Wedding bells are in the air

1950s bride and groom
A photo from my mom and dad’s wedding in the 1950s.

We are driving six hours to a wedding this weekend. I’m a little concerned because I think it’s outside at a winery and it will be around 100 degrees. Hopefully only the ceremony is outside and the reception will be inside. We will see.

During COVID shutdowns, weddings were postponed. Now we are getting a plethora of wedding invitations.

The last wedding we went to was in February 2020 — right before the shutdown. We learned after the wedding that the father of the groom was hospitalized and put on a ventilator with COVID. That was scary but thankfully he recovered. I felt sick a week later, but that was before tests were available. I may have had it — or not.

My daughter was a bridesmaid in Montana recently. The next weekend she was at a wedding in Utah. The third weekend was a bridal shower in Los Angeles. I thought that was a bit much, because the three brides were all on the college swim team together and friends. Many of their guests overlapped. That’s quite the wedding gauntlet.

My kids are at that age. Their friends are getting married. Their friends’ parents are our friends — so we are getting invitations, too.

According to Forbes Magazine “The U.S. Expects a Wedding Boom in 2022.” No kidding. Written by Tanya Klich, she shares the data on the boom:

There will be more weddings in the United States in 2022 than any other year since 1984, according to a new survey by The Knot. The wedding planning site estimates that some 2.6 million weddings will take place this year, a boom that follows a record number of cancellations, postponements, elopements–and lots of Zoom nuptials–during the past two years. 

“Weddings are, without a doubt, back to pre-pandemic levels,” says Hannah Nowack, Real Weddings editor at The Knot.

While some couples will certainly continue to host small, intimate micro-weddings and minimonies, wedding vendors, venues and planners note a return to traditional ceremonies with larger guest lists. In the second half of 2021, The Knot saw the average guest count climb up to 110. In 2022, the average number of guests is projected to be 129, which is in line with pre-pandemic numbers, when the average was 131. “After so many months of planning, and time spent away from loved ones, these couples are eager to reunite and celebrate with a blowout bash,” says Nowack.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyaklich/2022/02/14/a-wedding-boom-is-expected-in-2022/?sh=68d0ec3b117c

I can’t imagine what a wedding would cost today with the increased prices of food, flowers, and supply chain issues. There’s something else I noticed….more and more wedding invitations are online with links to bridal registries. I haven’t received any thank you notes, either. Maybe it’s too soon.

Are you getting more wedding invitations lately? How many of your friends postponed weddings due to COVID?

Me and my hubby on our wedding day next to Aunt Ann and Uncle Luciano.

It’s time to kick

Two mornings in a row it’s been too hot to walk. I convinced my husband to kick with me in the pool. He set his timer for 30 minutes and off we went. I didn’t want to swim freestyle because I had just washed my hair. I know that sounds prissy, but I can’t stand washing my hair every day. So I put my hair up and kicked until my lower back hurt and my legs got sore.

A really cool coincidence is friends from Palm Springs moved one mile from us in Arizona three months after we moved. This was without knowledge of each other moving. The friend and I were school moms at the Catholic school our kids attended. They lived only a few blocks from us in Palm Springs and I golfed weekly with this friend.

We lost touch with each other when we both got hyper involved with our kids’ sports. My kids were swimmers — their kids were hockey players.

Hockey led them out of town to Anaheim where there was a competitive team. We lacked hockey in Palm Springs.

This past weekend they invited us over for a birthday party. We spent a couple hours sitting and standing in the pool while wasps swarmed around us. My friend’s husband stood in the pool with a can of Raid trying to keep the wasps at bay. It was a fun afternoon, but today I have sunburned hands.

My husband said everyone but me kept their hands in the water. I apparently talk with my hands. We were laughing and talking and I was gesturing all over the place. I’ve never had sunburned hands before.

The weekend before we had them over and I cooked sea bass, grilled corn on the cob, asparagus and a brown and wild rice dish. It was another fun night of friendship and laughter.

I feel a connection to this couple unlike the new friends I’ve made in our neighborhood through book club, the newsletter and coffee. It’s because we go back for decades, raised our kids together and have shared memories. It’s also amazing that we ended up in homes so close together because we are out in the sticks a good 30-minute drive north of Scottsdale.

What friends do you feel the most connection with and why?

