Online Wedding Journal
Witness the amazing chronological transformation from succinct to verbose!

Online Wedding Journal  
by Arlo Midgett

Feburary 25, 2002
Oksana and I are in the process of filling out the necessary forms to reserve Chapel by the Lake's, uh... chapel... for our wedding on August 17th 2002. Now, that date's not set in stone yet, but the mold's been cast. Currently there aren't any reservations at the church and that was our biggest worry. Once we've got our deposit paid, we'll figure out where to have the reception! (Suggestions?)

Those of you who are familiar with Juneau probably know all about Chapel by the Lake's awesome views. Those of you who're coming to the wedding will be treated to views like this, this, and this. Honest.

I know you don't really need this link to Travelocity, but I thought I'd include it "just in case."

March 4, 2002

The date is set! August 17th, 2002. Chapel by the Lake. Oksana took a look and decided on reserving the sanctuary over the chapel. The chapel is closer to our plans (as far as size goes), but it was too dark. The sanctuary seats 280, I think, so we're pretty confident that it'll be big enough.

We also checked out a bridal fair at the mall this weekend (where I realized why they call them "bridal fairs" and not a "groom's fairs") Among our notable achievements: we found some brochures for suits and tuxes and looked over the prices for a photographer. By the way, did you know that there are about a thousand different tuxedo looks? Jeez...

Also, Rob Haskell has accepted my request to be the Best Man. Very cool.

Special thanks to Liza Lavrushina for sending us a wedding planner. We didn't even know those things existed!

March 18th, 2002

Lots of new stuff, but nothing much solidified yet:

The Ring

(I love this picture!)
Our biggest news is about the engagement ring. We've been shopping around for something in our price range. While we've learned a great deal about the four C's (clarity, color, carat, cut), we haven't come that close to actually making a purchase. Costco, surprisingly, had the best deal - high quality diamonds at prices FAR lower than any other place in town. Unfortunately, they buy only a few rings in bulk, so they didn't have a setting that we really liked. We did ask about a custom order - but they only do that on stones over a full carat. Out of our price range.

But then Oksana had an idea. See, years ago her father had given her mother a diamond ring… but the ring was far too large for her finger. The ring was passed to Oksana and she'd been keeping it in a safety deposit box since our trip to Costa Rica a couple months ago. She convinced me that we should get it appraised even though I wasn't too keen on the idea - I wanted the ring she would wear to be "ours."

Well, to make a long story short, we spent an hour at the jewelry store getting the diamond appraised. There were downs ("Diamonds shouldn't have surface abrasions!" and "Real diamonds rarely flash blue and purple like that") and ups ("Doesn't look like there are any flaws inside" and "It passed the 'heat test' two out of three times.") The final verdict? We have a nearly flawless, .9 - 1-carat diamond on our hands! Oksana and I were quite amazed when she told us that it would probably retail 3-4 times higher than the rings that were at the top end of our price range!

It's quite a thrill. Our next step (after receiving the written appraisal in the mail) will be to send the stone off to be removed from the current setting, cleaned up, personalized by laser inscription, and set in a new ring. It's really a win-win situation - Oksana gets a great ring, and we end up saving a lot because we only need to buy the setting now…

The Maid of Honor
Liza Lavrushina has agreed to be Oksana's Maid of Honor at the wedding.

The Flower Girl

Hailee Berg is going to be our flower girl. And she's very excited about that, too!

The Reception

We're still looking into places to hold our reception. At the top of our list is the Mt. Roberts Tram, but it's also at the top of the cost list! We're waiting for a call from them to tell us exactly how much it might cost, but it looks like it'd be at least $1500-2000 (catering and tram ride included.) But what an experience that'd be for our friends and family who've never been to Juneau!

My mom is going to handle the flowers - probably with a little help from Oksana. They love that sort of thing. (And don't think I'm not happy about that, either!)

Travel Arrangements

In an e-mail exchange with my grandparents, it's become apparent that we might need to do some scouting around Juneau for anyone planning on visiting. Let us know if you find something on the Internet worth checking. In the meantime, here's a map with some of the key points highlighted. Remember that if you rent a car, getting around Juneau is a snap! The longest drive would be from North Douglas to Auke Bay - and that should still take only about a ½ hour… and no traffic! Seriously, plan to stay anywhere. It won't be a problem

April 4th, 2002

Do you know yet if you're going to be traveling to Juneau for our wedding? If so, I might have a good deal for you. A couple days ago I reserved the Schaible House as a possibility for our visiting friends and relatives. The Schaible House is owned by the University and is situated on the picturesque Mendenhall River (which flows direct from the Mendenhall Glacier) and the huge picture windows will let you see it all! There are four bedrooms (each sleeping two) and even a pull-out couch in the living room. The cost to us (reservations) is $200/night and I've currently got it reserved for 5 nights. If we can manage to fill it, I can guarantee a sub-$50 / night price! (Especially since, if we arrange to clean ourselves, the University will knock of $200!)

Please don't wait for our official wedding invitations to go out -- that won't be until June or so. If you're already planning on coming for our wedding (and if you're reading this, you're almost definitely invited!) and need a place to stay, reserve these as early as possible!

Here's a schedule -- please let me know if I can reserve a room for you.
Room 8/13 8/14 8/15 8/16 8/17
#1 cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled
#2 cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled
#3 cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled
#4 cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled
Couch cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled

The University's student housing is also a possibility! Single rooms there are $45 per night (or $40/each person for a double) and they're really, really nice, too! I should know... I lived in G-4 for 5 years! The dorms are basically empty over the summer and they are far closer to townhouses or apartments than any college dorm you're likely to have seen before. Full kitchen, bathroom, and living room included! Let me know if anyone's interested in staying in the dooms and I'll make you a reservation -- the sooner the better! There's also a chance that I might be able to swing a "university related event" discount... But even if I can't, it should still be cheaper (and closer!) than the hotels in town!

Here's an updated map with the housing options listed:

The Dress

Oksana has picked out a dress! After spending countless hours scouring the Internet, my bride-to-be had pretty much decided on the look you can see in the pictures above. A couple weeks ago, Jennifer and Leah accompanied her to a bridal show that had plenty of examples to view. (Side note: Oksana won a door prize -- a coupon for a night a Pearson's Pond!) Anyway, afterwards she set up an appointment with the dress reseller to try on a couple things and see how they looked. She took printouts of the above pictures but purposefully left them tucked away until the professional had rendered his opinion. You know what? The first thing he chose for her to try on was the exact same type of dress. Let me tell you... my girl knows fashion!

Oksana placed an order for the dress yesterday. Luckily the manufacturer has her size in stock and it should arrive in 2 to 3 weeks -- plenty of time for her to have the train shortened (as she suspects she'll want.) She's also ordered her shoes... but I don't have a picture of them yet!

The Bouquet

Like most girls, Oksana knew how certain things would be in her wedding long before the proposal occurred. The bouquet happens to be one of the things that just had to be perfect. Oksana will be going with a simple, tight gathering of white roses (with pink-edged petals.) My mom will be putting it together.

Visitor's Entertainment
In order to lure all my friends and relatives up to Alaska for my wedding, I'm trying to put together some incentives for spending a week or two in Juneau. To that end, my Spanish professor (and erstwhile friend), Rick Bellagh, has offered to take groups out on his sailboat if they like. It's a small boat, about 30', but plenty big enough to take 4 or 5 people out for a day of sailing, fishing, sightseeing or whatever. I'll tell you what -- I've gone out with Rick dozens of times and every single time we get to see whales! (Always humpbacks, but sometimes killer whales... and sometimes very, very close!) Trust me... you don't want to miss this opportunity!

The Ring
Wow. We got the appraisal back for the ring. That rock is... expensive. Expensive enough that we feel we need to get renter's insurance for it before we send it off to be put in a new setting. Wow.

April 8th, 2002

Housing Update
While out playing Frisbee Golf last week, I stopped by to take a few pictures of the Schiable House. The first picture is a photo of the house itself. The second is of the view from the yard (kinda overexposed through the trees... but you should be able to see the river from the second floor deck). Finally, a picture from the Mendenhall River bridge -- literally about 30 seconds walk from the front door. Now all you need to do is imagine the trees with a lot more greenery and the ground with a lot less snow -- 'cuz our wedding is in August!

I still want to get in there and figure out what the rooms are like. Keep checking back.


Oksana received her shoes in the mail a couple days ago. After removing a few strings wrapping the toe straps together, they fit just fine! I think she's planning on breaking them in during her dance class...

Oh, my. It begins. In order to get Oksana's engagement ring insured, we needed to get renter's insurance. And to get that (and do it right), Oksana has to give me power of attorney in insurance matters so that her stuff can be covered under my policy. Once we get married it won't matter one bit who hadles inquiries and such into our insurance matters, but right now it's all on me because I'm the sole policy holder. Oh, and just to add her name to the policy, we had to switch her car insurance over -- which saved her a ton of money and didn't do much at all for me. Anyway, to make a long story short, we'll have over $30k in renter's insurance soon, and we've begun the tedious process of consolidating our paperwork. Now, under the floater policy on the engagement ring, it will be covered against everything except "intentional damage, explosions, and nuclear damage." So, no exploding, radioactive (or exploding radioactive!) wedding gifts, please!

April 17, 2002

Engagement Pictures

Not too long ago, Oksana and I received a package in the mail -- from Austria! Seems our friends from Costa Rica got their film developed and sent us some photos our "engagement reenactment." Here are a few of the pictures that we liked enough to show you (i.e., the one where we don't look fat!)


I talked to my old college roomate and friend, Michael Heiman, last week. First, congrats to him and Leah who are also getting married this summer! And knowing exactly how planning a wedding goes, Mike is eager to help out in ours if possible. You see, Mike's nearing the end of his first year as a high school teacher and he's getting ready to have his first summer off. Chances are that he just might go back and work (part-time, at least) at his old summer job, that of a river rafting guide here in Juneau. As another encentive to get my friends and relatives to come up for our wedding, Mike has offered to take a group on a rafting day trip -- for free! If you're interested, check out these website for some tourist-related information on rafting down the Mendenhall River (and check out those prices you won't have to pay, too!)

Alaska Travel Adventures
GoldBelt Tourism

By the way, that picture above was taken when Mike offered to take Melissa, Russ, Rob, and I along one day when he was still working for Alaska Travel Adventures

April 29, 2002

Been awhile since the last update. Lots of new stuff to report! Before that, though, let me show off a picture taken with my new digital camera...

Now, wouldn't you love to visit Alaska (for my wedding)?

