom and got her input, we’ve decided to have a ceremony and reception down here in Long Island on August 16, 2014. Then, for my mom and others that can’t make it, we plan to hold a separate reception/party upstate in my hometown. This separate shindig might be soon after, depending on how hectic our schedules are; it could end up being a month or two or four after. Who knows?

Although I’m really bummed about my mom not being able to see me get married (and I know she is too), we still have time to maybe figure something out so that she could come. If not, we plan on hiring a videographer so that she can see the whole thing; maybe we can look into hooking up some live-streaming? Has anyone had any success with that?

I did try on a few dresses the other day; I liked a couple, but not enough to commit to one after my first visit. We took a picture of my favorite one on my new iPhone (as in just got it an hour before), but then we had to take it to Sprint and he reset the phone…sooo there’s no evidence at all that I was wearing a wedding dress. Bummer, but oh well.

I think that’s it for updates at this point. Until next time! Cheers.

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