Saturday, October 21, 2017


It’s 2 PM and both kids are napping. This NEVER happens since the 4 yo stopped napping years ago and the baby hates sleeping because, FOMO. But these days the big wants to do what the little is doing and the little has no choice so today, we’re napping. I’m paralyzed with what to do with my “free” time. A basket of cloth diapers sit at my feet, waiting to be stuffed and fabric pieces from V's Halloween costume that I stayed up cutting until 2 AM this morning sit in the corner, waiting to be sewn together. We are going grocery shopping after they wake up and the anxiety of taking two kids out in public is looming. What the heck are we having for dinner? And crap! Both kids need baths and I’m already out of time slots today. Still, I’m writing out random thoughts on my laptop and not doing any of the things. I did successfully clean out the fridge today to make room for groceries, but there are 1 million more things to do and I’m not doing any of them right now. Right now, my brain is my own. My thoughts are my own. No one needs nursed, no one needs snacks. No butts are waiting to be wiped. The house is calm. The TV is mine. They are so sweet while they sleep, those tiny little faces. I miss them. My sanity hangs in the balance daily and still, I miss them while they sleep. Clearly, I’m a lunatic. What kind of psychological nonsense is this? Hashtag mom problems, amirite?        

Monday, August 3, 2015

CA --->MO (eyeroll)

*I wrote this on the drive to Missouri from California a year and a half ago. I didn't post it because I thought I was being preemptively defensive, but it turns out I was right on point. 

Please don't be offended by my attempt at releasing this. After all, I have just uprooted my whole life and have earned the right to emote a bit (or a lot). I've discontinued other attempts at processing feelings because of snarky comments and absurd reactions so if you can't understand that this is not about you or are offended easily, please keep scrolling.
We are 45 miles away from being halfway to Missouri and the closer we get, the more I literally feel sick to my stomach. I have no idea what's waiting for us there yet, I know exactly. 
The comfort of being from a small town and living in a big city is that it doesn't matter how long you are gone, it's always perfectly encapsulated, exactly as you left it. Every visit is predictable and planned. You get a wonderful dose of all the pieces you love and then hop a plane back to regular life and all is well.
I am very obviously struggling with the decision to move back home and am now convinced that I agreed to it during a particularly rough week as a stay-at-home mommy. The thought of having my mom to help and friends who know what I'm going through was just enticing enough for me to believe it was a good idea. Now that it's reality and I've said all the painful goodbyes, I am flooded with anxiety over the unknown, in a place with which I am so very familiar. Honestly, I can't decide if I'm scared of where I'm going or of what I've left behind. 
San Diego is ever changing. People come and go as quickly as the tide and you can never be sure that what exists today will still be there tomorrow. San Diego is flighty and I am addicted to that part of it. I abhor scheduled routines and predictability. It makes me feel stale and well, predictable. So while that made San Diego a perfect place for me to thrive, I am heartbroken that the San Diego that we just left will never exist again. 
My life became entwined in with those of three amazing women in San Diego. Each of them have saved me somehow and each of them have provided me with support and understanding far beyond what anyone could or should expect of a friendship. I am quite different from each of them in many ways, but what we all have in common is that we have no clue where we will end up in this life, we aren't afraid to take risks regardless of judgement, and no matter what- we will never ever be on time to anything ever ever. I love all of these things about us, but it is all of these things that mean that we will never exist in the same place again. Eventually, I will have to plan separate vacations to see each of them which will make our visits few and far. This seriously kills me. Not to say I don't have some seriously fabulous friends to go home to that I have missed so so much. (Edit: 2 or 3 supportive friends and a whole lot of haters.) I do, but to put it simply, what if they don't like me anymore? I know that sounds silly but a few hours together during random visits hardly count as solid quality time and that's all we've had for ten years. Will my crunchy Californianess separate me as a crazy tree hugging hippy? Which I'm not at all, but by Midwestern standards I might as well literally hug trees and then tie myself to them in protest. Will my 'just put some breast milk on it' and 'there's an oil for that' mentality make us THAT family? I hope not. I'd hope and maybe even just assume that we will all just continue on where we left off? Perhaps they will roll their eyes at my granola-ish lifestyle but accept and support it anyway. MAYBE some are even on the same path we are on, towards a more mindful and natural lifestyle and we can learn and evolve together. Maybe. I guess we will know soon enough. We will be there in two hours.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Paradise Lost