Pre-Marriage Counseling Class
Last Saturday, Oksana and I attended our pre-marriage counseling class at Chapel by the Lake. It could have been brutal - especially considering that it started at 8:30am! In actuality, it wasn't that bad, really.
See, we were a little bit worried. We'd selected Chapel by the Lake not because of our religion (or lack thereof), but rather for its scenic views. We expected that during the class we'd have to listen to a lot of theological lecturing on the church's views of marriage in the eyes of God. Remember, Oksana grew up in Russia - her views on religion have been influenced by the fact that ALL religions were illegal until she was 11!

All in all, I thought the class was pretty good. After introductions, Steve Olmstead, the minister of Chapel by the Lake started us ("us" being six couples - three of which had familiar faces!) off with a prayer before having us read 4 or 5 passages from the bible on marriage. After that he took a backseat to the Coast Guard's local chaplain who introduced us to the University of Denver's program on effective communication in marriage.

Around lunchtime, we took a break from his presentation (which included overheads, video clips, lecture, and practice sessions) to start on a 165-question "PREPARE" exam. This was one of those old bubble-exams that reminded me of being back in my high school SATs! Anyway, they'll send off our results and test our "compatibility," and when they get them back they won't even share the results with us! Boo, hiss! Oh, well. They say they'll use the results to focus our remaining counseling session on what they believe will be our trouble spots. (Knowing how I save money - or don't, actually - my guess is on our finances!)

After lunch, the "effective communications" seminar continued. We wrapped that up around 3pm with a lecture from another minister-in-training (I think) from the Chapel. She also announced that it would be herself performing some of the marriages this summer, some would be performed by Steve.

The last 45 minutes or so became another lecture from Steve about his beliefs (as a minister and as a husband) on the ways to avoid having an affair. Obviously no one in a pre-marriage class would be thinking about having an affair, nevertheless, he made some really good points - it can be very easy to drift apart if you don't make every effort not to.

On the way home, Oksana and I shared our impressions of the day. I believe we both agreed on what we thought were the important points taken from the day:

1) We wouldn't mind having Steve Olmstead marry us. He introduced himself to us and invited us to come to Sunday mass. We both agreed that we did not want the other woman to marry us, though (unfortunately they didn't tell us who'd be marrying whom!) Oksana faulted her on her inexperience. To be honest, I just got bad vibes… Call it a personality conflict - there's nothing wrong with her, but she simply rubs me wrong… Actually, we're both toying with the idea of having the Coast Guard chaplain marry us - we both warmed up to him instantly (without even "meeting" him the whole day!)

2) We were both relieved that the class didn't turn into 8 hours of "These are our beliefs at Chapel by the Lake and we're forcing them on you if you want to get married here." In retrospect, it's pretty obvious that they wouldn't do that… but we were a little worried anyway.

3) The "effective listening techniques," although they felt silly at first, really do have some merit. I don't know if we'll ever fall into the routine of passing "the floor" back-and-forth while saying things like: "What I hear you saying is…" but it's good to know that this stuff works if we ever have one of those deep-rooted arguments. (We're both continually amazed that we've gone so long without one!)

Anyway, once we got home, Oksana and I didn't wait long for naptime! We hadn't had enough sleep the night before and we were really lagging after spending all day in a chair!

The Wedding Dress
Last week, Oksana received her wedding dress. Regrettably, we can't say this is a happy occasion, because Oksana has reported that it doesn't fit! She gave her exact measurements and the company from which she ordered the dress decided what size to order. Turns out, that's the wrong size. Oksana went so far as to measure the inside of the dress and found that it's a couple inches too big in the chest. She tried calling both the retailer and the manufacturer and was hung-up on both times after the discussion started to get a little heated. Needless to say, Oksana was quite distraught for a day or two.

Luckily, Jennifer Berg recommended that Oksana contact a local seamstress who apparently does great work. She was hesitant about having the dress altered at first, but after talking with some other people who have had their dresses worked on by her, she's now happy again! About all we need to do now is set up an appointment to have the dress fixed up…

The Ring

Take a closer look at the pictures of the ring above. Do you understand now why we opted to have a custom setting made? I like to call this setting "The Claw!"

Our insurance policy has finally been figured out! Boy, what a pain that was. At least now we have $25k of insurance on our "normal" stuff and, more importantly, a floater policy on Oksana's engagement ring. Oh, not to mention the fact that we had to switch Oksana's auto insurance over to USAA - which saved her a bundle and saved me, oh, less than $1. Oh, and because we're not yet married, Oksana had to sign over her power of attorney (in insurance matters) to me before they'd insure her stuff. As I said: What a pain!

The good news? We finally started the process of getting the engagement ring made. First, we had to take the old ring in so that they could extract the stone and mail it off to the Gemological Institute in Washington. They're going to clean it up, laser-inscribe it, and do a sort of appraisal on it. Then, when we get it back in a few weeks, we'll have it attached to a custom setting.

Why are we inscribing the diamond? Basically just to personalize it and make it "ours." Oksana didn't have a recommendation (other than a serial number) about how to inscribe it, but it wasn't hard to convince her to go with "Kadachigova." I think that's quite appropriate since the diamond came from her parents. Also, she's going to be taking my name after we're married and I just think she'd enjoy knowing that her maiden name is on her engagement ring.

Oksana spent a lot of time scouring the Internet, looking for the perfect ring/setting. She has settled on a thin, flat ring with two metals intertwined around the entire perimeter - white and yellow gold. The actual setting will be made of platinum (with six prongs) for the extra strength. We also complicated matters by wanting Oksana's wedding band to attach to the engagement ring and match it well… The jeweler (Ginger, at Dockside Jewelers, by the way) took copious notes and is going to start in on some drawings and variations for us to look over. Once we approve a design, she'll send off for a wax copy to made. If we like that, they'll finally cast the ring and setting. Finally, they'll drop in the stone. Looks like it's still going to be a couple months before I get to slip a ring on my bride-to-be's finger!

Wedding Video

A friend of mine, Jeff Jemison, has offered to videotape our wedding for us as his wedding gift. I consider this a GREAT gift and I'm looking forward to having him help out. Jeff also had some great ideas about cheaply hiring a photographer for the wedding, as well. Want to learn a little bit about Jeff? You can see some of his stuff here and here.

The Reception
Oksana is going up the tram today (for free!) to talk to them about reservations (and costs) for our reception. She'll be taking my new digital camera and hopefully she'll get some beautiful shots of downtown Juneau - Stay tuned!

April 30, 2002


Oops! I forgot to post information yesterday about the fact that Oksana has already selected her bridesmaid's dresses. The pictures above are from Nordstrom's and the color scheme is "Lilac." (They don't have a full-length photo of that particular color, though.)

May 21, 2002

Has it really been three weeks since I posted an update on here? Holy cow! I had no idea... Really, I've been quite busy -- unfortunately it hasn't been with work on wedding stuff.

Take this weekend for instance: I labored from 7am on Saturday to 11am on Sunday shooting and editing a video for UAS and the local Rotary club. It was a "big thing" and, fortunately, worked out pretty well. But it sure didn't leave me any time to work on our wedding invitations! Our local ultimate summer league has also started up recently and takes time away from other things... All this goes to reinforcing my belief that my creativity is directly proportional to my available free time. It makes me wonder if the great artists of the world only do cool things because they're really bored...

Anyhoo, I offer the above only as an excuse. Maybe this stuff would work better on a daily journal page somewhere on my site. But would anybody actually read it? (Would I want them to?)

So. The wedding. Three weeks ago we were rolling right along. Since then, we haven't done too much and we're starting to feel overwhelmed! Oksana printed out a to-do list. It's daunting. Lots of things to plan, reserve, and do. Lots (and LOTS) of money to spend. Oksana also went to her friend; Sandra's, wedding this weekend and looked upon it with a critical eye. Rather than give her confidence, I think it made her realize how much MORE work we have to do! If you can help us add anything we've forgotten to the list, please e-mail us!

What have we actually done recently? Not a heck of a lot...

The Reception
Oksana liked the tram experience. I think we've decided to go ahead and reserve the (expensive) tram for our reception. At $18-$22 per person, we'll at least get tram tickets and dinner included. More details after we actually MAKE the reservations.


Oksana has picked out the invitations, I believe, but we have yet to order them. They'll be blank -- we'll compose our own and print them out ourselves (providing I have time to be creative, that is!)

Wedding Night Lodgings
You may remember that Oksana won a $150 gift certificate from Pearson's Pond a while back. We finally got around to making our reservations -- and found out that it will STILL cost us $290 for ONE NIGHT'S STAY! ($360/night = summer rates, +$50 for a wedding package -- flowers, champagne, fruit bowl, etc., + hotel tax.) Wow.

The Ring
We stopped by Dockside Jewelers this weekend to see if our diamond had been sent back yet (from the engraving process.) Nope. Looks like we'll have to wait a bit longer... Our friends Mike and Leah are also getting married this summer. They showed us a website for titanium wedding bands and we're considering going that route as well.

June 4th, 2002

Yesterday I was all ready to post a new update on our wedding page to tell you all the news about the reception, INS, the invitations, and our wedding planner. And then this happened.

June 10th, 2002

We're back on track!

The Reception
Tram Car
Going up
Tourist season
Other car

Up at the top
Reception area
Deck - pray for sun!

North view
Juneau and Auke Bay

South view
(Less snow in August)

Whew! We did it! On Thursday the 31st, Oksana and I took our lunch break up on top of Mt. Roberts. We met with Tracy and officially reserved the restaurant at the top for our reception. Lots more planning involved in that, but it sure feels good to know it's a "lock."

What did we get? Well… For an unspecified amount (unspecified for you… we know exactly how much we're paying!) we'll have a buffet dinner of steak or salmon with other stuff like salad, potatoes, rolls, veggies, etc. Included in the price is the tram ride up the mountain (normally about $20 per tourist!) We'll also have a hosted tab at the bar. We haven't decided just how much to put up ourselves, but once it's been used up, y'all are on your own. So, if you're planning to get blasted at our wedding, you better bring some cash! We'll also have a few bottles of campaign and sparkling apple cider for the toast.

Let's see, what other reception details don't you really need to know? Our schedule looks like:
Soon: Sign an official agreement that we're going to reserve the tram.
3 weeks before wedding: Give final wedding list
3 days before wedding: Finalize and pay bill
Day before wedding: Deliver decorations
Day of wedding: Deliver cake, 3pm restaurant closes and decorating starts

We think we're going to bump our ceremony back to 3pm (instead of 4pm) so that we aren't rushed at the reception. The tram closes for the evening at 9:30pm and they'll charge us $200 an hour if we go past that limit.

