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2008 in review

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Thinking back on 2008, it must have been the most eventful year of my life. Here’s a rough outline of major events in chronological order — some good, some bad (I’ll do a separate post with riding highlights soon).

  1. Found out that my riding buddy, Dave, had a wreck and injured his spinal cord (he is recovering very well, and is back to riding the trails)
  2. Got engaged
  3. Had my wisdom teeth removed
  4. Celebrated Sarah’s graduation from grad school
  5. Took a trip to North Carolina and Virginia, to explore some job possibilities for Sarah.  While there, I was hit by a car (which then “ran”). I had some scrapes and a broken/dislocated finger, which still hurts sometimes (it happened in June). Then our car broke down. We did manage to see some beautiful sights while we were there, but the trip was pretty much a complete bust. Sarah did not get either job. Actually, we thought she was getting the one in Virginia, and just as we thought they were going to make an offer, they told us they had a hiring freeze, and could not fill the position.
  6. Got married
  7. Moved to Pennsylvania, since Sarah found a job here. I kept my job, and have been working from home.
  8. Found out I’m getting laid off from my job. December 31 (tomorrow) will be my last day.
  9. Took steps to form my own company providing Web development and other services. This is the first I’ve mentioned it on the blog, I’ll say more later.

Hitched, without a hitch

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Our wedding went absolutely perfectly. I’ll get to the details of the wedding in a minute, but let me start at the beginning. First, a little background. We got married at Yellowwood State Forest, not far from Bloomington, Indiana, where we live. We rented a shelter by the lake. We have done quite a bit of hiking, camping, and biking at Yellowwood, so it’s a place that means a lot to us. Since we wanted to get married outdoors, it wasn’t hard to decide that we should do it at Yellowwood. Note: I am only posting a few photos now. I’ll post many more later. Most of the photos are not mine.

Friday

Friday was a day off work spent making preparations and hoping the rain would stop. It rained most of the day and was really quite disgusting outside. We even bought a bunch of candles and some oil lamps so it wouldn’t be too dark in the tent/shelter, if we had to have our ceremony under them. Friday evening, our families finally met for the first time over Italian food. Good times and good food were had by all, and everyone got along very well.

Friday night

Friday night we had planned to get a campsite, and invited everyone to make s’mores around a campfire. Since it had rained all day, we instead opted to use a fireplace in the shelter where we were getting married, in case it started raining again. We showed up late (this would later become a theme, and I felt terrible about it each time). We weren’t sure anyone would show up. Who would be crazy enough to drive out to the middle of nowhere, after a day of nothing but rain, in the dark, through dense fog, to sit around a fire?

About 20 people, as it turned out. In fact, a few people were already there waiting by the time we arrived. It was extremely muggy, but everyone enjoyed themselves nonetheless. I built a fire, which went a lot smoother than I expected (it’s hard to build a fire with people watching). We made a lot of s’mores, had both cold and hot apple cider (with optional rum) and spent about 2 hours catching up with friends. There were a number of people there who I hadn’t seen in years, and it was great to talk to them.

Once things were winding down, Sarah and I took a minute to go down by the water just the two of us. The fog was extremely dense and the glow of the moon made it possible to see the lake slightly. It was truly beautiful and I was glad we got a few moments to ourselves.

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Yellowwood Lake in the fog, at night

After that, Sarah and I parted ways, not to see each other again until the wedding. I went back to the cabin we rented with my groomsmen, Michael and Josh, my best friends from when I went to Northwestern University, and Michael’s wife, Laurel. We stayed up late hanging out at the cabin.

Saturday

Preparations

We had been worried it’d rain, as it did in the days leading up to the wedding, but we had a gorgeous sunny day. It was a bit warm, in the upper 80s, and quite humid, but that sure beat rain, and the wind kept everyone a little cooler and added a certain dreamy atmosphere to the proceedings.

The groomsmen and I were running a little behind schedule. Josh and Laurel and I went to set up signs directing people to the wedding. At one stop I started driving before Josh was all the way in the car — he ended up hopping alongside the car as I drove off, yelling at me to stop. I stopped just a few feet later, and felt really bad I’d done that. He wasn’t hurt.

We got to the wedding site a little late and did a few photos before the ceremony, but we weren’t able to do as many as we’d hoped. I talked to the minister to make sure everything was in order, and asked him about 50 different questions about how the ceremony was supposed to go. I was nervous, not about getting married, but about being up in front of everyone.