So we are rapidly approaching moving day. Moving is always incredibly stressful and for me, it's anticipation is always full of procrastination, obsessively refreshing Craigslist apartment ads, and last minute throwing things into boxes (or just the backseat of my car). It never goes as smoothly as planned and I always end up realizing we have way more stuff than we thought. Luckily, my fabulously efficient husband has been packing for weeks. We will be ready for moving day when it arrives. Or at least it will look that way on the surface.
We have been planning to move back "home" to Missouri for quite some time. I say "home" because I've had many places to call home in my life. Hawaii is my original home. That's where I was born and where I lived for my first seven years. Waikiki and Waipahu, I believe. I actually don't really know for sure. I was little when my parents moved us to the mainland. Right smack dab in the middle of it. As far away from every ocean as you can possibly get in the United States.
I never really felt comfortable in my own skin while living in Missouri. Mostly because of my own insecurities, but also because of my brown skin that no matter what, always seemed to be the first and sometimes only thing that people used to identify me (and usually incorrectly). I'm pretty sure most of the people I went to school with still think I'm Mexican. I always knew I would eventually leave all of my emotional baggage in Missouri one day, I just never would have guessed that I'd keep coming back.
At 17, I escaped for the first time. I moved to Arlington, VA to live with a shitty boyfriend and four months later, after realizing he was a (seriously super) shitty boyfriend, I reluctantly found myself back in Farmington.
I immediately began planning my next escape and quickly chose San Diego. I had some family here and had been here to visit during summers and on holidays since I was 10. At the time I thought I wanted to pursue a career in acting, but had zero desire to live in LA so San Diego seemed close enough. In the meantime, my BFF Tim and I had begun dating and he eventually decided that he wanted to come too. So there it was. Our first bold move.
I look back at those little 21 and 22 year old babies and seriously can't even believe it was almost 10 years ago. We were so hopeful and enthusiastic and absolutely unprepared to survive in freaking the most expensive place on planet earth. Okay not the most expensive, but damn. The first time we bought groceries and spent over fifty dollars on two little plastic bags of nothing, I thought we were for sure done for. We grossly underestimated how much money we needed to move and also how long it would take us to get jobs. We naively didn't realize that a lot of fucking people move to San Diego and a huge majority of them leave immediately because it's legitimately difficult to make it work here. We didn't know that our resumes full of small town bars and restaurants were hardly impressive and also huge red flags that we'd likely pack it up and go home once the big mean city folk scared us away. They didn't. To this day, I attribute our initial success in San Diego to the fact that we signed a lease agreement that included a deal. If we leased for a year, we got our third month free. We survived.
I will spare you our entire struggle from then until now, but I can tell you that although it seemed we would never acclimate ourselves to the cost of living here, I kind of miss the days of having to shop for stuff at 99 Cents Only and Food 4 Less. Kind of. We made it though, and not just in the sense that we got jobs and paid bills.
In my time here, I have been able to experience things that I never would have had I never left Missouri. I've seen amazing things and met truly beautiful people that have forced me to expand my perspectives and humble myself. I've neutralized insecurities and gained some much needed self confidence. In almost 10 years, I've had 11 addresses and lived in 6 different zip codes. I've conquered my fear of driving on the freeways. I've worked at the highest grossing restaurant in the state of California overlooking the insanely gorgeous San Diego Bay. I literally almost ran into Suge Knight on the floor while he was there dining with Katt Williams and I remember Fez from That 70's Show hopelessly hitting on my best friend, begging for her phone number. He never called. For the brief time that I lived in LA, I worked at an Italian restaurant that I'm 99% sure was a front for the mafia and luckily never got murdered.
I have had countless magical adventures through years of owning annual passes to Disneyland. We've driven up the 1, following the breathtaking coast to Monterey Bay and unexpectedly spent the night in a Big Sur cabin because a wildfire had compromised our route home. I've been a part of the live audience for The Ellen Show twice and Conan O' Brian once. I've seen Jenny Lewis in absolutely every form possible, so many times that I've lost count. I watched my idol, Ani Difranco, kill it at Humphrey's by the Bay and actually got to meet her outside of the House of Blues where I got her autograph. I chatted up Blake Sennett at the Casbah after The Elected show and I had the pleasure of spending the evening mesmerized by Ben Folds twice.
In a city that was once full of strangers, I've connected with souls that I will consider my family for life. I shared priceless moments with two dear friends that I will never see again. I've had my comfortable life crumble all around me, found myself briefly homeless, and then with the support of my amazing friends, started all over again. I've done things horribly wrong and fantastically right. I've been lost and I've been found. I have no regrets.
I leave California with an extremely heavy heart and have very often (daily, hourly) questioned the decision to leave. I am pretty much going to miss everything about it, with the exception of parking and traffic and the fact that I've spent enough money in rent to buy at least 6 legit houses in other parts of the country. Truth be told, I am done with San Diego. I look back on my time here very fondly, but the life that I once had here is no longer the life that I live. It's my responsibility to help make decisions for my family that give us our best chance and ironically, that happens to be in Farmington right now. I look forward to reconnecting with some of my favorite people. I'm happy for Veda to soon have all of her grandparents in one state. I'm anxious to build a strong foundation that will give us the opportunity to thrive and expand. It is time to evolve.  I know we are making a good move but the doe-eyed 22 year old girl that still lives deep down inside of me thinks that I'm totally insane. We will all just have to accept that she will continue to kick and scream every single step of the way. I am happy to have her around to be quite honest. She will motivate me to never be complacent. She will remind me of our goals and our plan to not get stuck in Missouri forever. She is the essence of who I really am and I'm thankful for her.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