The Wedding Planner

Overwhelmed by all this work we need to do to pull off this wedding, Oksana and I formulated a plan: We'd find someone to help us with it! A couple weeks ago, while out partying the night away, Oksana asked a friend, Lola, if she might like to help us out. Lola enthusiastically agreed - and a few days later remembered that should would most likely be out of town on the 17th. After meeting with her and showing her our web page, she decided right then that she just had to change her airline tickets! Thanks, Lola! Expect to see the smiling person pictured above keeping things smooth and organized at the reception!


We got our invitations in the mail yesterday. Whoa, there's a lot of 'em! I sure hope we didn't make a mistake when we chose to print them ourselves…

That's what I wrote, but didn't have time to post, before the fire.

I keep telling myself that we're saving money by printing our own invitations. I keep telling myself that our invitations will be better because they'll be personalized. I keep telling myself whatever it takes to keep me from destroying my printer as I struggle to print hundreds of copies on various sizes of paper (some of which are technically too small!)

This weekend was not fun. The fire has been very stressful. Work has been no refuge what with our department merging with Computing Services (and my responsibilities increasing). Saturday was sunny and warm and I spent it inside struggling for hours with my printer to get results like the picture above. Eventually, because of the calming powers of Oksana, I was able to figure out how to line everything up just right. Sunday was spent printing out some 200 reply cards and envelopes - at times individually. Boy will I be glad to slap some stamps on these babies and put this wedding planning milestone behind us!

Oh, and I ordered the "surprise" that we're planning on including with the invitations, too.

Oksana heard through the local Russian grapevine that many of the Immigration and Naturalization Service papers that we'd have to fill out for the marriage may only be picked up at the Ketchikan office. We asked my mom to check into that - and found out that we were luckily mistaken. There's an office near the airport in Juneau that we can pick up the "packet." When Oksana called to find out about it, the person on the phone made it very clear that I'm the one that's supposed to pick up and fill out the paperwork. Fun.

We stopped by last week and only customs officials were there. They were nice, but not too helpful when it came to finding the exact immigration forms in those giant file cabinets. We called down to the Ketchikan office and tried to get the correct info, but when we left with a couple of daunting, triplicate packets (with hefty submission price tags attached) we still weren't sure we had it all correct.

Oksana spent the next day on the INS website and printed out a giant stack of forms and instructions. The only good news is that she thinks that we might not need to fill any of this stuff out until after the wedding. I can't imagine what paperwork nightmares await us in the future (when she applies for a permanent greencard, full citizenship, etc.) Imagine -- we might someday do all this again for me in Russia!

The Ring
Two days ago we stopped by Dockside Jewelers to see our newly engraved stone. I must admit, it was quite cool to see "Kadachigova" etched into the edge between facets when she put it under the microscope! At any rate, we now have a "real" appraisal from the Gemological Institute and Oksana spent almost two hours ironing out the details of her custom setting and the wedding bands. I don't think I'm going to get off quite as cheap as I thought, but I must say that her ring is going to look awfully nice!

The next step is that Ginger will create a 3D image of the custom setting in a CAD-like program (wish I'd thought of that a couple months ago - we could have done that ourselves!) If Oksana approves the pictures, they send the data file down south so that they can carve out a purple wax ring for her to try on. If that looks good, it should only take another week or so for them to cast the metals and set the stone!

We've received word that three of the four bridesmaids already have their dresses. I guess I should start thinking about the tuxes that the groomsmen need to rent…

June 25th, 2002

I got a report that the "Online" link on the CD-ROM is broken. I can't honestly can't figure out how that happened -- I'm certain that I tested it every which way! I hate being an imperfect perfectionist! The internal conflict that sets up is very stressful. Anyway, if you're looking for the real "Online" Wedding page, it's at That's "midgett" with two "t's," by the way. You'd think I'd be able to spell my own name...

June 24th, 2002

We just shipped out 90 invitations (with a handful more to send as we receive addresses) which cost us a staggering (to me, anyway) $443.67! If you were to ask me right now if it was worth it to create our own invitations, I'd say "heck no!" But ask me again in a couple weeks -- I hope they'll get favorable reviews. if people don't like them, I think I'm going to curl up into a spikey little ball like our new pet hedgehog...

Lots more to update you on, but not tonight. To celebrate our progress, we're actually going to go to sleep early for once!

June 26th, 2002

That broken link on all the CDs? I fixed it. I'll leave the "how" as a mental exercise for all you geeks out there... ;)

There's going to be a real update coming soon. Swear.

July 8th, 2002

Most of you should have received your invitations by now. We sent out the first batch of 90 and then followed up a week later with about 15-20 more. If you haven't seen them yet, check your mail! How do you think they turned out?
I'm not sure I would ever recommend that anyone undertake a wedding project quite like that one. Don't get me wrong, I'm rather proud of what we've accomplished with that mass of folded paper and envelopes… but it took so much time! When you're already stressing about the million-and-one things you need to do for a wedding, spending so much time on just one thing can be very stressful. Ask Oksana. She saw my frustration overwhelm me more than once.

But then... I think about the personal touch that we were able to put into each invitation and I begin to think it may have been worthwhile. Ten or so years ago, my uncle Ed created his own invitations for his wedding, too. Was that an influence on my decision? Oh, you betcha! Did I ever think about how much work it probably took to do that? No, of course not. I suppose it'll all be worthwhile if, ten years from now, someone remembers our wedding invitations. Plus, in 2012, I'll have likely forgotten the fact that I let a broken link slip into the project!

The Ceremony Preparations

We called up the Chapel by the Lake and found out that our contact information had gone missing (in an office move) and that they had been waiting for us to call. We scheduled a meeting (last Sunday afternoon) and found out that our worries about the minister who would marry us had been realized.

We decided to go to the meeting and discuss the fact that we were going to ask someone else to marry us. Talk about walking on eggshells! We certainly didn't want to offend Tracee, but we also wanted someone with whom we felt more comfortable to do our you-only-get-married-once-so-make-it-perfect ceremony. Unfortunately, we didn't yet have an alternative in place because we hadn't asked the Coast Guard chaplain if he would be willing to marry us instead.

At any rate, the meeting went fairly well. First, we went over the ceremony and discussed the schedule of events. Tracee made it clear that many of the events would be up to us, but that some of them are mandatory; the sermon, the prayer, etc. Not surprising… It is going to be a church wedding after all. She also gave us some examples of traditional vows to go over. After working so hard to be creative on the invitations, I'm not sure I have it in me to write my own vows. Perhaps if Oksana were to recite her vows in Russian…?

We also went over the things we'll have to pay for. Babysitter? Probably a good idea. But what are the "Chapeladies?" Oh, they set up the coffee and stuff! Cool. There were a few other things as well, all totaling up to around $500.

After the discussion of the ceremony we moved on to talk about our pre-marriage counseling test results. It seems that we scored quite well on our ability to communicate and our role definitions. As expected, we were less sure about what our financial situation would be after we were married. We also found out that we have similar views about our relationships with our respective families - comfortable, even if we don't have constant contact with them.

A little bit about how the test scores work might be in order here. You see, it's not really a compatibility test or anything. Instead they ask you questions in certain categories and see if the couple is in agreement, disagreement, or has uncertainties. Without them actually showing us the scores, I got the feeling that we were quite often in agreement, never really in disagreement, and only sometimes uncertain. I guess that makes sense for a couple with good communication!

Take, for instance, this one question that Tracee thought might be worrisome. The question was "Do you expect that your partner might make important decisions without consulting you?" I said "no," (of course!), but Oksana said "yes." When this was brought up, Oksana explained that she was reading more into the question: "Yes, I would expect my partner to make important decisions without me, because he knows that I trust him enough to do so." I was flattered.

So we batted around the implications of our test results with Tracee. I think Oksana and I came to the conclusion that our communication was so good because of the slight language barrier that we have to hurdle. Although she's completely fluent in English, sometimes the right word will elude her. In those cases we do what we can to make sure I know exactly what she's talking about. Also, when she doesn't understand what I'm saying (because I use big, high-falutin' words, ya know) I need to rephrase for her. We got so good at developing these skills that they carry over into every conversation.

Anyway, we never did find a way to tell Tracee that we were looking for her replacement, but we did tell her that we'd discuss our test results at home and decide on our vows before scheduling our next meeting. That gives us a chance to go out and find that Coast Guard chaplain…

…which we did! Lola invited us to her 4th of July party and who happened to arrive late in the evening? David Tubley, the CG chaplain! We were actually pretty surprised to see him there and Oksana took the initiative and made sure we made our way over to sit next to him. After a few pleasantries, Oksana hit him with a big, blunt question. "Will you marry us?"

We explained our reasons and he seemed quite amenable to the whole situation. In fact, he's already subbed in for Tracee once this summer. But we still don't have any answer yet because he didn't have his schedule with him (and he was just about to depart to Denali with his son the next day.) We're waiting for word when he gets back. Hopefully he'll be free on the 17th!

The Dress
Last week Oksana gave a call to the seamstress that Jennifer recommended. She took the dress to her and went through a fitting session. It was cool, because Oksana went ahead and told her what she thought… and it turns out that she was in complete agreement! The seamstress also asked Oksana how much she paid for the dress - because in her opinion it seemed far more expensive. Sounds like we got lucky when she picked this particular dress manufacturer… The seamstress has some other work to do, but she did pin up the dress in all the right places and will get the work done in plenty of time before the wedding.

July 9th, 2002

The Ring(s)

Oksana and I just placed an order for our wedding bands! After talking with Ginger at Dockside Jewelers and seeing Mike and Leah's rings, we also decided to get titanium wedding bands. We were down to the wire, though, with only five weeks to go before the wedding. Would the website from which we ordered them be able to get them created in time?
After placing the order and exchanging (rapid!) e-mails with the people at Absolute Titanium, our fears were put to rest. As Mike and Leah told us, they are very helpful and very responsive. They also assured us that we'll have the rings delivered in plenty of time for the ceremony.

Take a look at the first picture above - that's what our wedding bands will look like.

Now, take a look at the second picture. That's a rough CAD creation of the setting that Oksana designed for her engagement ring. Actually, it's not exactly what she wanted - she would rather have the gold and platinum ring bands join together underneath the setting. She's already told them to make the changes, but it's been awhile since we've heard back from Dockside. At this point we still have to approve the final CAD creations before they can send them off for the creation of a wax ring. That will then be sent to us and she can try it on. If she likes it, they'll cast the real ring and then Ginger will set the stone at Dockside. It's going to be a great ring when it's finally done, but we've kind of given up hope that she'll have it much before the wedding.

