Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Because Marriage is Hard, Even After 9 Years.

If you've followed my blog for the past couple of years... You know I've done anniversary blog posts for year 7 and year 8. I've talked about getting married in 19 days, the struggles, the marriage counseling, the hard work, the payoff... The Why. Would. We. Ever. Get. Married. In. 19. Days.

And as this 9 year anniversary approached for us (May 3rd), I was resolute I was not going to post on the subject. This year in marriage hasn't been "blog-worthy"... So I just going to remain silent on the subject and do the ol' proverbial social-media-spouse-shout-out, that's become an absolute MUST in our culture, like- if you can't even muster up that- you're definitely getting a divorce.

As I pondered skipping the "anniversary post", I started to feel like a bit of a poser. Like I'll only share when our life is great. And the truth is, I don't want to be that way, because it goes against everything I believe in and everything I've learned about being transparent and how much that can help others. I want to be the person who's willing to share in both the good and not-so-good times. I don't want to be just another, "Married to the man of my dreams for 9 years today- love you babe!" status update. Because, when you're struggling to find a way in your marriage.... That literally couldn't be more annoying.

In deciding to post this... I want to say that this year, especially these last few months Shawn and I have had a rough go. After going on 9 years of marriage you'd think each year would get easier. It sounds about right? Then life hands you big decisions, another move you never wanted to happen, and stress and anxiety and, and, and... The marriage suffers.

It seems in our culture, especially amongst my Christian friends, most couples I know are so uncomfortable talking about having issues in their marriage. We put up every possible smoke screen to avoid anyone knowing that there could be a problem. I am guilty. My husband is a pastor and people want pastor's to have "example marriages". And we want that too, trust me. The pressure is real to have a great marriage, aka "the struggle is real" (I knew that saying would eventually make sense to me). We want desperately to feel worthy of the "You guys are an inspiration to us!" comments on our Facebook anniversary photo. But we don't feel worthy. We fail to see how our arguing and imperfections could be an inspiration to anyone.

The hardest thing we've had to do this year was ask for help. In a lonely year with few people to confide in... We had to seek people out. Seek a marriage counselor out (again). Approach counseling from a different perspective- each of us seeing a one-on-one counselor, something we've never tried.

What I've learned in throwing out the SOS is that most people want to help, want to share their own experiences, want to "be real" and quit the social media "we're perfect" facade we're all guilty of contributing to. All it takes is scratching the surface- and if you need help- you have to be willing to scratch it. If you have anyone honest in your life, most couples who've been married any length of time want to be of any help they can.

I made a friend this year who's been married 10 years. After meeting her and her husband, I placed their marriage on the pedestal of all pedestals: good looking couple, successful, adorable kids, cute house- they seemed to have it just right. And then on a vulnerable night out over coffee, I told her about some problems I was facing with marriage. She then shared a serious struggle her and her husband went through earlier in their marriage- and to be honest, I was floored by it. First off that she shared it with me so easily, and second off- that a couple so "perfect" could have gone through this.

It reminded me that most, if not all marriages will ride the roller coaster. You can either scream to get off- which in some cases- is the only way to survive, and I get that. Or, you can enjoy the fun parts and hold on tight through the scary parts. Holding on tight will look different to every couple. For me personally, it's been a decision to say, "I will exhaust every possibility I can before giving up". 

I met another older woman this year who when I asked her to pray for my marriage, invited me over for coffee every Monday morning for a while now, to share with me the highs and lows in her 30+ year marriage, and to pray with me. It has been incredibly insightful to hear from someone who's willing to share that cohabiting is not easy. Raising kids is not easy. Financials are not easy. Relocation sucks. Unmet career expectations, pay cuts... It's hard work and can easily become bigger than the love that the marriage has. I have witnessed it in our own marriage. "Love is all you need": that is bull shit. You need a lot more than love, let me tell you that. To begin, you need an unwavering commitment, and lots and lots of help through the hard times.