Do deaths come in threes?

children climbing on me at the beach
Life at the beach with two young kids back in our Laguna days.

I’ve been struggling to find the words. My brain is hurting at the thought. We lost another friend. A close friend. Our son’s godfather.

I got the call last week from our friend’s wife. I cried all night. I need to send a sympathy card and I can’t get myself to write it. The words seem so tiny and small. Helpless. I don’t know how she and her daughters are getting through each day and night. My heart aches for them.

We have so many memories with our two families together. At one time, Joe was my husband’s boss. They moved from San Francisco to the Palm Springs area when our son was a newborn. They had three daughters close in age to our kids.

They invited us into their beach deal. They found an inexpensive house to rent in Laguna Beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day and asked us to split the summer with them. With summer temperatures ranging from 110 to 124 degrees in Palm Springs, this beach rental changed our lives. I was a stay-at-home mom taking the kids to swim lessons and hanging out at the beach building sand castles and boogie boarding with my children.

My husband took long weekends and commuted back and forth. We shared a few weekends with our friends during the summer playing volleyball, Trivial Pursuit and eating pizzas with the kids.

When they moved to New Jersey to corporate headquarters as Joe moved up the chain of command with the firm, we visited them and spent Christmas together. We shared time together on corporate-sponsored trips and visited them more often when they moved to Nevada (a four-hour drive from Palm Springs).

Joe was proud of his Catholic education at an all boys school on Long Island. He was a Lit major at Rutgers and he loaned my husband and me must-read literature we had somehow missed including “Atlas Shrugged” and “The East India Trading Company.”

Joe had charisma, charm and a great sense of humor. He had a band of employees at the firm and friends throughout his life that put him on a pedestal — our family included. The last time we saw him was on Coronado Island at his middle daughter’s wedding. It was a beautiful weekend filled with memories I treasure.

We planned on going back to Coronado to visit them that summer or driving to Vegas to visit during the winter, but COVID hit. I feel like a few years of friendship were stolen. Joe was diagnosed with cancer years ago but survived and beat it. His heath was an issue, but he was living his life in his big way until this last year when another cancer hit.

I sincerely hope that it’s true that deaths come in threes, because this is the third close friend we’ve lost since Thanksgiving.

Do you think it’s an old wives tale that deaths come in threes? Have you lost anyone close to you this past year? Do you feel like COVID has stolen time from you with friends and family?

An unexpected gift

Gary Gruber photo of pigeons.
Pigeons.

After we picked up Olive from boarding and unloaded the car, I went to the post office. That was Thursday after a nine-hour drive from Christmas in Santa Barbara. I was exhausted because I have anxiety on freeways and we started the trip home at 5:30 a.m. in the dark in the middle of storm. I could tell my husband, who is normally cool, was having a tough time with the drive until we left Los Angeles freeways and headed towards Palm Springs and the rain subsided. Nine hours of driving and riding in the car is bad enough without bad weather.

I was bleary-eyed at the post office and I discovered four slips for packages in my P.O. Box. I was surprised to see a flat package from Gary Gruber. He’s a photographer who I worked with during my PR career in the 80s and 90s. His wife was my boss and we shared an office for several years. She became one of my close friends and is my daughter’s Godmother.

Pool hose photo by Gary Gruber showing beautiful patterns
Pool hose photo by Gary Gruber.

When I got home, I tossed the mail and packages on my desk, but opened the flat package. Inside were three incredible prints. I’m going to take them to the framing store later today. I called my friends to thank them! Gary had included a letter to update me about his work and a gallery showing next week. He also sent me a link to his blog and his photography site. Check out his photos HERE. Be sure to go through all his tabs. The photography is stunning.

Bob Hope Classic girls, photo by Gary Gruber.
Bob Hope Classic girls.

I especially enjoyed the PR and Still Life photos. Above is a PR photo from the Bob Hope Classic golf tournament. I worked for the PR firm that put on the Classic in the 1980s. I love the photo because it reminded me of how the Classic Girls — who were ambassadors to the tournament — were selected. A group of old men affiliated with the Classic and Eisenhower Medical Center (the beneficiary of the charity golf tournament) would meet in an auditorium at the hospital. The girls one by one walked across the stage, turned round, etc. while being ogled by the old geezers.