The (Russian) Invitations
In order for Oksana's relatives to have a good chance of getting a tourist visa for the United States, I needed to send them an official letter of invitation. Actually, I had to write it to the U.S. Embassy in Vladivostok. Time's running short, though, so we really needed to get these letters into her parent's hands.

Before writing the letters, Oksana had me talk with Janna who's been involved in the whole process many times. She told me what points I needed to address in the letter as well as the fact that their odds of getting a visa would be improved if we could get the letters notarized.

We ended up at Oksana's bank and after I swore that the statements in the letter were true, an employee stamped, dated, and photocopied the letters for us. After that, we went to the Fed Ex office, figuring that would be our best option for getting the letters to Russia as fast as possible. Ha! Wrong. The best Fed Ex could do would guarantee the package's arrival in two weeks -- for the trivial cost of $91 U.S. dollars! It was funny, actually. After the woman incredulously received confirmation from Fed Ex's international desk about the insane cost, she told us that she wouldn't even LET us pay her for the service. Try the post office!

In this case, the USPS really came though for us. For $23, we were able to guarantee 3-5 day delivery all the way to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski. Not bad, all things considered. But, just to be safe, we faxed the copies of the letters to Oksana's brother. Well, we tried, anyway. After spending half and hour at the University trying to get the faxes to connect, the fax machine finally accepted out pages. But when we got home and Oksana called her brother, he said that only a single line of text came though. Fine. I just scanned the dang thing and e-mailed it to her nephew! Problem solved.

Hey, neat. Microsoft Word actually has "Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski" in its spell-checker!

Well, we got burned by the whole Post Office stamp change thing. A handful of our invitations destined for Juneau addresses were returned because we were 3 cents short. It's funny, though, because we sent out 16 invitations on July 5th, and all of them without local addresses made it just fine. I guess they really need the extra 3 cents to pay our local post office employees! At any rate, it was one of the easier wedding details to correct. 21 cents later and they were on their way again.

July 11th, 2002

The Cake

Oh, the cake is all Oksana's. That's just one of those things that she knew exactly what she wanted and I knew exactly nothing about. A couple weeks ago, Oksana left the house with a printout culled from an Internet website, bound for a meeting with a cake decorator. She returned about an hour later and suddenly everything is all set up!

Did you know that a wedding cake's price tag is based on the number of people that will eat it? $1.85 per person, eh? Well, it'll sure be a cheap cake if we find out that we don't have many friends!

Oksana was also sure to mention that our reception is at the top of Mt. Roberts and that the cake will need to be delivered to the tram. It was then that we realized that this was the same cake decorator that Tracy, our Mt. Roberts contact, told us would not deliver to them. It turns out that she has had some difficulty in the past taking a cake up there when the tram was packed full of tourists… But the apparent business conflict is really just a misunderstanding. She said she'd be happy to accompany the cake all the way to the top.

We haven't yet paid for our frosted masterpiece. We'll wait until the wedding draws near so that we will have a better idea of the number of people attending.

By the way, that second picture above is what the final product should look like. (But without the bottom layer that's been scratched off with a ball-point pen!)

July 16th, 2002

The (Russian) Invitations
Oksana's parents have by now received the "official" invitations (the e-mailed ones, at least.) In a phone conversation last week, Oksana learned that they have already booked their tickets for Vladivostok. They should have arrived yesterday and hopefully we'll know later tonight or not the U.S. Embassy will grant them tourist visas.

I'm actually a little worried about her nephew, Andrey. At the very last minute, he decided that he wanted to attend our wedding, too. We were of the understanding that he had to be starting college soon and wouldn't have the time available to come to the U.S. Now, it's not a problem on our end, but I don't know how the U.S. Embassy will look upon his last minute decision. We managed to e-mail them an invitation letter, but it's signed and dated two weeks later than the others we sent. We also didn't have a chance to notarize his, either. Will that make a difference? I hope not!

Anyway, if they do get visas, they'll likely get their tickets to Juneau shortly thereafter. The plan is to have them stay for about three weeks. This may impact our honeymoon travel times, though, because if they decide to stay a bit after the wedding, Oksana would want to be here to make sure they don't have any problems (they don't speak English.)

Oksana also wants to meet them as they get through customs in Anchorage. Chalk that up as another unforeseen wedding expense…

Anna's Wedding
On July 7th, Oksana was in Vancouver, British Columbia, for Anna & Dima's wedding. For those who don't know her, Anna is a college friend of Oksana's who's going to be a bridesmaid in our wedding.

While in the "big city," Oksana had a chance to visit some wedding shops with Anna and some of their other girlfriends. She was able to practically steal a veil for $20 U.S., and she came across some nice decorations, as well. For under $60, she came home with a silk flower wreath, 3 spools of ribbons in our wedding colors, silk flowers for our cake decorations, a garter, and (of course) the veil itself. She's such a thrifty shopper!

Thanks to Uliya for haggling the proprietor down so far on the veil (I understand he felt guilty for not getting Anna's previous orders correct.)

The Ceremony
Some of the best news we've heard in a long time - David Tubley let us know that he will be able to marry us! We learned this from Oksana's trusty answering machine. She heard it first and saved the message so that I could hear it, too. Wow. I was surprised realize how much tension I had been holding on to while waiting for his decision.

Afterwards, Oksana was kind enough to make the call to Tracee to break the news to her. I listened from the other room and she did a wonderful job of letting her down easy. For all her talk about how she can be so blunt, Oksana is really just a big sweetheart!

Yesterday David got back to me and we scheduled a meeting for Wednesday at 5:30pm. I'm sure that we'll cover much of the same ground that we did with Tracee, but that's okay. I was also impressed that he told us to bring any INS information that we might have as well. He's really on the ball!

One thing we should do before that meeting is to try to get in touch with one of the Chapel's wedding organizers. David, being the Coast Guard chaplain, hasn't had much experience performing ceremonies at this particular church…

The Wedding Dress
Oksana ran into Linda, her seamstress, while at the mall this weekend. She told her that she plans to work on her dress this week. Oksana's excited!

The Wedding Tuxedo
...Which reminds me: I really need to get on the ball if I'm going to have a tux for the wedding! Joe Nell (did I mention that I asked him to be a groomsman? Maybe not...) and I need to get our measurements taken and we need to see if the rental place will have to order the tuxes or not. Also, my best man, Rob, is going to e-mail me his measurements, too, so that I can pass them along. Oksana wants to go me to the rental place. She get's final veto power on the tuxedos -- no top hats or penguin tails for me!

The Wedding CD-ROM
Have you been reading this page and wondered about the CD-ROM that I've been referring to? Well, I finally posted a copy of the video clip on the Wedding Video Page. It's huge, though. Don't say I didn't warn you.

July 22nd, 2002

The Bouquet

Oksana got her pictures back from Anna & Dima's wedding in Vancouver. Take a look at the bouquet that Anna's holding - Oksana made that! She considered it practice for the work she's going to do for herself at our wedding. Although Anna's bouquet got many positive comments, I believe Oksana's will have a smaller "handle" and the rose petals should be white with pink edges. This depends, in part, on Safeway. Oksana placed an order for some flowers with them for the Wednesday before the wedding, but they won't guarentee what they'll be getting in. Instead, they'll call Oksana up when the shipment arrives and let her get first crack at whatever she wants.

Oksana's family
Oksana's parents, along with her brother, niece and nephew, flew to Vladivostok last week. On Wednesday morning, our invitations in hand, they got in line outside the U.S. Embassy and waited for their interviews.

Each person was interviewed separately and, despite not having been able to read our invitations, despite the fact that over 60% of the applicants were denied, each of her family members seeking visas were approved! Want to see what a perfect "official letter of invitation" looks like?

A couple days later was the first time I saw Oksana start to panic about the wedding. Suddenly she was put in the position of having to organize and plan a ton of things for her family's arrival just two, short weeks from now. She confided in me later that she truly did not expect that anyone would get visas - and even if they had, she thought it would only be her parents that would be approved.

Now we are frantically scrambling to find a furnished apartment or a 3-week house-sitting gig from August 2nd to August 20th. It's time to put this web page to the test. Can anyone that's reading this in Juneau help us out?!

July 23rd, 2002

Gift Registry
This is important: Oksana and I have finally reached a decision regarding our gift registry. Please take a moment to surf over to our Gift Registry Page.

All the Little Things
Oksana spent HOURS this weekend searching around online for a place to buy some of the little things we need for our wedding. An etched cake knife and server. Silk rose petals. Champagne flutes for toasting. A guest book. You know, all the stuff that women have information genitically encoded from birth and for which men don't have a clue... Anyway, she couldn't manage to find a place that had everything we needed, so she attempted to buy from two different sites.

Attempted. See, one site let her enter in all the shipping and credit card information before telling her that they don't ship to Alaska. The other wanted $29 dollars for shipping and handling charges - the total cost of the merchandise was only $32.

The Internet has made the options for shopping in places like Alaska much more attractive over the past few years, but it still drives me crazy when they don't list the United States Postal Service as a shipping option. We're one of the 50 states, dammit!

The Photographer
Oksana and I invited Scott Foster, the University's Public Information Officer to our wedding. Scott was gracious enough to consider taking photos for us (but he wouldn't let me pay him!) I'm not terribly interested in hiring a professional photographer to take our wedding pictures - they charge hundreds of dollars up front and then keep the negatives and charge for prints. I would much rather get someone whom I know takes great pictures and give them a huge supply film that I'll get at the end of the night. I have plenty of faith in Scott's eye, and he has no idea how much I appreciate the fact that he's willing to do this for us.

Many of the pictures you see on the University of Alaska Southeast's website can be attributed to him.

The Groomsmen
I've asked Noah to be one of my groomsmen, and he has accepted. I asked Noah if he would be there to stand next to me in a monkey suit and then I received confirmation that my brother, Kegan, would be able to attend. Originally I had heard that Kegan couldn't make it, but a couple days later, I' heard that he had wrangled a free, round-trip ticket to Seattle. If he can make it to Juneau, that will bring the total number of groomsmen up to four - which might be a problem!

Oksana has asked four bridesmaids to be in the ceremony with her: Liza, Anna, Anya, and Sandra. Unfortunately, it looks like Anna (from Vancouver) isn't going to be able to get a travel visa in time. If she can't attend, that means Oksana has only 3 bridesmaids, while I still have 4 groomsmen…

I was worried that this might happen, but it's time to reserve the tuxedos -- Joe and I are going to get measured tonight. Just in case they need to be shipped from out of town (or something), we groomsmen need to be getting measured now or we'll end up wearing tuxedo T-shirts, instead!

