I've been busy making simple (and asymmetrical) inspiration boards to capture the mood for various aspects of our wedding, which is now less than four weeks away...and did I mention I'm still groomless? All I want to do is curl up into a ball and watch episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" until he arrives, but that's impossible.

{wooden signs}
{veil and flower fascinator}

{flowers galore}


Shoe switcheroo

My pretty little Badgley Mischka Kiwi heels were too pink, so I found these pretty strappy shoes to wear instead. For half the price. God bless Internet shoe shopping.

As an aside, it's snowing. In the middle of April. Gross.

{ Luichiny Steel Deal sandal, with a little heart on the sole }

Rad rsvps

These invitations make me happy and I hope ours achieved a similar vibe. My first (and second to last) dress fitting is tomorrow. I'm starting to feel like a bride to be!

{ bottom two from Martha Stewart; top possibly from How magazine }


Home sweet home

On Friday, I arrived back on sturdy American soil. It was a bittersweet, whirlwind farewell to my six-year love affair with Japan and leaving my beloved behind at the airport didn't make it any easier. I sat on the plane and pondered how similar the turbulence was to earthquakes, already missing the soft pink blossoms sprinkled over Tokyo. I missed my favorite okonimiyaki restaurant, my little apartment, my whole big, busy life that I was leaving behind. Even the super-crowded rush hour trains that I never have to step foot on again made me a little misty-eyed.

It's been amazing to meet my adorable little nephew and get caught up with my family knowing that I won't have to say goodbye anytime soon. But the future is looming ahead with exhilarating, frightening vastness, while one foot is still begrudgingly dragging its way across the ocean from the past. So for the moment, I will try to take a deep breath, nibble on some fresh berries and enjoy a taste of pure, unshaking tranquility.

If only J-bug was here to savor it with me.


Where is my mind?

It was incredibly strange to be printing and assembling wedding invitations on Sunday while watching footage of the devastation up north and keeping tabs on the nuclear leaks. It was also strange to be taking money from strangers for our furniture and organizing delivery times.

Tokyo has been an eerie place these past several days. The neon glow has been all but extinguished for energy conservation, the trains were overly full of people heading out of town and the streets were strangely uncrowded. Every night as I pass Shibuya Crossing, the frenetic intersection often captured on film, the darkness makes me do a double take.

Just when I get my nerves under control, an aftershock rattles them back into a state of chaos. There have been more than 600 quakes here in the past 13 days. A lot of them are pretty substantial, but I’ve reached the conclusion that if my apartment and the other Tokyo buildings haven’t buckled yet, they likely won’t.

My body continues to fool me into thinking that the earth is shaking beneath my feet nearly every minute of the day. I find myself catching my breath much too often and feel my heart pounding incessantly.

While most of our friends fled the city over the long weekend and a lot of coworkers even left the country, J-bug and I found ourselves out of options and energy and chose to stay put. But instead of huddling inside the apartment, we checked into the Four Seasons for the night on Friday and allowed ourselves a bit of unprecedented pampering.

We headed down to one of the restaurants for a feast of hamburgers and beer, then went back to our room, popped in “Roman Holiday,” uncorked a bottle of Champagne and sunk into the luxurious king-sized bed. I haven’t slept that well in…ever? (I have insomnia at the best of times, but the stresses of the past two weeks have compounded that into something monstrous.) In the morning, we took a hot bath and ordered breakfast in bed, then strolled through the gardens before warily venturing back out into the real world. It was an 18-hour slice of relief, but now it seems like a distant memory.

In the meantime, my attention span is shot and all I can do is pop our invitations in the mail and stare at some pretty dresses. Like this:

{sweet, flowy goodness}

Not that I need a third one at all, but this dress in ivory (or gray!) is beyond droolworthy. And only $465. Made by Love June on Etsy, if you please.


Shaken up

On my first night in Japan, during the sticky summer of 2005, I felt the earth rumble as I lay on my futon trying to sleep in a strange new place. It was quite substantial, rattling the windows and doors. I sat up and froze, not knowing what to do. When it stopped, my housemates and I stood in our doorways talking ourselves into tranquility before we tried to fall back asleep. Even for them, girls who had been living in Japan for several months, that was a rattling experience.

Eventually, the tectonic show underneath my feet became almost mundane. When an earthquake struck at work, the conversations would lag off until the ground stopped shaking. Out at the park, a simple "Did you just feel that?" would suffice. If you were walking or on the train or sleeping, chances are you might have even missed the whole episode. And eventually, it became more disconcerting when the ground stood still for too long and the buildup seemed to grow.