My boss asked if I’d like to try out. I was an account executive at the time in my mid twenties. He commented that I could wear the “Bob” shirt. Chrysler became a sponsor of the tournament and the old geezers joked about the young lady they’d pick to wear all the letters of “Chrysler.” You get the drift? If not, it’s all about breast size.

Wouldn’t fly today, would it?

These prints are truly an unexpected gift that I’ll treasure. Also, I loved reconnecting and hearing about Gary’s success with his artistic photography in a gallery and in Palm Springs Life magazine. You can check out Gary’s blog here.

What are your thoughts about unexpected gifts? Are they more special than ones you know are coming?

This is one of Gary’s street photos from Italy.
Child photo with cat by Gary Gruber
A photo by Gary Gruber taken decades ago. I swear this is my Olive the cat.

I don’t know what to say….

Sunset in Arizona.
Sunset down the road.

Not to get too morbid, but the past two weeks have been hellish. I feel my last week’s posts have focused on death. But it’s what is happening in our lives. I feel raw from the sadness of losing our friend Mark, and then I got a phone call late Friday night from a fellow swim mom. It’s not like her to call me. We haven’t talked much since our daughters graduated college with our swim parenting days behind us.

She started the call by saying, “I have something awful to tell you, but it’s not about Kat or Megan.” Kat and Megan are our daughters who swam together at the University of Utah. It was about one of their former teammates. He committed suicide.

I was getting texts and calls. Everyone was worried about my daughter and how she’d take the news. She was at work, and I asked everyone to talk to her once she got off work. In the end, her coach from Utah made the call and they cried together. Then my daughter went to her brother’s house and sat with his girlfriend. I’m so thankful and grateful to have them so close.

I am devastated for the loss of this young man of 24. He was the type of person everybody wanted to be around. He was tall, good looking, smart, funny. He had a hearty laugh that was contagious. He was so polite and well-mannered that when we went out to dinner with him, he’d stand when I got up to use the bathroom.

I’ve heard from swim moms that his teammates are devastated. Nobody had a clue that life was less than perfect for him. Nobody knew that he was suffering. There weren’t any signs.

I cannot imagine how his family is doing. I enjoyed his parents so much and often sat with them at swim meets beginning in high school through college. His older sister is one of my daughter’s best friends and the three of them spent tons of time together.

I asked my husband, “How much pain are we able to take?”

This makes me worry about the mental health of our youth more than ever. I want to know if social media has made depression and anxiety worse? There’s a difference of three years between my son and daughter. Social media was only MySpace when my son was in middle school and early high school. By the time my daughter was that age, social media was so much more prevalent and popular. Is this a result of growing up on screens?

I had this conversation with my daughter before this tragedy occurred. We were talking about anxiety and depression. She thinks that people her age and younger are much more open to getting treatment. And that they are more open to talking about mental illness. She doesn’t think social media is causing more young people to have depression or anxiety. She thinks the numbers are going up because more kids are getting treatment.

I tend to think it may be a combination of many factors, social media included, and her generation being more open to talk about mental health. I think I’m searching for a reason. Something to blame for the loss of this young man’s life.

What is your opinion? Do you think mental illness in teens and early 20-year-olds is increasing? Or are they more open to discussing it? What do you see as the causes?

Remembering a friend on her birthday

One of my closest friends from childhood passed away unexpectedly a few years ago. I woke up realizing that today is her birthday. The pain of losing her has lessened over time. But I still miss her.

Rebecca with my baby girl
Rebecca with my baby girl.

I learned via Facebook that my dear friend Rebecca had passed away.

She had a huge personality, was fearless, beautiful and brilliant. I received private messages from her on Facebook constantly, and I noticed I didn’t reply to the last one which I received on a Saturday afternoon—the day she died.

I wonder if she knew she was leaving us? I had no idea that she was ill, but I’ve since learned that she had diabetes and died from DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis).

The first time I met Rebecca was at my own house. Her older brother Paul had been hanging out with our family for a few weeks that summer before seventh grade. One day, Rebecca decided to come over to our house with him because she wanted to meet me. We went to different elementary schools but for junior high the town’s elementary school students would all attend the same school. I was shy and wouldn’t leave my bedroom to meet her. Finally, my mom coaxed me out to meet Rebecca Coombs and our friendship of a lifetime began.

grandmother kissing grandchild
The last photo she sent me of herself. “When my baby grand wants a kiss, I oblige. Sir-Mix-Alot this as good as I can get! lol.”