I don't regret asking Noah to be my groomsman, though. I just hope there's a way that everyone will be included.

July 29th, 2002

Housing Oksana's Family
Oksana's family is set to arrive next week and we found a place for them to stay. I talked to Tish at the University about putting them up in student housing and she thought that was a good idea. $50/night for 3 weeks, that's about $1000. Expensive, but doable.

I needed to call one of the housing "community advisors" to find out about availability, though. Once I finally got her on the phone, she had both good and bad news. The good news was that we could get a fully furnished, 4-bedroom dorm for Oksana's family. The bad news? They didn't have anything from August 2nd to August 7th - guess when they arrive?

We went ahead and booked them a stay from the 7th to the 21st and asked to be put on a waiting list in case someone cancelled for the weekend of the 2nd. When they took my credit card number to hold the reservation, I was told that the price would be $75 per night! What? Oh, $50/night is the "extended stay" price. Well, I told them that Tish told me $50 and the CA said "Oh, well, I guess if Tish said it was okay…" Also, since Oksana's has 5 family members showing up, they wanted to put one of them in another dorm. I had to explain why that wouldn't be a good idea - they don't speak English and we should try to keep them together. We agreed that one of them could sleep on the couch in the living room.

Over the next couple days we asked around about alternative housing opportunities. A coworker, Gloria, looked into a potential house-sitting opportunity. Oksana's boss, Barney, offered up his house for a little while if we could figure out how to deal with Karl, his roommate. We talked to Joe Sears about possibly rooming with his brother, Karl, at Barney's while her family stayed at his condo. We had a lot of options worth thinking about, but nothing settled upon, when someone at the dorms called back. Someone cancelled and they had another dorm available from the 2nd to the 7th! Sweet!

Now the plan is to have them remain at the dorms for their entire stay. This works out well for them and us because they'll get a furnished apartment with a full kitchen and living room. The only hitch is that for the first five days they'll have to stay in a "double" dorm. Two rooms, four beds - they'll have to double up. On the 7th, they'll be able to move into a "single" dorm. Four rooms, four beds. Should be more comfortable.

Being a Geek
Even though many people are going to be able to make it to our wedding, there are still quite a few that won't. How can you be at the ceremony without actually being there? Well, on the Internet of course!

What if, say… you wanted to stream a video broadcast live over the Internet? Who would know how to do that? A Digital Media Specialist, of course! Working as a geek among geeks has its advantages.

Chapel by the Lake is situated only about 200-300 feet from the last building on the UAS campus. Guess what the UAS campus has? Wireless access points in every building. If we can extend the range by just a little bit, we'll have everything we need to do a live broadcast of the wedding over the Internet. All you'll need to view the ceremony in a postage-stamp-sized window is the free RealPlayer!

Joe Nell has agreed to help me out with the physical networking issues. Looks like we finally get to check out that Pringles can solution I've been hearing about on the 'Net. Mona Yarnall also works at UAS computer center with Joe. She's in charge of all the servers and doesn't think it'll be much of a problem to set up her end of the deal. All that remains for me to do is come up with a computer that has video capture capability, the free RealEncoder software, and a video camera.

There are a lot of factors to consider and the time for planning all this out is running short. I suppose that we might not be able to get everything to work as planned, but at the very least I can guarantee that we'll record the ceremony and can always encoder the video at a later date.

If you can't be at the Chapel on August 17th at 3pm (Alaska time), you might want to be at your computer, instead! I'll make sure to put up an obvious link on the web page that will easily start the Real stream.

The Mother of the Groom
My mom is currently having a good ol' time at the beach while I'm stressing about the next update on my web page - how fair is that?! I gave her a call the other day to ask her opinion on some things and what did she do? She told me about even more things we have to do to get ready for the wedding!

What's she most concerned with? Something that I barely remembered that we're supposed to do - have a rehearsal dinner. Tradition dictates that the parents of the groom pay for our dinner. And Oksana's parents' dinner. And the wedding party's dinner… I warned her that it was going to be expensive! Now all we need to do is find a restaurant in Juneau that has a separate dining room that can seat about 20 people. Wow. Big dinner.

My mom also gave Oksana some advice on what kind of flowers to get for decorations, but you know what? I couldn't tell you much about that.

Housing at the Schiable House
I had to cancel the university's Schiable House because of a lack of interest. Really, only my mom and Don expressed interest in staying there for $50/night. If they stayed the 4 nights that they were planning to, that would recover $200 of the $1000 we're liable for. Um… after consulting my wallet briefly (oh, so briefly!), we decided that they could probably stay somewhere else.

I felt really bad about canceling the reservations, too. Tish told me that she'd turned away four separate groups who wanted to reserve the Schiable House during the same week. Ouch. I apologized profusely and even offered to eat the cost, but Tish said that it would be okay. And, luckily, I got a call back from Roxie a couple hours later telling me not to worry - she'd fortunately kept a few names of those that tried to reserve the house. They jumped right back on the reservation bandwagon after we cancelled, so (I hope) everyone is happy.

Hey mom, you don't mind staying in a hotel, do you?

August 4th, 2002

The Marriage License
I love the Internet. I hopped online last week and quickly found the site that had everything you need to know about Alaska marriage licenses. The process was fairly simple - print out the forms, fill them out, and mail them in. Oksana and I did that and we mailed them off that same day.

There's no blood test for marriages in the state of Alaska, but we do need to sign and pickup our marriage license in person. No problem. They had a field on the form where you can slip in the date you expect to show up at their office. I've already got my lunch break reserved next Friday to do just that - if only I can find the courthouse…

The Holy Man
On July 17th (You can see how well I'm keeping my updates under control!) Oksana and I met with David Tubley after work. If you remember, Dave is the Coast Guard chaplain that we had asked to marry us during Lola's 4th of July party. Since the Chapel by the Lake is right next to the university where Oksana and I both work, it was the logical place to meet.

We sat in the sanctuary and talked with Dave for about a half an hour. We went over the ceremony, but not in great detail like we had with Tracee, earlier. We talked about whether or not to light a unity candle (or jump over a broom, or break a glass), how to handle a translator, our vows, what kind of attire he would wear, the music, etc.

I think that we were hoping to get a little more accomplished during that meeting. Oksana and I only have a vague idea of what the ceremony should be like, and it would be helpful to have someone there (our parents?) to answer some of the "important" questions. We were able to figure a few things out, though.

· No unity candle. The ceremony will be long enough if we decide to translate certain parts.
· Oksana will say her vows in Russian.
· We'll take pictures afterwards, before we leave for the reception.
· The photographer and videographer can go about there own things.
· It's a big room, but we won't need to use the sound system.

We still need to decide on who will do the music, what the chaplain should wear (military uniform? Robes? Super-Hero costume? He did claim to have everything…), and the exact order of events.

Although Dave didn't seem too interested in attending neither the rehearsal dinner nor the reception (he's not a family friend, after all), we still offered, even encouraged him to come. Afterwards, again, Oksana and I both remarked on how much we liked him and we're still so happy that he agreed to marry us!

We'll have another meeting with him about a week before the ceremony and again (of course) for the rehearsal the day before.

The Ring
It seems like we're finally making progress on Oksana's engagement ring. I feel really awful that I proposed to her six months ago and she STILL doesn't have a ring to show for it (plus, good looking guys are probably always hitting on her because they don't see a ring!) Still, I think she's going to have an awesome ring when this is all over. She did a great job designing the band and setting…

Last Saturday we went back to Dockside Jewelers to see the latest computer rendering of the ring. After about a half hour of clarifying questions, Oksana was put at easy enough to give the go ahead. We were told that the CAD file could simply be e-mailed down to Washington and that they could make a wax (more like a soft plastic) ring the next day. Considering the wonders of FedEx, we expected to have something to try on by now.

All these delays with Dockside are frustrating, but I think the owner, Ginger, is sincere when she gives us these time frames. Sure, they always come out to be longer than expected, but I think that's because she's an eternal optimist.

At any rate, Oksana called again a day or so ago and asked about the wax carving - no, it isn't in yet - but it should be soon! Once she tries that on, it should be a simple matter to decide if it's what she wants. If so, they'll cast the metal and FedEx the setting to us in under three days! …which means we should get it in a couple weeks. It's a race to see what comes in first - The engagement ring or the wedding bands!

By the way, I wanted to post some pictures of the corrected computer rendering, but Ginger has yet to send them. Sigh.

The Chapelady
On Tuesday, a scant five days ago, Oksana and I met with Bonnie, the Chapel's wedding coordinator. Although we spent a half hour roaming the sanctuary, I don't think we really got much accomplished.

Oksana was especially disheartened that we wouldn't be able to move some of the stuff they have up front - namely a piano, drumset, choir seating, and the baptismal-thingie. On the other hand, we can bring in plants to hide things, I guess.

Bonnie was pretty flexible on most things. I told her that we wanted to get in there all over the place and set up multiple cameras and at least one computer with a wireless antennae poking out one of the windows. Sure, no problem! But you can't move the drums! And don't have your photographer roaming all over the place - he'll distract the guests!

There were a few things she helped us to consider. Where and if we should have a receiving line. Do we need a white aisle carpet? Where will people stand? Will anyone be needing to use the elevator (to avoid all of six steps)? Where are the bride and groom's dressing rooms? Who's doing the music? (THE MUSIC! ARGH!) Stuff like that.

A lot of this just won't be figured out until we have the rehearsal (4pm, August 16th!). When that finally comes around, we'll have everyone there - Bonnie, Lola, David, our parents, and Oksana and I. Duck! The opinions are gonna fly!

Oh, and we also have to pay for the church's involvement which amounts to about $475 right now - more if we need someone to do the music.

August 6th, 2002

Updates are getting hopelessly out of order as I fall behind in posting to this site. Please bear in mind that some of these events are not presented in chronological order. You may not know in what order things are happening, but at least you know what what's going on…!

Immigration and Naturalization Service
I stopped by the INS office last week to pick up all the necessary forms that we'll have to fill out for our marriage. Ouch! Talk about unexpected costs! Once we sign the marriage license, we then begin our journey through the INS's forest of red tape.

Check this out: To complete Oksana's paperwork, we'll need to mail the Anchorage office an I485 form ($255), an I-130 form ($130), and an I-131 form ($110). Also, although not required, we'll also want to submit an Employment Authorization form #765 ($120) and EVEN, two years down the road, form #751 (that simply removes the conditions on #765!)

Now our simple, $35 marriage license is going to cost us upwards of $650. As I said: "Ouch."