| There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery |
| Dante Alighieri |

The very first memory I have of Ben is as a 10 year old boy. I guess I was 16 or 17. I went to the Wright’s that day, tagging along with my best friend, Lindy, to hang out with Ben's big brother, Joel. Ben was finger-painting with watercolors at the kitchen table with one of his nieces. I believe we had a brief conversation about his decision to use his fingers over a paintbrush but what I really remember about that day is his overwhelming adorableness. I had no idea that lovely little guy was going to eventually become one of my very favorite people on this planet.

| Happiness feels like this/ your heart upon your sleeve/ there's a place/ in time and space where we can all be free/ so meet me at the rainbow's end/ we don't even have to pretend that we know what it is we're looking for |
| Kat Edmonson |

Ben and I became friends in the fall of 2001 during 'A Christmas Carol' at Mineral Area College. It was the same year that my husband, Tim, and I became inseparable. It was also the same year that we lost Joel. Tim and I gravitated to Ben, and he to us. It was an unexpected comfort for us all, in a time when nothing really made sense. We decided then that Ben would be our surrogate little brother. I felt I needed to protect him from the cruel world that he could no longer view from kid-friendly glasses. We bonded over the Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Disney Movies. We caught Saturday matinees and played games in his basement. Never R-rated, always home by 9 o’clock. Time and again, I found myself amazed at the precocious wisdom that constantly poured out of pre-teen Ben.  

| They love me like I was a brother/ they protect me, listen to me/ they dug me my very own garden/ gave me sunshine, made me happy |
|Thom Yorke |

In October of 2004, Tim and I headed west to plant our roots in San Diego. By then, Ben had become much cooler than I was and I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by his roaring popularity. We stayed in touch loosely through his high school years, but mostly I crept on his MySpace blog to keep current on his thoughts about life. During a trip home in 2006, I coincidentally ran into “grown-up” Ben for the first time ever. His voice was three octaves lower and he was a foot taller since I had seen him last. He had replaced his glasses with contacts and no longer sported a mouth full of metal. Despite all of that, it was his striking resemblance to Joel that stopped me cold.

