Monday, November 24, 2008

Potholes and detours

I've been kind of letting the whole thing sink in so I didn't bother to mention that I got laid off last week. Everyone at the company knew something was coming. I kind of figured I'd get laid off in January; I was a couple months off.

During my honeymoon, I was a little frustrated to be missing two important events. First, our company was holding their earnings call. The next day, an all company meeting was scheduled for the afternoon. This meeting had been moved around three times and finally settled on the day before I returned home.

As soon as I got back to work, my colleagues filled me in. The earnings call was more than people expected. An analyst asked point-blank when the company would be having layoffs. The executives must not have been prepared because my manager said they poorly answered the questions. Our president didn't dodge the question and instead said that a first round of layoffs would be in the next few weeks. Imagine hundreds of employees listening to this teleconference at their desks and learning this. Such as critical announcement should be first made to employees in person, not during a call with financial analysts.

The next day, our president confirmed that HR was busy preparing for layoffs. The financial situation of the company is not dire but clearly spending needs to be curbed. No plans were spelled out. It definitely put a damper on the rest of the week. To make matters worse, HR sent out an e-mail cancelling a planned happy hour in the cafeteria schedule for two day later. Come on, if you knew that spending was an issue, cancel it earlier, not after scaring everyone with looming layoffs.

A director send out an e-mail to form an unofficial happy hour in his department to make up for HR's cancellation. It was a good way for everyone to get together despite HR. When my colleague left the party, he thanked the director for organizing. The director wished him a good weekend and added, "good luck on Tuesday."

"Tuesday, what's on Tuesday?" My colleague couldn't figure out what he was talking about. After a few seconds, he realize that it must be a reference to coming layoffs. It was just so strange that the guy had been so open about it. Clearly, he had warned his whole department. I wish our manager had given us some warning.

Tuesday seemed like a very regular morning. Still, I was keeping my eye out for anything unusual. At my last company, I saw six layoffs over the span of two years. I learned all the signals and knew the procedure. The question was how my new company would conduct the layoff - call only affected employees to a meeting or call everyone to different meetings. So when I received an e-mail at 9:30am that read, "mandatory HR meeting" I wasn't sure what to think.

My gut told me that I was getting laid off, but I wanted proof. My colleagues had gone off to a meeting so I couldn't ask them. Instead, I sat quietly listening to passers by. I figured if anyone else received the e-mail I might overhear them mention it in the cubes nearby or at the copier. Nothing, it seemed like a regular day for all the people sitting around me. I knew that could only mean one thing.

At least I'm getting paid through the end of the year. We were given our walking papers and a cab voucher to take all of our belongings home (for those who use public transportation). I consolidated my files, erased my personal files, and packed up all my personal effects. I said a brief goodbye to my manager who had to leave for the airport. She also gave permission to my counterpart to go home early. It wasn't exactly the most fun day to hang around the office.

It's a really frustrating situation. On the one hand, it's good timing because it gives me the opportunity to wrap up all the post-wedding stuff. You wouldn't believe how much of time is filled with wedding and cohabitation related errands. On the other hand, this is fairly bad timing as it's not easy to find a job right before Xmas, and we had been hoping to start looking for a house. It's so frustrating to not be able to buy a house when we really want to have more space and start planning for a baby. We've decided we'll probably still try for a baby starting January whether or not I have a job. I just hope that I can find a new job before any bump starts to show (if we're lucky enough). Added to all this is the fact that I really liked my job. It was challenging, but I really felt like I was part of a great team of people whom I respected, could learn from, and had fun with. That's a hard thing to find.

I have a job interview coming up. I'm hopeful but not as enthusiastic as I would like to be. I plan to volunteer once a week to get myself out of the house. I also carpool with Tim and spend a day at the local library and then go to the gym before picking Tim up to go home. We're extending our holiday vacation now that I have more spare time. I'm making the best of it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One thousand, one hundred eighty-three and then some

For the past week, I've spent an enormous amount of time sorting through wedding photos. Weddings are one of those events where you are completely dependent on others to capture memories of the people, scenery, and action going on around you.