Another thing that I found out while at the INS office: Once we're married, Oksana is not supposed to leave the country until we have filled out and received approval for the I-131 form -- and that takes at least two months! The honeymoon to Fiji is now out of the question, but it looks like Puerto Rico still might work because it's an American territory…

Here's Some Bad News...
Oksana and I were hit with some bad news simultaneously from two different fronts. It seems that my Best Man and her Maid of Honor were going to have to cancel their participation in our wedding for different reasons.

Rob called me up to tell me that he recently had to take his car in for a smog check. For those that don't know, California requires that your car pass these clean air checkups or you're not allowed to drive it. Guess what? His didn't make it. He ended up spending hundreds of dollars to replace a faulty sensor (the emissions were actually good enough to pass the test, can you believe that?) and he no longer has enough in the bank to pay for a plane ticket to Alaska.

We talked about it and I decided to pay for his ticket myself. It's that important to me that he be here for the ceremony. We spent the next two, frustrating days trying to nail down his vacation time and book tickets online. It was difficult to get a good price because we were right on the cusp of the 14-day, cheap-ticket deadline. With Oksana's help at the keyboard, we finally did get a decent price, but Rob will arrive a day later than I had hoped (because he'll have to overnight at SeaTac.)

Oksana's Maid of Honor, Liza, has different reasons for not being able to make it. It seems that everyone else at her workplace is going to be either on sick leave or on vacation. When we found out that she wouldn't be able to take Friday the 16th off from work, we tried to convince her to at least book a red-eye flight on Friday night. She said it just wasn't worth it to fly all the way across the country and then back again the next day.

We disagree, of course.

It's very important to us that our best friends in the whole world share the happiest day of our lives with us. We've spent some time trying to convince Liza of this and she has at least said that she'll think about it. Hopefully, she'll come to her senses - otherwise Oksana will be down to just two bridesmaids (to my four groomsmen.)

...But There's Good News, Too!
As I was walking out of the door on Sunday night, I got a phone call from our friend Mike Maas. He was calling with the GREAT news that he'd be able to help us out with the music at our wedding.

I may have mentioned before that we were trying to get Mike to at least play for us at the ceremony if not DJ the reception, too, but he had prior commitments and had told us that he couldn't make it. Well, come to find out, his plans have changed and he's now going to be back in town on the magic date of August the Seventeenth. And this comes right as Oksana and I are racking our brains about trying to find someone (whom we don't know) to do our music, too!

At any rate, nothing is set in stone yet. Mike is going to stop by our place tonight to discuss the possibilities. Anything he can help us with will be great!

Let me take this opportunity to give him a plug: Check out his site at!

Here Comes the Family

Oksana's parents arrived on Friday. An already crazy day of preparation got even crazier as soon as they stepped off the plane.

Oksana, thinking ahead, managed to switch schedules with a coworker so that she could have Saturday off. Unfortunately, that meant that she now had to work Thursday and Friday - which didn't give us much time before their arrival to do all the little things.

But it was okay, because our supervisors were very understanding and gave us extra time on our Friday lunch break to run some errands. In two-and-a-half hours we managed to stop by the Gumdrop House to pay for our wedding cake ($160), paid our rent ($825), went to Costco to buy wedding supplies and food for Oksana's family ($267), and then sped to student housing to pay for the room ($950) and drop off the groceries.

Clocking in at over $2002, that was easily my most expensive lunch break ever! (And we only ate Costco hotdogs, too!) On the plus side, we will be reimbursed for the housing.

After work (I got off 2 hours before Oksana), I had to run home and work with Rob to get his ticket purchased. That didn't leave me enough time to vacuum my Jeep, take some household items over to the dorms, and to make her family's beds as I'd hoped. Oksana got off work at 7pm and really only had time to change clothes and try to calm down a little bit before we left for the airport.

We showed up about ten minutes after eight and waited for the right plane to let loose its cargo. It didn't take long before Oksana's family was hugging her and shaking my hand.

I'll admit that I was nervous about our initial meeting. Who wouldn't be? Here I am, meeting my fiancée's family for the first time (only two weeks before our wedding) and I can't even communicate effectively with them!

I'm happy to report that my worries were unfounded. I liked them, and I think they liked me, too. While we waited for their luggage, I stood around and listened as Oksana caught up with them. I was even able to understand what they were talking about sometimes… I think.

As we headed out to the car(s), someone realized that the family camcorder was missing. Oksana ran back in to see if a flight attendant could get it off the plane and while she was gone, I was able to ascertain the real reason for their worry: No one was absolutely sure that they didn't leave it at the Anchorage airport. At any rate, Oksana returned empty handed and we're still trying to recover the camera.

We split up on the way home because we couldn't fit everyone and their luggage into the same car.

Once Oksana's niece, nephew, and I were away from their (overly) critical parents, they opened up a little bit and started trying out their English. We decided to stop at McDonald's on the way home for dinner and had quite a fun time trying to figure out which sauce Lena wanted with her McNuggets! Good thing it was slow and that the person behind the counter was a friend with whom I play Ultimate!

Eventually we got to the dorms and spent the rest of the evening settling in and socializing. Oksana's father presented me with an early wedding gift - a gold Russian watch! It was very generous and I hope to find a suitable watchband for it before the wedding. Also, in stereotypical fashion, I was asked to drink shots with Oksana's father and brother during dinner. After two blasts of vodka (when I toasted to "family" - Oksana's father joked: "Mafia?!") my eyelids were getting quite droopy… But then it was almost midnight and, as I said before, it had been a crazy day.

Oksana and I got home late, but all-in-all it was a good day. I met her family and it wasn't a terrifying experience (at least not for me - Oksana's was as nervously hyper as I've EVER seen her!) Now if we can only keep them happy while we have to work next week…

Oksana the Telemarketer
As the wedding day draws near, Oksana is spending more and more time on the phone and running all over town when she's not working. On Thursday, BEFORE NOON, she had:

Gone to Hallmark to buy a cake knife and server set,
Called the Limo service and ironed out the times and cost (~$180),
Scheduled an appointment with Linda for the weekend to try on the dress,
Contacted Liza about buying and mailing silk rose petals, a guest book, and film,
Contacted my mom in order to have her bring some cream-colored candles for decorations, and
Scheduled a time to pay for the cake.
By virtue of the fact that I'm the one writing this web page, I'm aware that it may come across as if I'm the one doing all the planning. That's certainly not the case! Oksana is working very hard by my side to help make this the best wedding ever! (Okay, well, OUR best wedding ever, anyway.)

She's my little bee.

The Reception
On Wednesday, July 31st, Oksana and I made yet another trip up Mt. Roberts to speak with Tracy about our reservation for the reception. This time, we took Lola along with us (as our wedding coordinator) to help us think of anything we might have missed.

We all talked quite a bit about the ceremony and reception plans as we went up the tram car. Lola hadn't been with us when we met with Bonnie, so we filled her in on many of the ceremony's elements. Once we arrived at the top, we located Tracy and sat down to talk about the reception.

The first half hour or so was fairly pleasant. Lola went over all the arrangements on when to bring up the decorations, where the tables would be located, and she even helped us pick out the wine (of which we're not big drinkers.) The second half hour went downhill - it was time to talk money.

Now, you have to understand that Oksana and I'd already met with Tracy once - and Oksana met with him twice. In those two meeting, when we talked about prices, we both left with the idea that we'd be paying about $18 per person (plus whatever we wanted to spend on alcohol). Not bad. 100 people at $18 each = $1800. Expensive, but doable.

Well, just before drawing up the contract he mentions sales tax. And the 18% gratuity. And the linen service. And the cost to use their audio system. Suddenly we're faced with a contract that's very close to $2500. What the hell just happened?

As Tracy disappeared into his office to print out the contract, Oksana started to fume. Lola got nervous and excused herself while we talked about the money and when Tracy came back we let him know that we were not happy. Granted, we should have thought about the sales tax and gratuity, but I was offended that he didn't mention the total cost at one of the preliminary meetings. The whole thing smacks of a bait-and-switch.

While Lola was still out of the room, we asked for a couple changes to the contract. 1) We reduced the amount of wine from 20 bottles to 14 -- and if our guests would like more, we got it in writing that they can buy it at the discounted price ($15 / bottle instead of $30.) 2) We also changed a statement in the contract that stipulated that we would pay for at least the 91 people we were expecting - even if fewer actually showed up. With the new wording, we now have up to 3 days before the reception to provide them with a "contractible" number of guests.

It's still more expensive than we thought it would be, but then… so is every other aspect of our wedding!

After signing the contact and paying a 25% deposit ($591), we headed back down the mountain. We parted ways with Lola at the bottom and won't see her again until just a few days before the wedding - she'll be on vacation.

I'd like to take a moment to offer a sincere "Thank You" to Lola for what she did for us up on Mt. Roberts - Hold on, though. It might not be for what you think. You see, as we're being broadsided by more and more things to do, it's so nice to hear Lola say things like "Oh, don't worry about that. That's my job!" I'll tell you what: Even if she's lying through her teeth, it is SO nice to hear those that right now…

The Money
Oksana and I are afraid to speculate on what the final cost of this wedding might be. As you might have noticed, we're keeping a running total at the top of this web page. It's a little low right now for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is that we haven't had to pay "the big bills" yet. Also, some of the larger chunks that we have had to pay (her dress, her family's airlines tickets* and housing) have been reimbursed. For those that are interested in this sort of thing, we're keeping an Excel spreadsheet updated and we'll post it after all the wedding and honeymoon expenses have been accounted for. (We're putting this all on our Alaska Airlines visa. Miles, miles, miles!)

* My credit card bill came in the other day with 5 airlines tickets purchased on the same day in July. Neither Oksana nor I could figure out where they'd come from and I was gearing myself up for a huge fight with Bank of America over my stolen credit card number. I got as far as work that morning before Oksana remembered that those were her family's tickets (duh!) and that it sure would be nice if I wouldn't deny those charges. Gee, do you think our sleep deprivation is catching up to us, yet?

August 9th, 2002

When you're pressed for time, the 2nd draft is the 1st thing to go...

Last Week

Live on the Internet
Joe and I hooked up a couple directional antennas and walked over to the Chapel with a laptop computer. With a simple, unplanned setup we were able to get a sporadic, but decent signal from the Hendrickson Building's main access point. With a new access point set up outside the Whitehead Building, we were able to get a practically flawless 11Mbit/sec connection! Looks like the infrastructure is there for us to be able to stream our ceremony on the Internet - we'll do a test this weekend at my bachelor party.

If you're planning to view the ceremony over the Internet, I suggest that you tune in some time this weekend (8/10 to 8/11) and make sure that you can view our test stream.