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Yellowwood Lake

The Wedding Ceremony

Before I knew it, things were under way. Everything was perfect. The chairs were set up in the best possible place near the lake, the musicians sounded amazing, the wind made the leaves rustle in the trees. I escorted mom down the aisle and to her seat, and went to stand at the front. My groomsmen were close behind. I looked up and could see Sarah and Sammy, the flower girl walking together. They were still fairly far away, but their gradual approach made me anticipate Sarah drawing near even more.

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Me, with mom

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Anticipation

Sammy, who is four, was being very shy and holding Sarah’s hand. She dropped all of the flower petals in one spot, rather than dropping a few as she walked. I swear, she is the cutest kid ever, and while dropping all the flower petals in a pile wasn’t exactly what we had in mind, she was performing her #1 task of being adorable.

As Sarah approached, I was just stunned by her beauty. She looked incredible. Her dress had several layers of sheer fabric, and while her veil hid her face slightly, it just made me want to see more. I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to pull her veil back, and she had to remind me. A smooth move on my part.

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Sarah approaches

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Getting started

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Bridesmaids and flower girl

The minister gave an introduction, after which my sister delivered a touching speech about what love is, and how we embody that, and how both of us looked to our grandparents (who are no longer with us) as a source of inspiration of the ideal marriages. It was a little difficult, as we really wished our grandparents could have been there, but it was the best way to honor their memory.

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My sister after her speech

Next, my mom played a piece on the cello with one of the musicians, who she taught to play. I was glad they played something a little upbeat, as it might’ve been too much to handle otherwise.

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Mom playing the cello

The rest of the ceremony itself is a blur. I had the various parts of the ceremony compartmentalized in my head (sermon, vows, rings, presentation, benediction, etc) but it all flowed together very nicely. I was glad it was so coherent, but it was a bit dizzying how quickly we went from one thing to the next.

All this time I could do little other than gaze at my bride. She’s always gorgeous, but I’ve never seen her looking this beautiful. Her veil blew in the wind, at times getting in the way, but seeing the long fabric flow was very pretty. And the sun reflected off her veil, illuminating her face with a soft glow. She was breathtaking.

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Sarah looked beautiful. Apparently, she couldn’t keep her eyes off me, either.

Soon we got to the vows, and at first my voice was very shaky. I had to make a conscious effort to regain my composure and to my surprise, it worked. I stood up as straight as I could (which was more difficult than you’d think, as we were on the side of a hill) and delivered my vows with more confidence. I looked at Sarah and listened to her delivering her vows. She was crying as she did so. I’m not sure if she realized how close to tears I was.

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Exchanging vows

Somewhere in here we exchanged rings, and this went smoothly also. The minister said some other stuff, but to be honest I wasn’t really paying much attention anymore. I had said at several points leading up to the wedding that the kissing the bride part was really the part I was looking forward to, and the minister alluded to this, saying “NOW, you may kiss the bride.” As I kissed my wife for the first time, I was completely overwhelmed. This moment had finally come. It was fantastic.

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Kissing the bride

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Walking out

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Groomsmen, and another new wife of about a month


We walked out down the aisle, in hindsight we probably just about ran out of there. We were moving at a good clip, I think. We set ourselves up for a receiving line but were still reeling from the whole experience. We greeted everyone, and then spent some time taking photos.

Photos

We did a few with the wedding party and our families at the wedding location, and a few with just the two of us in a couple of other places closer to the lake, at the cabin we rented, and by a silo, cornfield, fence, and a bridge.

Food and Toasts

We returned after being gone too long taking photos. Kids were playing by the lake, finding geodes, catching bugs, and throwing rocks in the lake. My nephew (who was the usher) pretty well destroyed his tux — it was great.

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Kids playing by the lake

The heat was getting to me, and I was not feeling very well. The food was cold by the time we returned. Fortunately everyone had done as we asked and went ahead and ate while we were gone. We were starving, but I had a hard time eating. It was just too hot. We spent some more time talking to our guests, and soon it was time for a toast — but not before I managed to spill champagne all over my sleeve while opening an overzealous bottle.

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Opening more champagne

I gave a brief toast thanking our mothers, the rest of our family, the wedding party, our guests, and above all, Sarah. It was a little generic, perhaps, but I really did want to thank everyone for everything they’d done. Josh, one of my groomsmen, had been working on a toast all day (literally) and while I liked it, a few people thought it was a little mean. He did talk about some low times in our lives, but I think the point was that Sarah and I are strong enough together to overcome just about anything. He may have missed the mark on a couple of points, but overall I thought it was very good — and he put a lot of thought into it. It meant a lot to me. Sarah’s sister (and bridesmaid) said a few words as well, which was very sweet.

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Sarah

Hiking

After the toasts, we split up to prepare for a hike. We had been planning a hike after the wedding, but people needed to go back to town to change and get ready for it. I was hoping to get a little rest first, but there wasn’t much time for that.