[And I want to be clear that the "help" I'm mainly referring to is counseling. Bonafide therapy. The good expensive kind. I'm not talking your Pastor here... He or she might love God- but that doesn't make them an expert on marriage- or even have a healthy marriage themselves! YES- friends and a support system are key, I don't want to take away from that. But finding someone to be a mediator with an MFT degree and expertise on the subject- priceless.]

Approaching this summer we decided we needed to step back and take a break from, well life. Plan a road trip. Plan what seems like the stupidest possible idea in the midst of probably the most stressful time in our lives. In a way I feel like this road trip might set us back on the right track. I feel like WE NEED THIS ROAD TRIP. To some, 7 weeks on the road with two young kids (and no tablet!) would be torture, but if you know us- day to day monotony is our torture!

So here's to traveling the country trying to find our way back to the naive days when we met and married in 19 days because we liked each other THAT much... And to year 10 riding the roller coaster back up to the top because I am hopeful for that. I am hopeful that later in life I will be able to invite a younger woman over for coffee and inspire her to fight for her marriage in ways she never knew possible. To love when she felt like quitting. To fight the good fight, run the race with perseverance- all of it.

Cheers to knowing when to throw up the SOS,


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Leaving Santa Barbara...

In a way I've been afraid to blog for a while now... Because I know myself so well. I know how attached I get to my stories and that once they are typed I cannot NOT post them. And I've been crazy terrified of what stories I might decide to type. It's like I'm scared of our truth and the messiness of life and the last year because I haven't wanted to hurt or offend anyone.

Part of being married to a pastor, even being just the proverbial "youth pastor's wife" is knowing when to shut up. This is something that comes with the territory and has never been exactly in my wheel house.

I am going to write this from my perspective as a wife, mom, business owner, friend and lover of Jesus.

The last 8 months have been hard for us. Like tears and snot dripping from the nose hard (well that part's mainly been me).

Ending 2013 in Orcutt and starting 2014 in Santa Barbara, Shawn and I felt like we had the world at our finger tips. We may have been leaving our beloved Orcutt... A town we had grown fond of over 5 years; birthed both babies in, purchased a home in and had made life-long friends in... But we were moving to a place with "city life", the beach as our front yard and back in to the church denomination we came from- all things we yearned for.

The idea of Santa Barbara seemed perfect... Everything was looking up for us and the possibilities seemed endless. Location wise, it was an hour closer to our family in LA and it wasn't far from our friends in Orcutt- a win win all around.

Fast forward to now, 15 months later and bluntly put: Santa Barbara hasn't worked out for us. I feel like when I've said that statement to keep things light to those who've asked why we're moving... I get a look of complete bewilderment from a lot of people. Which I get... It's literally a gorgeous place to live (sandwiched between the beach and the mountains). "The Littlest Big City in the World" they say. How could you not be drawn to that, it all sounds likely perfect. Perfect... There is a lot of perfect in this town and well...

We are not perfect. We don't try to be perfect. We embrace the imperfect... Hell, we eat Hot N' Ready Pizza more times a month than I care to admit.

Making friends in this town (and I realize now that we were spoiled before) has been painfully hard. For two extroverts who were used to dinner in groups on average 2 times a week... This has been a downright lonely year for us.

As for the people we do call friends here, I am so thankful to have met you and shared church or Spanish Immersion or feeling like out-casts together. The few friends we've made have been life savers, and I truly mean that- you know who you are.

Overall though... In my 34 years of life, I have never felt like more of an outcast since moving here. It has rocked my confidence level in ways I can't explain. Walking in to my daughter's preschool has at times given me something a little short of a panic attack. Not that I don't love the teachers and the actual program... But going to the school has been like living in the movie Mean Girls. And I can't sit with them, just trust me. (Don't worry- they don't know I have a blog).

Moving on!