She was the opposite of me in so many ways. She was bold, outgoing and not afraid of anyone or anything. Her long straight black hair hung past her waist and she had a huge smile. Some of my fondest memories were her introducing me to Taco Bell—which I still love today. I got a burrito supreme today in her honor. Also, because of Rebecca, our entire high school won the local radio station KJR’s competition for a free concert—which was the first rock concert I ever attended, “WAR.” I went with her to see Natalie Cole at the Paramount in downtown Seattle, too. She introduced me to so much music and laughter. I remember always laughing with Rebecca and her sister Mary. Mary became as close of a friend to me as Rebecca.

Rebecca was one of a few students from our high school that went to the University of Washington with me. I remember spending the first night in the dorm, with Rebecca in a sleeping bag on my floor.

Me and Rebecca 24 years ago.
Me, Rebecca and my baby girl.

My sophomore year Thanksgiving weekend, I was home and I went with Rebecca and Mary to a concert at a local Grange. I was going to ask a family friend who was there to a Tolo (a dance where the girls ask the boys for the date). We were crossing the street on the Bothell Highway when I panicked at the oncoming lights of cars. I froze in the middle of the street. I grabbed onto Rebecca’s parka hood and she wasn’t able to escape the oncoming pick-up truck either. I shattered my pelvis and Rebecca lost a kidney. We became connected by that one experience forever.

Later on, she married the family friend who I was going to ask to the dance. The marriage didn’t last that long and she did find someone she said was the love of her life, who sadly died a few years ago. Also, her brother Paul died years ago as well as Mary’s husband. Her life had so much tragedy, yet she stayed positive and filled with joy. Near the end, she moved to Hawaii to be close to her son Jake, who she was so proud of. She posted pictures of her new life and her grandchildren whom she called “the grands.”

I will admit she was much better at reaching out and staying connected. Throughout our lives, she’d call me and during the last few months send me private messages on an almost daily basis. One funny story I remember about Rebecca was she called me up and asked who Bill Gates was. She had attended the Microsoft Christmas Party with a friend who worked there and met Bill Gates. She had no clue who he was. It was well known in Seattle that Bill was looking for a wife. He had asked her to Sunday Brunch and she said no. She told me that he was kind of a geek and she was felt awkward and made up an excuse why she couldn’t go.

I miss my dear friend and how full of life she was. God bless you and RIP, Rebecca.

rebecca 2
Rebecca, her husband Andrew and son Jake plus my kids.

Friendships new and old

Arizona sunset.
Arizona sunset.

This past week was a tough one for us. But, I learned to appreciate friendships — new and old. We lost our dear friend Mark on Thanksgiving night who we’ve known for decades, but afterwards we got closer to his friends and family. We attended a viewing that was for his family and closest friends. There will be a funeral in Seattle, where he grew up and lived until a few years ago, after the holidays.

I wasn’t anxious to attend the viewing. It seemed to be on the morbid side to me. But it turned out to be very comforting. It was in a building with a nice waiting area with comfortable couches and chairs. The 20 or so of us friends and family gathered and hugged. By ones and twos people would go into the separate viewing area. My husband and I chose not to because we wanted to remember Mark as we knew him. One of his sons went in and one stayed out.

Afterwards, we went to lunch with some of Mark’s family and with one couple who flew down from Seattle for the viewing. Mark had introduced us to the Seattle couple in the spring. We hit it off and I’ve visited the Seattle couple when I’m up there to see my mom. They are planning on moving to Arizona when they retire and they bought a house here because of Mark that they’ve rented out. They asked to stay with us. I’m so glad they did. It was nice to be with them and share memories about Mark. I feel like our friendship has been cemented and that we’re in a special club for “Friends of Mark.” We are new friends who will become old friends — God willing.

In the evening, we all gathered at Mark’s house for finger foods and a pasta dinner prepared by his family. All the time with these friends and people I haven’t seen for years, or who I met for the first time, was a big step in healing. I returned home feeling peaceful and less sad and fragile. I’m happy for the time we had Mark in our lives and I’m amazed at how he touched so many people.

Do you think that since March 2020, we lost connection with friends and family and the joy it brings to our lives? Did you, or were you able to stay close to your loved ones?