| There's a pattern in the system/ there's a bullet in the gun/ that’s why I tried to save you/ but it can’t be done |
| Emily Haines |

Ben re-entered my life around the time that he graduated from high school. Even though I was living 1800 miles away, between my trips home and his trips to LA, I was able to reacquaint myself with the adult version of that little guy I used to know so well. It was an interesting transition for me because, as much I wanted to insist Ben didn’t date girls or party with his friends, I had to force myself to remember that he wasn’t 14 anymore. Eventually, I was able to peel off the kid gloves and stop saying “little” before “Ben” every time I spoke his name. The seven years between us became insignificant as we discovered our common interests and shared perspectives, as adults.   

| Because we live in a house of mirrors/ we see our fears and everything/ our songs, faces, and second hand clothes/ but more and more we're suffering / not nobody, not a thousand beers/ will keep us from feeling so all alone |
| Jenny Lewis |

       Typically the term “soul mate” refers to a romantic relationship. Many will dedicate their entire self searching for that perfect other half with which to blissfully spend their lives. I happened to fall in love with my soul mate and marry him but, it’s my theory that it’s not always that way. I believe Ben’s soul mate came to him in the form of a crass, unfiltered, asshole with a giant heart of pure gold. I can say these things about him because he knows that I adore him and also that they are true. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Tim Counts (not to be confused with my husband, Tim Benz) in October of 2008 during a routine trip to Farmington. It didn’t take long for me to see how completely his rough exterior balanced with Ben’s sensitive nature and how Ben’s tongue-in-cheek humor perfectly complimented Tim’s dry wit. They shared an archive of inside jokes and could utter a single word, which meant nothing to anyone but them, and have each other in an immediate state of uncontrollable laughter. Ben and Tim took the term “bromance” to a whole new level. Their bond was absolute and undeniable and could put a majority of married couples to shame. Yep, soul mates for sure.  

| That’s why I’m singing baby don't worry/ ‘cause now I got your back/ and every time you feel like crying/ I'm gonna try and make you laugh/ and if I can't, if it just hurts too bad, then we will wait for it to pass/ and I will keep you company through those days so long and black |
|Conor Oberst|

   When Ben moved to LA in 2009, I was obviously ecstatic. The 125 mile stretch on Interstate 5 between San Diego and Glendale became quite familiar as we road tripped back and forth. One weekend in particular stands out as probably the best weekend of my life. Ben came to San Diego with Tim (Counts) and another friend, Chris, who were both visiting from Missouri. We had all only intended to have a one night slumber party but what really happened was four days of non-stop awesome. Anne’s rooftop, Sunset Cliffs, the OB pier, the cactus garden at Balboa Park, Newcastle in a can, Emily’s brothel apartment, and La Posta. Bill Cosby, see’s the whole world through a motherfu%$ing Jell-O eye. We became a little family that weekend. In November, I packed up and moved to LA to cancel out any regret I would have in the future about not ever doing it. Ben was living with Justin and Todd, mutual friends from back home, who had long since established themselves in the hustle and bustle of LA life. Ben and I started to realize however, that we didn’t seem to fit in quite as well as we had expected. We spent most of our time hating that abundantly littered and disgustingly overpopulated city but, we hated it together and found much humor in the filth. We spanned hours wandering through the malls and driving aimlessly from Glendale to Burbank and back again. He watched me bake cupcakes, standing by as a very eager taste-tester and he came to “fix” my computer in the middle of the night (with super glue). We swapped music collections and smoked cigarettes while the sun came up. I needed him and he needed me, and we were lucky to have each other. Those three months with Ben are the most treasured to me of our entire friendship. I am so thankful for them.      