As much as I love our cute little bungalow home... Living in it the last 6 months has been the most one of the most unideal set ups a family of four (+ dog + classic car) could imagine. A few months after we moved in the house was sold to a new owner who decided adding a third house in between the front house (ours) and the back house would be a great idea. Our garage was torn down and we were completely stripped of our adorable backyard as scaffolding went up in it to build the new home. Yes, you can practically touch the home being built from our back porch. If you knew how much rent we paid for the area of Santa Barbara we live in, you'd likely laugh at us. And please don't ask why we didn't just buy a house... Google "Santa Barbara housing prices" for that answer. I don't want to say it was NEVER going to happen... but there was a 99.999% chance of that never ever happening. Like, ever.

My business has not "taken off" like we were sure it would. If anything- people from Orcutt like missed me or something and my clientele picked up there. Oh... The irony! I couldn't get people in Santa Barbara to hire me to save my life this last year. It is a very loyal customer base- if I heard this once I heard it a million times. "Once you're in, you're in"... "Give it three years" and "donate parties to the rich people"... Welp. No. None of those are going to work. It hasn't happened and it's been incredibly humbling.

Lastly... The job (Youth Pastor) Shawn came for. While in the end, Santa Barbara has not been the fit we were hoping for... I've learned a lot about my faith through the church and will never regret our decision to come here because of that.

As some of you know I was raised in a charismatic/fundamentalist church. In my late 20's and early 30's I came to resent so much of that fact. I decided I wanted to be, "the opposite kind of Christian" as the church I was raised in. I settled on loving God but [without realizing it completely] hating most Christians. I switched political parties, I stopped doing "cliche Christian things" (like Beth Moore studies)... I made a point to let people know that I was not one of "them". I became bitter towards "the Home School Christians", "the No-Harry-Potter-Christians", "The No-Santa Christians"... It is something I still struggle with but have come a long way with in the last year.

The church we came to Santa Barbara for did something no other church I've attended has done. It showed me a side of Christianity I wanted... And it did it in a healthy way. There wasn't hate or even strife towards the more conservative home-schooling, Santa, Christians... It just wasn't even in the culture of the church. The church embraced deep issues (much too deep for this blog) I hadn't seen Christians at a church I'd attended care about yet.

The problem is... I also learned this year that deep down in my soul- I am still a charismatic... Attending a hymn-loving traditional church. I have a NEED to clap my hands and raise them if I feel lead. I cannot control these aspects of my being, I try to and I fail. If you gave me a flag I cannot promise I would not wave that bad boy in to the air like I just don't care! (Well, maybe not now- but give me 30 years and I AM that lady).

Somehow (God probably had something to do with it) being in a liturgical church the last year has not made me bitter or hateful- it's just opened my eyes to the fact that there are indeed MANY different ways to worship. None is "right"... Just so so different.

I feel like this year has helped Shawn and I figure out our place in ministry and where God is calling us. This has not been an easy decision, if you knew how much I HATED moving you would understand even more how hard of a decision this was to make. It has come with tears and disagreements, utter confusion and so much prayer...

In the end we've decided to return home to the South Bay (Los Angeles) this summer and figure out our next steps there.

We have a road trip lined up after Cormac graduates Kinder- and we're planning to visit lots of friends all over the place. Cormac is on 3 Spanish Immersion waiting lists in the South Bay (none that will top his current school, Adalante Charter School!) and we're prayerful that the Lord will line something up after we return from the road.

If you think of us, we covet your prayers for strength in our marriage during the move (!!!), clarity with our next employment steps... and for our kids to not be totally screwed up from all of this moving.

We're excited for the next journey and looking forward to being near both of our families (babysitters galore, amen hallelujah) and connecting with all of our old friends and introducing our kids to their kids.

We're coming for you LA... I hope you're ready ;)

The O'Briens

(I've got to say that our landlord giving us a 60 Day Notice last night- with a move-out date of exactly Shawn's last day of work... Kind of a nice reminder that we're on the right track. Don't ever ask God for signs if you don't want them... Noted.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

{Client Party} 40th Birthday: Black & White Masquerade!