Most people didn’t return for the hike, and I can’t say I blame them. It was hot, and everyone was very tired. In fact, the humidity was even worse in the woods. I was still not feeling well, but I still enjoyed the hike. We hiked the Jackson Creek trail, which is a little over a mile. After that, we did have a little time to rest, after which I felt much better.

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The forest

Evening

We met the wedding party and some other friends at Lennie’s, a restaurant in Bloomington that’s attached to the Bloomington Brewing Company. The food and beer were great, and by this time I felt Sarah’s friends and my friends were interacting well as one group. At first the groups had mostly talked separately, but we had some great conversation at dinner as one larger group.

After that, we headed back to the cabin to celebrate with drinks and a bad action movie. We spent the time much how we normally do when we hang out with our friends, and it was great. We need someone else to get married so we have another excuse to get together.

Sunday

We stayed up late and celebrated. We all went out for breakfast and spent some time just talking more at our apartment. We looked at some photos that Mike, one of Sarah’s friends, had taken. He did a great job, and I hope I can post them somewhere soon.

After everyone left, we went to take down the wedding signs and return the cabin keys. It was an extremely windy day (thanks, Ike!) and as we drove around town there were branches and debris blowing everywhere.

We headed out toward where the wedding was, and I was thinking how amazed I was that everything had gone so well. I almost expected something to go wrong, and well … it did. As we were driving down State Road 46 and around 45 mph, the wind blew a tree over. It fell onto the road right in front of us. I hit the brakes, but couldn’t stop in time. We rolled right over it, but got a flat tire in the process.

Sarah was visibly shaken. I was a little bit too but I quickly got out the jack and spare tire and went to work. Unfortunately, we were on an incline, and as soon as I got the wheel off the ground, the car rolled forward down the hill, crushing the jack beneath it. The car only moved 6-12 inches, but the jack is only designed to handle downward pressure. It didn’t make it.

We ended up having to have the car towed, and later we’d find we did about $400 in damage to the car. Still, I’ll take that over a problem with the actual wedding any day.

I’m still stunned at how well the wedding went. Married life is excellent so far — I feel closer to Sarah than ever. It’s truely been an amazing experience.

Badi-Da

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Sarah and I went up to Green Bay, Wisconsin this weekend for the wedding of a couple of friends from college. We drove up to Chicago last Thursday night after I got off work to stay at another friend’s place there, and give them a ride to Green Bay.

Now, there’s a saying that Chicago has two seasons: winter and construction. And there’s a lot of truth to it. Last time we were there, it was winter and the high temperature was hovering around 0 degrees. This time, the drive up there, which is usually about 4 1/2 hours, took over six hours. We hit major construction and traffic on the way there. In fact, every leg of our trip was plagued with traffic jams. The drive back from Green Bay, which was supposed to be about 7 1/2 hours, took more like 10 1/2 hours. Yikes!

I’ve lived in Chicago before, and I have a lot of fond memories there — but this trip served as a reminder of just how much I prefer living in a smaller town. A place where parking isn’t an issue and the roads aren’t packed with vehicles all the time. A town that sleeps. And, a place where getting out of the city doesn’t involve driving for an hour or more. I have re-adapted to a much slower-packed lifestyle, and I love it. During some more frustrating moments, I found myself thinking of the Fred Neil song “Badi-Da:”

I get so tired
Hanging round this town
Oh this old city life
Sure brings a fella down

ba da da da da da
ba da da da da da da
ba da da da da da
ba da da

I sure get tired
Trying to sleep at night
Oh these old city lights
They keep on burning bright

ba da da da da da
ba da da da da da da
ba da da da da da
ba da da

I get so tired
Hanging round this town
Oh this old city life
Sure brings a fella down

ba da da da da da
ba da da da da da da
ba da da da da da
ba da da

On a positive note, Chicago was absolutely crawling with bicycles. I don’t remember seeing nearly as many bicycles when I lived there a few years ago. Was I not paying attention, or has bicycling exploded in popularity in Chicago in the past few years? Even late at night, we saw tons of cyclists.

It seemed like, based on what I saw, Chicago is probably a good place to ride, if you can somehow stay safe amongst all the insane drivers (and there are a lot of them).

I wish I had something to say about Green Bay, but we saw very little of it since we spent almost all of our time on wedding-related activities. It seemed like a nice city, much smaller than Chicago but big enough that it seems to have a lot going on.

The wedding, of course, was fantastic. This couple was the first of my close friends from college to get married, and I couldn’t be happier for them. Sarah and I will be next, in just over a month!

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