| I regret every single thing I ever said/ I said those things too softly |
| Jaymay |
I only got to see Ben a few times after he left LA. I’ve picked apart those last few visits and text messages over and over and over again. Searching for a clue, something that I should have noticed, anything I had skipped past. I come up short, every single time. I won’t begin to speculate what it was like to walk in Ben’s shoes or try to navigate his thoughts. I just can’t stifle the overwhelming guilt that seems to be eating me alive. I was so busy all year getting married and being a newlywed. I should have been paying more attention. I should have made him move to San Diego, like we talked about so many times. I know that there is no way I could have known but, I will always feel like I should have known. I will always feel like I failed him.      

| I made a new cast of the death mask that is gonna cover my face/ I had to change the combination to the safe/ hide it all behind a wall let people wait/ and never trust a heart that is so bent it can't break |
| Conor Oberst |

I've been having the same dream haunt my REM sleep cycle, more nights than not. In it, Ben and I are somewhere I don't recognize. I'm holding on to him, hugging him as tight as I can, crying uncontrollably and begging him to please not leave. I tell him that I need him and that I can't live my life without him in it. He looks at me with a compassionate and familiar smile and nods his head. Every morning I wake up and face the same realization, that it is still just a dream and that Ben is still gone.

| You know that place between sleep and awake/ that place where you can still remember dreaming/ that’s where I will always love you/ that’s where I’ll be waiting |
| Peter Pan |

Until November, I had considered myself very blessed, never to have lost someone in which I shared such a unique and vital connection. Not to say that losing Joel wasn’t earth shattering, of course it was but, he and I didn’t have ten years behind us. The visceral heartbreak aches through every part of me. I can't imagine this world absent of the brilliant light Ben shared with every single person that he met. I can't yet accept my life absent of our inside jokes, middle-of-the-night theoretical conversation, and the unconditional love we shared in our decade of friendship. I will forever cherish having watched Ben evolve into a truly remarkable person. Even as a little guy, he was sweet and genuine. Carrying those traits into adulthood, he paid careful attention to being a helpful, trustworthy, and loyal friend. He was always the first to respond in a crisis, big or small, without feeling burdened, and would do anything he could to remedy any problem. Ben was extraordinarily hilarious and wildly multi-talented; He was equally modest and humble. He is absolutely irreplaceable. The Ben-shaped impression on my heart will never lose its shape. I will miss him every day, for the rest of my life.

| Sometimes it's hard to find a way to keep on/ quiet weekends, holidays, you come undone/ open your window and look upon/ all the kinds of alive you can be/ be still, be light, believe me |
| The Weepies | 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

there's no place like home

I suppose its “official”.  Tim and I are moving back to Missouri. As I type out those words, I can’t even believe it’s coming out of my fingers. If one thing was certain when I left Farmington seven years ago, it was the solid sturdy fact that I was never *EVER* coming back. Of course I planned to visit, but absolutely nothing more. Missouri and I? We were so over. Growing up in Smalltown, USA; Population: White - as a self-conscious and mostly confused half-Filipina girl, kind of sucked. I blame that little community for 80% of my lifetime collection of psychological misprints and I’ve spent the better part of the last decade trying to recover from them. What the hell am I thinking?
San Diego has been good to us- individually and together. It has a melting pot culture combined with breathtaking scenery that has provided me with the perfect atmosphere to evolve from an awkward and doubtful girl to a confident and determined young woman. As the clock keeps ticking on my countdown to thirty, I find myself with thoughts that I would assume most grownups often think. I daydream further than five years forward, I know that what I want might not necessarily be what is best for us, and I’m almost comfortable imagining a mini-us without my heart rate doubling. I will always save a spot in my heart for America’s Finest City, but I have to admit that it has lost a bit of its charm. The novelty of endless sunny days has long worn off and I can no longer stomach the keepin’ it fresh, livin’ the dream, never-never-land mentality. I do want to grow up…and I want to do it amidst some real weather, damnit!
After we got married in January, our perspectives shifted and we decided we were ready to move on. We just didn’t know where to go. We came up with a few maybe places, but Missouri was nowhere on that list. It wasn’t until we were home for our wedding reception that we visualized a life back home. It was this trip home, after seven years of trips home, that I was able to appreciate Farmington instead of resent it. Farmington started to look to me like San Diego looked to me almost a decade ago- full of opportunities I could never have where I currently reside. In fear of jinxing it, I’d rather not disclose the intimate details of our plan, but I can say that by this time next year we will be homeowners. I can say that our lifelong dream of being our own boss is undoubtedly coming true.