Party Planner, Dessert Table, Fondant Cake
I've always wondered what the perfect client would be like. One who hears a quote and asks who to write the check to. One who completely trusts my aesthetic and doesn't attempt to design the party herself. One who respects my time... And gives me ample notice on the party. One who loves to throw a big ol' bash and even places a dress code on the invite (black & white attire- and come in a mask... Now we're talking!) And most importantly... One who likes pink, black and white, duh.

I was pretty excited when my ideal client, Michelle called me about doing a dessert bar for her 40th birthday party last month (January 2015). This is my fourth 40th birthday in the last two years and I've got to say 40th birthdays are some of my faves. Talk about a fun job I have: Designing, Dining and Dancing... All in a nights work!

I had a blast putting this cake & candy bar together for about 100 guests (yes, lots of refills required). It was my first time ordering bulk candy and I learned a ton. (Like you need a ton of candy to fill them jars.) I partnered up with Tania Fischer Design for graphics and she came up with a fab invite, backdrop graphic and dessert cards that helped me pull together exactly the Black/White & Pink Masquerade Ball I was going for.

I love the way the table turned out- my fave part was the extra large sugar rimmed martini glasses filled with candy. The guests had a blast filling up their custom candy bags and cups... I mean, who doesn't love a candy bar... There's a reason The Sweet Factory has been around forever people!

xo Party or Die xo

Vendor Credits:
Party Design & Styling: Miss Party Mom Event Planning
Venue: Santa Maria Country Club
Photographer: Kuya Jep Photography, Central Coast Ca
Graphic Design & Printables: Tania Fischer Design
Candy: Candy Me Up
Macarons: Jennifer Hawkins, Orcutt Ca
Custom 40th Cookies: Creating Awesomenessity
Custom Lollipops: LolliPics
Fondant Ruffle Cake: Kelli Cakes, Orcutt Ca
Bottle Stopper Party Favors: Kate Aspen Favors
Backdrop: PrintMy
"Let Us Eat Cake" Glitter Banner: The Bannerie
Photo Booth Pics: Lots of Funny Photo Booth, Central Coast Ca

Dessert Tabke
Apothecary Jars, Candy Bar

Pink Rock Candy, Custom Sugar Cookies

Custom Sugar Cookies, Fortieth Birthday
Jumbo Gum balls, Candy bar
Dessert Table
Jelly Bellies

Custom Lollipops, Lollipics, Candy Bar, Martini Glass

Macarons, Black and White

Macarons, Fortieth Sugar Cookies

Party Planner, Dessert Table

Masquerade Ball, Mask, Party Guests

Masquerade Ball
Fortieth Birthday

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Captain Cormac's Pirate 6th Birthday Party

There is nothing quite like eating crow. I guess if there were a bird a pirate might eat... It would be crow... So at least I'm in theme? See, for years I have been completely dumbfounded why people (especially party planners... EEEK!) would choose to throw a pirate party... "Of all the fantastic themes out there... And you pick the one that's been done a million times!?" Yes. I've said those exact words, to myself and to others. I was actually kind of surprised how long it took people to remind me of this fact... And here I am, owning it because... I JUST DID A PIRATE PARTY!

When Cormac was turning four I lost control of theme decisions, it was a dark day in my house. Kind of like how Birdie has been wearing socks with her sandals and Frozen tee shirts? Ya. In some ways I'm softer than I've ever been... BUT A PIRATE PARTY KENNA?! For the love of it all. I mean... I'd better make it a good one, right?!

Cormac's been obsessed with pirates for a while now. There are days I'm convinced he wants to grow up to BE a pirate... Which is slightly scary ever since that whole Captain Phillips movie came out... I digress, he told me point blank this year: "It's a pirate party"... When I tried to remind him we already did Peter Pan which had a lot of Hook elements to it, he looked at me like I was NOT tracking with him... "I mean REAL pirates mom"... Okaaaay, got it! 