The Dress
That silly Oksana. She went and lost some weight before the wedding! Now the alterations to her dress aren't quite right - it's still a little loose in the chest. Linda re-measured her and promised to get the dress done soon!

The (Engagement) Ring

Almost there. Almost there. Oksana got this weird, 2-part ring made of wax on Saturday and wore it for the rest of the day. Ultimately, she still wasn't quite satisfied with the location that the bands crossed over, but at this point it's almost too late to make changes and still get the ring by the wedding. We bit the bullet and I called up Ginger at Dockside Jewelers. She placed the order and we should have the real deal next week!

The Wedding Bands
I keep e-mailing Absolute Titanium and they assure me that they'll get our wedding bands to us on time. Currently they're scheduled to ship out via FedEx (2 to 3 day delivery) on Monday. That's cutting it close - FedEx almost always adds a day or two to Alaska. I'm starting to worry… but they think it's okay. (Oksana wants me to threaten to stop payment if they don't get here in time!)

The Groomsmen
I found out that my brother, Kegan, happened to be visiting my grandparents in Florida. I finally got my webcam hooked up, so we dialed them into a videoconference using NetMeeting. It was great - they got to meet Oksana and we got to meet Bonnie and Lily (my first, one and only niece!) It was then that I learned that Kegan definitely had a standby ticket and that he would definitely be at the wedding.

Shortly thereafter, Kegan, Noah, and Rob all got their measurements phoned in to The Wedding Shoppe. I gotta give my props to that little out-of-the-home-business! Unlike many of the laid-back (downright SLACKER) Juneau businesses, The Wedding Shoppe has called me each time there's an update of information. Thanks for keeping us in the loop!

Oksana's Family
I've had a great time hanging out with Oksana's parents this last week! Despite the language barrier, I think we get along quite well.

There's Lena - she's Oksana's 12-year-old niece and quite rambunctious. Janna called before the family had even arrived with an offer from a family who would like to take her for a week or so. They have a daughter of their own and thought it would be a good idea for Lena to hang out for a bit. Surprisingly, she was totally into it - to the point of going over there just one day later! No warming to the U.S. was needed for her!

There's Andrey Jr. - He's 17 and Oksana's very tall nephew. On Saturday, I had an ultimate tournament and Oksana dropped him off to watch the tail end of it. I had a few friends from work introduce themselves, but I don't think Andrey was quite confident enough in his English skills yet to be comfortable in that situation. He did warm up to Peter's young son, though, and played a little bit of one-on-one soccer with him.

During the after-game BBQ, many of the ultimate players wanted to talk to Andrey about Russia and Alaska. He didn't always understand what was being asked of him, but I think he started to open up a bit.

Finally (it was a long, sunny day!) we went to play Frisbee Golf. Andrey tagged along and there was a group of about 8 or 9 of us playing together. It was really amazing how quickly we were able to explain the game to him and how quickly he was able to give us his scores! And I guess he really liked it, too, because Oksana said he raved about it when he got home…

Andrey has taken to hanging out with the family with whom Lena was originally set up. There's a girl about his age, Morgan, who speaks very good Russian - she was a Rotary Exchange student, I hear. Most of his time is spent with her, an Italian Rotary Exchange student, and Vanya (another Russian friend who goes to UAS.)

He also makes good use of a laptop we checked out for him from UAS. Apparently the whole family has been using the wireless network connection to watch Russian TV programs, read the papers, and surf, surf, surf! Keep in mind that connections in Russia are about what ours were like 5 years ago… They're in broadband heaven right now! And, for what it's worth, I think Andrey was quite impressed with all the gadgetry we have at Media Services.

There's Andrey Sr. - He's Oksana's brother and 19 years her senior. Andrey has been a little restless while Oksana and I have been working. What does he do with his time? Fiddle with our cars. He's already given my Jeep a (bleak) diagnostic and has given Oksana's little Mazda a minor tune-up. (Gee, it's going to be nice to have an engineer in the family - too bad he lives on the other side of the Pacific Ocean!) We also checked out a TV and VCR from Media Services and bought them cable TV for a month. (I guess the Discovery Channel, Sports Networks, and Travel Channel all speak a universal language.)

Andrey and Lena got adventurous and went to see the movie Signs with us. Oksana was going to translate the ENTIRE movie to them, but 5 minutes in I told us that the people sitting around us were about to riot. Instead, she told them about key parts. For the most part I liked the movie - I thought the director did a great job building the suspense. That was lost on Lena and Andrey, though. Could that be the language barrier? Societal differences? Interesting thoughts.

And finally, there's Oksana's Parents - Boris and Nadia. It's truly unfortunate that I feel like I know them the least of all. For the most part they're both quieter than the rest of the family - but that's probably because the language barrier is harder for them. Boris does have a sense of humor, though. That I can tell! And Nadia, if not exactly conversational, seems to be very attentive.

The Kagachigovs are good people.

September 26, 2002

(The following is being posted late and out of chronological order. Keep in mind that this update covers the penultimate week before the wedding. It should be read after the entry dated August 9th, below.)

This Week

More Lunchtime Errands
At lunch on Friday, Oksana and I had to jet around all over the place. First, we stopped by the bank so that I could deposit a check for $1000 from her parents. Welcome money, because it reimbursed us for their plane tickets and housing. Now I can pay off some of the other wedding expenses on our Alaska Airlines visa to make room for even more wedding expenses. Love those miles!

From there we went through the McDonald's drive-thru and ate on the way to our next stop - the Division of Social Services, Department of Vital Statistics. I had sent in our marriage application a couple weeks before and had called earlier in the week to make sure they were ready for us. Once there, all we had to do was swear with our right hand up that all the information was true, then sign on the dotted line. Now we have the official license and a couple of decorative ones to sign at the ceremony.

While still downtown, I decided to stop by Front Street Photo for some film. Before lunch, I asked Scott what film he'd like to shoot on. We opted for a wide range of slide film - ten rolls running the gamut of ASA50 to ASA400. Front Street Photo even threw in an extra roll since I'd purchased ten! Once we got back to the university (a half hour late!), I dropped the film off at Scott's office. He asked if I would like him to actually shoot all that film -- of course! Go ahead, give me 396 photos! I'll scan them all!

The Wedding Dress
Oksana picked up her wedding dress on Thursday. After all those fittings and fixings, it's now tailored perfectly! The cost for all that work? $57.79. Not too shabby.

Under pressure from Anna's inability to get a visa (a Russian in Canada trying to get into the U.S. whose passport is caught up in red tape turned out to be impossible - go figure) and Liza's disappointing cancellation, Oksana asked two Juneau friends, Leah Heiman and Jennifer Berg, if they would fill in as her bridesmaids. Both accepted.

This week we've been scrambling to find them dresses and get them invited to all the wedding party events. We asked Liza to express ship her dress for Jennifer. Jennifer is shorter than Liza, but maybe we can get Linda (Oksana's seamstress) to fix things up. Oksana and I then ordered another dress from Nordstrom's for Leah. Hopefully the only dress size they had left (in that color/combination) will be close enough to fit her.

The Videographer
I talked with Jeff who's back working hard on the east coast. More bad news. He suspects that there isn't going to be any way he can finish up what he's doing over there in time to get back to Juneau for the wedding. After batting around ideas, he decided to go ahead and book his open-ended plane ticket for the 15th. If he can stay alive while putting in a few 20-hour days, he just might make it back on time.

I really hope he can. There are other people I can ask to help out with the wedding video, but Jeff actually WANTED to do it. To me, that makes all the difference in the world. I told Jeff that if he could find a way to make it, I would give him enough Alaska Airlines miles to buy another round trip ticket. Hopefully that's all the incentive he'll need to finish his work in Boston. That and a ton of caffeine, anyway.

Online Ordering
Don't trust I used them to order some gifts for my groomsmen, but now it doesn't look like they're going to get here on time. This is despite the fact that all the items "usually ship within 24 hours," despite the fact that I intentionally skipped the free shipping option and chose the "ship items individually" thereby selecting the most expedient (and most expensive) option instead. Bottom line: No matter what you do, some things will always remain out of your control.

The Music
Michael Maas confirmed that he would be here to help us with our wedding. We had a meeting with him on Thursday after work to discuss what he could do for us. Thankfully, it was more than we expected. First, while we tried to decide what music to use during the ceremony, Mike would put together some suggestions for our first dance's song. He was also going to use anything we didn't select as a play list for the rest of the dances.

He told me that I would have to find some sheet music for him if he was to play anything traditional during the wedding. I figured that the church was likely to have that stuff, so I offered to look for it there. What do we need? The requisite Wedding March, of course. I like the idea of using Perhaps Pacabel's Canon, too, since we used it on the invitation music video. The only thing left to decide was the recessional's music. Neither of us had much of a clue, but Mike said that he would scour the Internet to see what other people usually choose.

Thanks again, Mike!

Liza, not being able to come as the Maid of Honor, hasn't given up on our wedding. She sent Oksana a big package in the mail that included a whole variety of useful items. Ribbons, hundreds of silk flower petals (for our flower girl), Poloroid Joycam film, a guest book, and a wedding present. Thanks Liza!

The Parents are Coming!
I received an e-mail from my mother asking if I had already reserved a place for them to stay (since I had cancelled their reservations at the Schiable House.) D'oh! Was I supposed to do that? Oh, and what about the restaurant? Had I made reservations for the rehearsal dinner yet? Dang it!

Oksana and I set out about those tasks that very same day. I called student housing and was able to book another whole dorm for my side of the family - this time a "double" (two rooms, four beds.) Again, I got the $50/night price so 5 people staying there cost only $250 for five days. No hotel in town would give you that deal!

Oksana went downtown and asked around about private rooms for our dinner. Chinooks, in the Goldbelt Hotel seemed a little unorganized and the food wasn't that great (we heard). The Hanger by the Wharf's Ballroom required a minimum of 30 people (and even then had a $120 fee tacked onto the dinner tab!) The Prospector (T.K. McGuire's) seemed to have the best deal around - a whole room to ourselves, good food at decent prices, and they were flexible on our arrival time to boot! Problem solved.

I gave my mom a quick call that evening to let her know everything was taken care of. At this point it is so nice to scratch things off our list!

Oksana's Family
The Kadachigov's are bored and I can sympathize. Here they are, in the United States of America for the first time, for 3 weeks, and they're stuck in a university dorm. Well, that's not true, really, but they're starting to feel that way.

Think about it. None of them really speak any English. They don't have a car - and even if they did, they don't know where to go. Tourist brochures are in English. Hell, maps and road signs are in English. Essentially they feel that they need to rely on Oksana for anything outside their dorm's walls.