So, when the earth began quaking on Friday after lunch, my coworker and I diligently carried on our conversation about weddings (she's newly hitched). Then it got intense. She crouched down by her desk, a reflex learned from an early age in Japan, and I giggled. A few seconds later, I was also kneeling under my desk, bracing my head against a file cabinet and willing it to stop. It didn't. The building rocked on its foundation, which is newly built with stabilizing rollers to shift when the ground does. The floor-to-ceiling cabinets swayed back and forth. I kept reaching for my cell phone to call Jun, then remembering that it was on the bed at home. I kept thinking that I don't want to die, I want Jun, who was somewhere in a less stable building on the coastline, to be safe, that we are so close to an escape from all this.

Over the past few weeks, since we'd made the decision to move back to America in early May, I had wondered if my luck would hold out and we would miss the "big one," which experts say is long overdue to strike Tokyo and wreak major devastation on the city. In Bill Bryson's book on the world's history, he reassuringly called Tokyo "the city waiting to die." I wondered how it would feel if the big one struck not long after we'd left, if I'd feel relief or guilt. I thought about how terrible it would be if it struck in this small window before.

All of these things flashed through my mind while I waited for the harsh rattling to stop. My coworker and I looked at each other with wide, teary eyes. All our other office mates were at lunch. We could hear somebody laughing down the hall, which was completely bewildering.

Two minutes later, it stopped and we crawled out from under our desks. Someone came around to check on us. Then the alarm sounded and we were told to evacuate the building, so like scared schoolchildren some 200 employees marched out of our safe, state-of-the-art structure and onto the street, where frail powerlines loomed overhead and one antiquated apartment building had lost a huge pipe, which nearly fell on the cars parked nearby and left actual schoolchildren gaping in wonderment. We marched up the slope and were corralled under the ancient, Soviet-era brick retainer wall of the Russian Embassy. When a big aftershock hit, we watched as the trees and gates shook above our heads and the powerlines swooped back and forth. I tried to find a clear spot to stand. Everyone would have rather taken our chances inside our own building. My boss joked that the Russians were probably hudded at our sturdy entrance, laughing.

Once we were allowed to go back inside, we spent the afternoon bracing through almost constant aftershocks, checking the news, doing odd jobs that didn't require much thought and updating Tokyo friends on Facebook, since all the cell phone networks were down. The first video of the initial tsunami reached us, and my stomach turned. I didn't know how much worse it would get before the hour was over.

Around 6:30, we gathered the courage to leave. Since the trains had all stopped, some people were staying the night at work, but my stranded friend and I decided to walk the 10k to my apartment. Meeting up with a coworker on the corner, we looked at nearby Tokyo Tower, which had gone dark and wiggled so much that the tip is still crooked.

We joined the masses on the sidewalks, many of whom were wearing emergency hardhats and backpacks. I was wearing heels and very underdressed for the suddenly frigid weather, so it was pure relief to see a couple of thoughtful restaurant staffers handing out cups of warm soup to the crowd. Mmmm...

After a less-than-brief restroom stop at a hotel, where hordes of stranded people were camped out on every spare inch of floor space in a completely surreal scenario, we marched on. Two and a half hours later we made it home and with exhaustion plopped down with a glass of wine and measly leftovers. We shut off the news and watched a cheesy Brittany Murphy flick and waited for J-bug to get home from work. It took him eight hours by car.

Watching the news unfold over the past few days has left my nerves frayed and my tear ducts dried out. I've never seen such a catastrophe hit so close to home. The tsunami was especially devastating, and I think those images and thoughts of the people who couldn't find safety will haunt my mind forever. J-bug's uncles are still missing in Sendai. In Tokyo, we're contending with major aftershocks and possible radiation from the nuclear plant crisis. At work, I actually wrote the words "earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster" before erasing them and replacing it with a lighter turn of phrase. Even if it's true, it's too scary to print.

It feels like the ground is shaking all the time now. I have to look up at my ceiling light to check if it's really an earthquake or my body and mind. Do we flee or do we stay? Lots of friends have headed out of the city to wait things out in a safer environment. We were in the midst of selling all of the stuff in our apartment when this happened, and it seems silly to talk about the price of chairs and bookshelves right now but we have to sometime soon. We also can't just leave for America while J-bug's visa is being processed.

His parents' house, where we were going to stay for a while before moving overseas, is halfway to the malfunctioning nuclear reactors. His parents and grandparents refuse to leave. And a lot of our stuff is already there too, stuff we need for the wedding. We also are trying to print and assemble our invitations, but planning a wedding in this situation is beyond strange.

Now I've got to clear all of these thoughts out of my mind and write 2,000 words about the life of a Japanese salaryman. Wish me luck.

I hope everyone near and dear remains safe, and if you have a few dollars or yen to spare, please donate anything you can to the relief efforts.