“If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again,
I won't look any further than my own backyard,
because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
-Dorothy Gale

Initially, the plan was to stack our cash for a couple of years before we moved, but with watching the decline of an already horrible California economy, realizing the rapid depletion of my patience for the rude and ridiculous requests of my fishy clientele, and placing a silly wager on the World Series-we’ve decided that sooner is much better than later. We will be here long enough to get ourselves organized, create a little nest egg, and of course catch Ani Difranco at the House of Blues, but very close to the decade anniversary of our very first kiss in April of 2002, we will embark on the journey of our ‘next bold move’.
I am already experiencing mixed emotions, and expect for them to rollercoaster as the next five months progress. On paper, I’ve done very little while in San Diego (and barely LA), but I will depart The Golden State feeling quite accomplished. I’ve been very lucky to meet amazing people that I will always keep in my life. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my karmic disposition, my somewhat altruistic personality, my lack of a ferocious ego, and my refusal to alter any of those things, make me an impossible candidate for the Hollywood spotlight. And most importantly- I’ve rediscovered myself. Yes, I will be very sad to say goodbye. Yes, I will sometimes question my sanity about it. In the end, it is simply time to evolve.  

“..when San Diego got too unkind,
we just picked up and left it behind,
and we had some love and some hope,
a full tank of gas and a wide open road,
it was love- to us, it was all that we had.”
-Blake Sennett

Monday, June 6, 2011

fairytales: fact or fiction

True to form, I spent my little girl days dreaming of a beautiful wedding that would be the envy of all my friends. Minute details of THE perfect wedding flooded my tiny existence as I would twirl around with my little sister singing "A Whole New World" and "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes". The only detail missing was the identity of the groom and that, to me, was irrelevant. After all, the Prince Charmings find you, right? Tim definitely found me. In so many ways. We had been friends for years and found ourselves each on a theater scholarship at our local community college. He was dating someone else but like I said, we were friends, so it seemed natural to hang out in between classes and after play practice. You can imagine my shock when, out of nowhere, he ditched the girlfriend and professed his love to me! To be honest, it freaked me out. Tim and I had become besties and I wasn’t willing to lose that. He remained quite persistent yet patient and despite my efforts to remain platonic, we had our first make-out session while "Wayne's World" played on VHS in the background. Hot. 
baby benz's
Anyway, fast forward four years and Tim and I are living in San Diego and the pressure to propose is on. I'll admit it. I dropped many heavy 'marry me' hints. I was ready to execute my perfect wedding and he, as usual, delivered. He secretly planned the perfect Disneyland proposal for my 24th birthday and even though it felt forced, I accepted. If I knew then what I know now, I would have taken a day or two to process. 
We weren't ready to think about marriage, at 23 and 24 years old! The wedding planning became overwhelming and nothing ever felt right. For now, I will spare the details of our break. That is a completely different entry altogether. I will just say that a break happened, we partied, figured some shit out, and stumbled back into each other’s lives, like clockwork. Getting back together was like falling in love all over again except this time, as grownups. We rediscovered each other, taking comfort in what hadn't changed and appreciating what had. Shortly after our reunion, we planned a winter vacay to New York. Neither of us had ever been and we had always wanted to go. One day, I was google-ing things for us to do while we were there and came across a blog about eloping in NYC and immediately knew it was meant to be! Tim and I discussed getting married like adults this time. We weighed out options and had many conversations about it. I was not at all expecting him to come home one day with a dozen roses in hand, to get down on one knee, and ask me to be his wife, again. As the tears were uncontrollably flowing out of my eyes I realized that THIS is what it is supposed to feel like. No doubt, no fear, just love. When we were engaged the first time, I had spent hours upon hours, searching for the perfect wedding plan. The perfect location, the perfect food, the perfect day. Blah, blah, blah. Nothing ever felt right and I always felt like I was settling for certain things due to random circumstances. After my wedding planning nightmare, I had given up on ever having the fairytale wedding and decided that fairytales aren't real anyway. No one gets to have the perfect love story or the perfect wedding day, right?? Wrong! Eloping in New York fit all of my “perfect wedding” criteria and I stumbled upon the idea on accident! We were able to get married and spend an entire week celebrating each other in one of the most classically romantic cities in the world. I don’t think it gets much better than that. The details of our wedding week (which I will eventually get to blogging about) are not ones that we could plan again. A lot of it happened by chance and by pure luck. I feel so blessed to have been given the life I have. I take it for granted sometimes but I am constantly reminded by friends and family of how I am actually living the fairytale that I had once given up on.
....and this is only the beginning. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011