A week before Cormac's real birthday (January 20th) I asked him if he wanted a pirate coat for his birthday gift. We don't usually do gifts because our kids get big parties (and that IS the gift)... But I figured a pirate coat made by momma would be a nice exception to the rule. The kids and I headed to the fabric store where Cormac picked out a wine colored corduroy, a striped cotton lining and ruffles for his sleeves... And let me tell you he KNEW what he wanted (even when I tried to talk him in to a more true red). I got to work using the same pattern I had used for his Peter Pan outfit which also had a pirate coat option... Convenient, eh? I finished it in two days and was pretty stoked on how it turned out and fit him perfectly.

As usual I started on the theme months ago, first with Elena on graphics. She got my vision as she always does, and created the most awesome invite and printables set. I wanted to focus on a ship and a treasure map look and sort of channel a "Sailor Jerry" vibe... I was trying to stay away from the typical black and white striped pirate look. Shortly after we nailed down the graphics I started picking up decor at thrift shops (a standing globe, goblets and skulls after Halloween)... Luckily I already had a ton to pull from in the Party Cave. My friend Kara (who is a prop designer by hobby) texted me about her pirate sail that she'd built a couple of years ago for her son's birthday. I knew that would bring in a huge BANG and was excited to see it sail once again at our party. She graciously packed it all up and brought it down to Santa Barbara the morning of the party, and the two of us- like total crazies- used a dolly to roll in two wheel barrels, a 14 ft. sail, 12 ft. ladder and a 10 ft. wood plank to use for the table. All in a public park. It was a little intense, I'm not gonna lie. We drew a crowd within a few minutes, kids and parents watching us set up... There's some saying about "Go Big or Go Home" that seems fitting here...

Earlier in the week I had a real moment with celebrity party planner, Amy Atlas at a conference I attended... (Read about it here). She shared some personal experiences about throwing parties for her sons and I took our talk to heart and decided to go in to Cormac's party without expectations... Which is like HUGE for me. I had the mindset that if the sail worked out, great... If not, I'd figure something else simple out. I didn't do one trial run through, iron linens, stay up till 4am making hand made favors... I didn't even hire a photographer (although a photographer did come with the pirate act, which was a bonus). My goal was to be 100% present, mellow and as normal of a mom throwing a party as possible... (who happens to have connections to a pirate sail and a basement full of party decor and supplies, duh.)

I'm not trying to brag here but I'd say I succeeded.... I felt pretty normal. I wasn't exhausted (well, by the end of the day I was), I wasn't preoccupied with the photographer making sure she shot every little detail... I didn't totally freak out when the sails striped backdrop fell down knocking all of my cupcakes to the ground... Miss Party Mom for the win is all I'm saying.

We had a great day celebrating our little pirate. We invited his entire Kindergarten class, friends from Orcutt, church friends and our family from Los Angeles... It was a day to remember!

xx Party ARRRRR Die xx

Party Credits
Venue: Chase Palm Park, Santa Barbara Ca
Party Styling & Desserts: Miss Party Mom Event Planning
Invitation & Party Printables: World Wide Party by Elena
Ocean Cake: Cindy Almanza
Cormac's Pirate Jacket: Miss Party Mom
("Looking Glass Cones" original idea from Oh Sugar Events)
My Instagram feed was filled all week with behind the scenes pirate party photos... If you're not following me yet... WHYYY!!?

pirate party backdrop

party backdrop

Golden coin oreos pirate party

Pirate Party desserts

Pirate Party Cupcakes

Pirate Party Candy Table

Pirate Party Cake

Ship in a Bottle Pirate Party

Pirate Party Candy Table

Pirate PartyPirate Party Favor Bags

Pirate Party Sail

Pirate Party Photos

Pirate Party Sail

Pirate Party

Pirate Party Activity

Pirate Activity

Pirate Chest Decorating
Boy's Pirate Costume

Pirate Party Game

Pirate Costume

Pirate Party Sword Fight

Pirate Act

Pirate Act

Walk the Plank gameWalk the plank game

Pirate party

Pirate Party

Pirate Party

Pirate Girl

Pirate costume

Pirate Cake

Pirate Pinata

Pirate Party

Pirate Boy
I think we need to work on the scariness of his "pirate face"...