Our photographer sent us some teasers about a week after the wedding. We also encouraged guests to upload their photos onto a shared website Tim created through Shutterfly. Ten people took us up on the shared website. Two people posted pictures through Picasa, one set on Flickr, another on Photobucket, and two people sent us CDs with their photo files. We got to see many great shots of things we had no idea were going on while we visited with guests. The one thing I take away from what photos people sent is "remember to share photos of things other than the bride and groom." It's nice that we have dozens of angles of our ceremony, but it'd be better if we could see who was sitting next to whom and what was happening at the reception tables. I will definitely keep that in mind for the next wedding I attend.

Now comes the hard part of sorting through all these wonderful photos and decide on what will go into our final photo album. We'll probably have two, one informal book we'll print online, the other will be a fancy (and expensive) leather bound book with the thick pages that weighs 10 pounds. The big difference is how many pictures we will use. The online books tend to be 100 pages with 1 to 9 photos per page which you design yourself. The professional wedding books are a total of 55 photos over 30-40 pages where one chance to edit up to 10 photos is allowed before it goes to print.

As I go through and try to whittle down all these photographs into a tidy 500 to get from my official photographer, here are so fun pictures:

I could have imagined a more beautiful autumn day for a wedding. It had rained just two week earlier so we set up a whole Plan B timeline in case of weather. Good thing we didn't spend too much thought on it. Instead, Mother Nature graced us with a perfect 74F day, light wind, and clear skies. Not many people know about this place for some reason and yet it's so close by many things. I'm so glad we chose to have an outdoor ceremony. With all the activities we two enjoy, this was the place for us. Just before the ceremony, as the guests hid under the trees for shade, a light wind shook some leaves from the tall trees. It was like watching a romantic movie as I saw the golden leaves fall like golden confetti over everyone. I knew it would be a marvelous day.

I probably know little to nothing about florist. I can't say that I've ever bought anything from a shop. Naturally, I fretted constantly about the flowers. Having a proposal that list what flowers will be included in the wedding was not enough. Sure, we talked about ideas after looking at pictures, but how was I to be sure I'd end up with something I'd like? I have to say my breath was taken away by what was delivered to the hotel. The flowers were perfect, and she even managed to add flowers that I thought I couldn't get because they're normally out of season this time of year. (Hmmm, yeah, they're probably imported from somewhere and not "green" but I'll compensate for it somehow because it was worth it!)

My brother-in-law's girlfriend has just become a wedding photographer. We wanted her to enjoy the wedding, so she wasn't paid to do anything she didn't want to. Still, it was great to have a "second" photographer with a different artistic style. I really love some of her more artsy images.

I surprisingly did well in my $45 Naturalizer shoes (on sale with 20% friends and family discount - yes!). From the moment I found them, I was determined to wear them because I thought the style was perfect and the pearl white color matched my dress better than anything else. I thought for sure I'd have ten blisters on each feet and be walking bare foot after an hour. Luckily, they held up for a good 4 hours before I abandon them for slides and then 1-inch sandals.

But of all the details I shopped, fretted, fussed, and struggle over, my favorite is our cake topper. We're by no means the first to do it, although it has become a little harder now that you can't request them free from the company. Despite that, I wrote the company and told them of our love for the video game of their creation. I longed for the pieces I needed that I could not buy from the company without buy a set that cost $50 to $100. The customer service agent accepted my request and my obvious determination to obtain my cake topper and went so far as to give me a complete set of LEGOs from which I could created my bride and groom rather just the three pieces that I had requested. She has no idea how much that made my day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crazy bridal fashion

I stopped by to give my catering manager and sales manager thanks gifts this week. Tim and I debated for a few days what would be good to give them for their efforts. We settled on a bottle of wine along with a stemless wine glass set. We figured that by having one food item and one useful item they'd at least get to enjoy one thing (in case they don't like the other).

Catching both of them at the hotel can be tricky. During the wedding planning phase, I definitely ran into days they were out of the office. The issue is that they don't have the same day off week to week. I was thrilled when the front desk person told me they were both present.

It was lovely to see them. I'm sure they were happy to know that I wasn't there to agonize over details or fret over things that weren't perfect. I can't help wonder how my bridal demands and hysterics compare to others they've worked with. The three of us had a fun chat.