I am sitting in Tim's old bedroom, in the basement of his parent’s house where, nine years ago, his mom labeled me a 'bedfellow'. Rosalie would warn Tim that 'he knew the rules' and that 'bedfellows were not allowed' :) Now, nearly a decade later, I'm no longer just a 'bedfellow' but a 'wife', and I am sooo allowed! We are in Farmington, Missouri, our hometown, to celebrate our recent elopement with our friends and family. I am currently coming down from the crazy ridiculous high of having seen a surprisingly large percentage of all the people that we know and love in the same place, at the same time. The reception was on Saturday and while it was obviously the climax of our trip home, the events leading up to it are beyond worth mentioning. You wouldn't think that two short weeks in the tiny town you grew up in could shake you to your core, but it most definitely can.

 I will never be able to convey the stress level that emerges when a newlywed couple plans their wedding reception to take place in Missouri, from San Diego, is entirely financially responsible, and doesn't hire any help. Even though we had started planning this months before we even got married, the party we planned ended up being far different than the party that took place. I was, however, more than satisfied with our end result. Our Missouri Wedding Adventure was immediately awesome because Dollar Rent-a-Car didn't have the small compact rental car we reserved. Instead, we were given a beautiful Toyota Sienna minivan for the same price. We undeniably needed it to perform multiple airport pickups and a Costco shopping spree but unfortunately couldn't reserve it because our budget wouldn't allow it. Total upgrade score. My initial anxiety was somewhat relieved as I was happy to finally get to my new in-law's house and physically account for all of the supplies and decorations I had ordered online and sent to Missouri. The first couple of days of our trip were relatively lax. We visited friends and ate at our most missed restaurants. It didn't become insanely stressful until Thursday morning, two days before the reception. That is when I began to prepare the food to feed one hundred people. Right in the middle of my meat cutting/pasta salad making madness, in walked all three of Tim's out-of-town siblings! We had been sure they couldn't make it but, they decided to surprise us! Cue involuntary tears. It's a rare thing to be able to round up all the Benz kids simultaneously. Total family score. Only moments had passed before I began to realize, and later learned that Rosalie, my mother-in-law was realizing simultaneously, that this could possibly* be totally destructive to our entire Benz-Francisco Reception operation. We have a strict timeline of tasks to adhere to and that timeline in no way includes consuming copious amounts of Natural Light. Over the years that I've known the Benz family, I've learned that any reunion of any members of this family who don't routinely get to see each other will result in an unadulterated shit storm of excessive beer drinking and Dr. Hook/Dean Martin sing alongs. Happens every. single. time. and while these episodes are inarguably hilarious, they are hardly conducive to what we had set into motion. Plus, we had to pick up my dad, sister, and best friend, Erin, at the airport at midnight and time was rapidly melting away. Lucky for me, Tim and I stayed on the same page and although he was very happy and grateful to have everyone there, he put the partying on hold until the actual party and we were able to collect our loved ones as scheduled.
Family time, for me, is something that coincides with miscommunication, high anxiety, and a complete lack of cooperation. I'm speaking, of course, of my immediate family. My Mom, my Dad, and my sister, Emily. I can say now, at 28 years old, that I love my parents very much in spite of the tumultuous childhood with which they provided me. I know now that they did the best they could with the resources available to them, and I have learned to see them as humans who make mistakes and poor decisions from time to time. I am able to recognize and appreciate how amazingly supportive my mother was as I somehow have always managed to choose the least conventional path. My sister and I have also had a rocky relationship due to the fact that we are so different from each other in almost every way possible that we have a hard time relating to each other. Now, I adore her and her eccentric strangeness. She is my little sister, my only sister, and I love her :) Regardless of the love I have for each of them separately, the thought of us all co-existing for even a day causes my blood pressure to rise and brings me uncomfortably close to a panic attack. Further, the thought of having to dad-sit at my mother and father-in-law's house for the weekend made my rising anxiety level skyrocket but, by the grace of god, my dad calmed my fears and greatly exceeded my pre-conditioned low expectations when he excitedly took on the role as happy, helpful father-of-the-bride, which made room for me to breathe. A little. My dad, on the in-law's farm, was like a kid in a candy shop with no adult supervision. He couldn't get enough of it and didn't know where to start. It was like he was back at home or something and I will always cherish being able to see him so alive. 