While we talked a little about the wedding itself and looked at my Polaroid guestbook, the bulk of the conversation moved on to the crazy weddings out there. First, I mentioned a very popular local spot for pictures where we must have seen seven other wedding parties wandering about the grounds. What was eye catching were the number of *brightly* colored bridesmaids. Maybe it's a trend among the younger brides, but I just couldn't stand the hot pink bridesmaids along with their matching hot pink stretch Hummer. Eeck. The bridesmaid in chocolate and lavender looked fine. Then there was the fluorescent-like aqua and kelly green bridesmaids. Unique but how will one ever re-use those colors unless they come in a set?

From there we started talking about all kinds of crazy styles - tatoos, 1920s, hoop skirts, multi-color wedding gowns, big hats. The movie "29 Dresses" was cute and mostly just entertaining because I thought the bridesmaid dress they created for the movie were funny. I actually kind of like the goth wedding. The catering manager jumped in saying that she had just booked a woman for next year who will indeed be having a goth wedding at the hotel. She said the bride wears the style well and has purple hair they will be hyped up more for the wedding. Boy, I'd love to get a peek at that event.

The craziest wedding images were shared by the sales manager. The website address alone gives some idea of what to expect - Hot Ghetto Mess. (The website itself is quite an eye-opener for me.) She described a summer wedding where the bridal party wore LEATHER. Yes, imagine five to seven black women dress in tight leather dresses. This was a posh wedding where being in the bridal party meant each woman also received a 2 carat diamond Tiffany bracelet. To top it off, the bride wore a white leather gown trimmed with white fur. I haven't found a picture of the bride, but this might be the bridal party . The outfits look great, but in my circles there's no way anyone would go for this in a wedding.

To each their own. It definitely makes for great entertainment!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Up for air

Don't know if anyone's still out there, but I've returned for a little bit. I'm happy to say that I'm now married!

It was pretty those last few weeks before the big day. You always think you have more time and then suddenly you realize there are more things to do that weren't on the list. So yes, Tim and I spent every waking hour that wasn't spent at work, at home designing programs, sewing, typing up instructions, putting together gifts, handling last-minute requests.

The weather cooperated wonderfully. No one could have asked for more perfect weather. At the rehearsal, the sun felt like a heat lamp on the skin. Thankfully, the weather report was accurate in predicting that the temperature would drop to a very agreeable 74 F for Saturday. There was only the slightest breeze to blow papers, hair, or veils. Everyone was amazed at our beautiful backdrop.

The only wrenches thrown into the mix were the parents. Tim's family wanted to have a private lunch and did not want to come down to the hotel for photos in the morning. Because of this last-minute change, we did not think about the fact that the boutonnieres and corsages needed to be transported to the ceremony. Hence, only my family wore flowers during the wedding. We didn't realize this error until we got back to our hotel room and found a shopping bag full of flowers next to the door. Oops.

My mother was a more thorny problem. Basically, we accept the fact that she was looking for excuses to dislike Tim's family. (They aren't good enough for me in her eyes because they are a different ethnicity and she strongly holds to old country prejudices.) The rehearsal dinner was a nightmare. The Chinese banquet place essentially tried to squeeze out a little more money by short-changing my mother-in-law. We had been promised four tables seating about 10 people each. Instead, they squeezed us into three 12-15 person tables. Then they proceeded to only serve enough food for 10-12 people. My mother immediately came over and yelled at me for embarrassing her in front of the relatives.

Being at my breaking point from general wedding stress, I couldn't help but start crying. I lost my appetite for half the meal. It took numerous conversations between my dad, my mother-in-law, her Chinese friend, and my aunt before my mom could at least calm down. Did it even occur to her how much she was embarrassing me by making such a fuss? I think she blames my in-laws for being cheap rather than realizing the restaurant manager was trying to pull a fast one. I don't think I saw her smile all night. Thank goodness for my reasonable, patient, and loving father.

There's never enough time to talk to everyone, but I feel like I was at least able to say a few words to all my friends over the course of the evening. Tim and I did our best to make sure that we ate most of our dinner. We managed to stay on schedule and still have fun.

More details later...