24 hours out and this monster was starting to resemble a well oiled machine. Cupcakes were baking, favor boxes were being stuffed, balloons were being filled and Kali, my new niece and the coolest seven year old I've ever met, was equipped with an iPod that blared Pink's #1 hit, Let's Get This Party Started, on repeat. Hell yes. All the other grown-ups were annoyed, I thought she was hilarious. 

So I think I've forgotten to mention that the whole two weeks in Farmington, was a crazy lightning and thunderstorm tornado extravaganza. My husband and I, accustomed to San Diego's typical 70 degrees and sunny, invited over 100 people to an outdoor party in the Mid-west. In the middle of tornado season. Yaaay...! My unofficial maid-of-honor, Erin, and I were at Wal-Mart getting last minute supplies when Tim texted me that Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (the airport that some of our guests were using) had just gotten part of its roof removed by an aggressive funnel cloud. Oh, and that storm cell that produced that angry cloud was on its way to us. By the time Erin and I had gotten back to my in-laws, we could hear the echoes of the warning sirens wailing back "in town". We frantically unloaded our party goods as we listened to the emergency broadcast computer guy tell us to take cover. We had expected to immediately run down into the basement to join an attempt to take shelter but no. All the guys are playing dominoes in the kitchen like it ain't no thang. Like there is no risk of impending doom blowing through the open windows. So instead of rushing to safety, Erin and I made a huge platter of sub sandwiches for these starving drunk men.

Needless to say, we survived the night. On the day of our wedding celebration, I awoke early to yet another thunderstorm and accepted the fact that we were going to be celebrating in the rain. To be quite honest, the rest of the day is a blur to me. I don't remember every moment but I do remember how it felt. I remember the energy in the air and all the love. Throughout my blog, I continually refer to myself as a very lucky girl. I can't help but reiterate this, because I am constantly reminded of it. In addition to an abnormally awesome husband, I have a handful of exceptionally beautiful people that will be my best friends for life, no matter what parts of the country we are all scattered among. I have a family network that loves me and supports me, no matter how horrible I am at keeping in touch. In the wake of our celebration, I’ve been struck with a lingering emotion that I have never experienced before. I am left feeling overwhelmingly thankful for everyone who spent hours with us helping put it all together, for everyone who got on airplanes and drove for hours to congratulate and celebrate us, for all the surprises both planned and un-planned that formed the amazing memories I will hold with me forever. Yep. I am a lucky girl.