So… Oksana to the rescue. It's been very taxing for her to go to them after work every day and entertain them. Whenever there is English spoken, she needs to translate everything (and she's always the last to finish her meal.)

She's a trooper, though. She's been taking her nephew, Andrey, downtown to hang out with some friends that he met. She's been shuttling Lena back and forth to a host family's house. And she spends a lot of time running her brother and parents around to defuse their boredom bombs. Shopping for shoes. Shopping for groceries. Lunch. Dinner. Sightseeing. Oksana needs a honeymoon more than I do.

The Honeymoon
Speaking of honeymoons, Oksana and I officially have one now! Months ago my grandparents sent us a resort book filled with options, but until recently we didn't know everything about the INS paperwork we'd have to fill out (we still don't!) Luckily we hadn't made any rash, out-of-country reservations yet because they told us Oksana could not leave the U.S. until we'd received all the relevant paperwork back from the INS (at least two months after the marriage!) Our solution? The U.S. Virgin Islands.

We're going to stay at the Bluebeard's Beach Club resort in St. Thomas. Now, I have to hand it to my grandfather. He worked long and hard on extremely short notice to get us those reservations. Then, he spent Friday night and (very) early Saturday morning trying desperately to get a hold of me. You see, he had only a 1-hour hold on the room - and because I was at my bachelor's party, he never did get in touch with me. But he made the right decision anyway - book it, Dano!

Now, also because of my bachelor's party (more on that later), I asked Oksana to figure out all our flight information - that same day. Again, we found ourselves down to that 14-day cutoff for the cheap airline fairs. It was either buy them today or pay an arm and a leg tomorrow.

Oksana literally spent hours online trying to find the best deals, and guess what! She managed to get us all the way from Juneau, Alaska to St. Thomas for less than $900. So what, you ask? That's less than $900 for both of us, pal. Yeah, I thought so, too.

We do have some complications, though. Our travel to and from Los Angeles is free, or nearly so - Oksana cached in 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles to get us there. We'll have to spend most of Saturday in LA, too, but that's fine. Rob, Noah and Julie are looking forward to hanging out with us. Then, on the trip back (on my BIRTHDAY!), we have a whole day and a half - again in L.A. Oh, darn it all. We'll just have to go to Knott's Berry Farm or something.

Trust me. We can't wait.

Bachelor's Party (the whole damn weekend!)

Boy-oh-boy was my bachelor's party fun!

Okay, I'll admit it right up front: It's not for everyone. How many other people would really want to spend 48 hours playing computer games, eating junk food, and watching movies? It's not everyone's cup of tea… but it's mine.

You know what, though? It wasn't what I was doing that made it such a good weekend. It's what I wasn't doing - wedding stuff. You hear that? That's the sound of Arlo exhaling a contented sigh…

The LAN party officially started right after work on Friday evening, but I didn't even get there until after 7pm. And "there" switched from Joe Sears's condo at the last minute because he wasn't able to get neither a DSL nor a cable modem installed in time. Barney was generous enough to let us use his cabin (while he was on vacation.)

Once people started showing up and we had a bunch of computers together, things got rolling. We had two computers from the university going, Joe Nell's computer, Joe Sears's computer (which he had purchased from Costco just that day), Karl's computer, Mike's computer, and my own computer. That first night we weren't able to get Quake III running properly so we mostly played Starcraft and Midtown Madness. For a couple hours we even projected Worms World Party up on a big screen and passed a wireless keyboard and mouse around on that couch. Nuthin' but fun.

That first night we had Joe, Joe, Karl, Cody, Mike, Mike, Mark, Bill, and I playing at one time or another. Jeff Haskell even video conferenced in for a bit via NetMeeting (we never did get around to testing out the streaming video server.) Throughout the night people trickled out or fell asleep in random places until only Joe Nell and I remained awake.

At 8:30am, Saturday morning, we left Barney's place for the airport - my best man, Rob, was due to arrive. Bleary-eyed, we picked him up and Joe took us out for breakfast. It wasn't until 10am that we got back to Barney's and started waking people up. It was too late for me, though. I had to go home to bed.

That afternoon I managed to sleep from 11am to about 4pm. It wasn't near enough sleep, and to make matter worse, I was frequently woken by phone calls from Oksana about the progress being made on the airlines reservations. Still, by 5pm I was ready to play some more games!

This time we went back to the Gaming Den with Andrey and again played most of the way into the night. Joe Nell fell asleep early and slept all night in Karl's bed - he'd been up the entire day because he had to work that afternoon. The rest of us tapered off around 3am or so. But we were back and ready to play again on Sunday morning at 11am!

And 'lo and behold - Joe finally figured out why Quake III wasn't networking properly. We installed the Superheroes mod and away we went - before I knew it, the sun had set and I was all bug-eyed and had cramps in my hands from playing so long. Time flies when you're fraggin' your friends…

We wrapped things up on Sunday night by watching the special features on the Lord of the Rings DVD and then the whole of The 13th Warrior while we deconstructed our computers. About 20 trips to our cars later (in the pouring rain down a slippery boardwalk!) we were finally ready to head home.

It was around midnight when I dropped Andrey off at the dorms, hauled all my own computer stuff (plus the UAS equipment required for the streaming server) up to my apartment by myself, and then slept the sleep of the dead.

Despite the lack of strippers, it had truly been a great weekend.

August 12, 2002


I woke up this morning feeling fully rested for the first time in a long time. The weekend-long bachelor party really took a lot of sleep away, but last night I managed to get about eight, good hours.

Mike Maas stopped by in his huge tour bus and dropped off the CD he'd been working on. These were the tracks, he said, that we should consider using for the first dance(s) at the reception. I promised to listen to them with Oksana and we would render our decision later. Mike also tasked me with finding sheet music for our processional and recessional - hopefully the church would have it. I mentioned that we had a meeting at the church later in the day with Dave Tubley, and Mike agreed to stop by after he got off work to see if he could find the sheet music. His was worried that he wouldn't have time to practice any complicated music before our big day at the end of the week!

With what remained of the morning I put a ton of things into my "to do list" on my PDA and then set about hooking my computer up all over again. Once I finally got it online I was able to send out e-mails again. First on the list was a big thank you/confirmation to my grandfather who made the resort reservations for us in St. Thomas.

While I was still tinkering online, Rob showed up to hang out for the day. He's staying with Joe Sears at his condo just down the road, but Joe still has to work this week (thank God I don't!) Rob decided to hang out with me while I run a million errands.

And then it rained.

Within minutes of Rob's arrival, it started to pour. Now, you have to understand that it rains a lot in Juneau, but not like this! We usually get a depressing, perpetual mist. It was really dumping on us - and it certainly wasn't helping my argument that Rob should leave sunny California and move back to Alaska some day…

Time to run errands: First stop, the post office. Now, it doesn't take me long to get there because our post office is literally underneath our floorboards. In my mailbox, I found that I had a package slip and while I was waiting in line to get it the power went out. Did I mention that it was really blowing, too? Eventually the guy behind the counter found a flashlight and went off to find my package. Good news! It was Liza's bridesmaid's dress that she mailed up for Jennifer.

Leaving the darkened post office behind, Rob and I headed off to get something to eat. McDonald's, the speedy alternative to a good lunch, was closed because of the power outage, so we stopped by Safeway instead. A couple cokes and sandwiches later and we were pointed in the direction of the university.

I gave Rob the dime tour of the campus (with the power still out). Afterwards, we stopped by my office to grab my grandfather's confirmation fax for the St. Thomas reservations and a couple of UAS-themed DVD's that I had worked on. At the computer center we ran into some familiar faces from the bachelor party. Rob already knew Joe, Joe, Mike, and Cody, and while he caught up with them I used Joe Nell's office to make some phone calls.

I called the limo service, but they had only their answering machine to talk to. I didn't get a chance to pay for our reservation.

I called the University's Facilities Services and talked to Vicky. I told her that we were expecting a package for Oksana (Leah's dress, rush shipped) and to PLEASE call Oksana on her cell phone when it comes in. Joe and Cody were also briefed because it was possible that it could eventually be delivered to the Helpdesk where they work.

I called the Housing Lodge to make sure that there wouldn't be any problems moving our second dorm reservation back one day. Beth assured me that it would be just fine.

I called Dockside Jewelers to talk with Ginger. She was busy with another customer so I was forced to leave a message. "Please call Oksana and tell her when we can stop by to pick up her engagement ring." We didn't actually expect to get an answer to that request, but we wanted to let her know that we damn well need that ring this week!

After Mona gave Rob a tour of the machine room (he just had to see the VAX he used to connect to when he lived in Ketchikan!) we split campus and headed home. Rob spun up the university DVD's while I fired off an e-mail to Absolute Titanium inquiring about our wedding bands (which were supposed to have shipped today, but it was already 4:30pm and NO E-MAIL from them could be found!)

Oksana arrived as I was finishing that and we had just enough time to put in Mike's CD and listen to the first 20 seconds of his 15 song suggestions for our first dance. Rob offered his helpful advice - "Perfect! Slow dancing is easy!" I also had just enough time to go over the different sets of vows that Tracee had originally given us and chose my favorite (a very simple, traditional) one.

We left Rob to watch VM's Choice and Aliens on DVD while we went to meet with Dave at the church. The meeting went well, but I don't think we were quite prepared for it. Oksana decided, on the spot, that she didn't want to translate the vows (too much pressure being put on the spot like that), but that we would still ask Janna if she would like to translate other parts of the ceremony. We hammered out the structure of the ceremony, the happenings immediately following our exit, the pictures, etc, and we also chose a new passage from the bible to be read (leaving "Wives submit to your husbands…" out altogether.) Just after Mike showed up, Dave showed us the music room and left.

The music room was a bust. There was a lot of sheet music in there (a LOT), but it seemed to be mostly choir music. We didn't see any file cabinets labeled as "Wedding Music," (or anything similar, for that matter) and we quickly abandoned the idea of pawing through everything. We went back up to the sanctuary and talked music and arrangements (the physical ones - like, "where the heck can we move this piano?!")

After 20 minutes or so we arrived at a couple conclusions: Mike would play his own music for the "seating." Then, when Lola gives the signal for the bridesmaids to enter, he will start playing Pacabel's Canon. Then the Wedding March when Oksana and her father enter. We hadn't quite figured out the recessional by then, though. Mike promised to look around and get back to us with some options on that. Mike also offered to do some minor DJ'ing for us at the reception. We parted company with him in the parking lot and he promised to take of the responsibility of tracking down the required sheet music - thank you, Mike!

Oksana and I headed back to the house to pick up Rob. On the way home, she checked her cell phone's voice mail and found that there was a message from Ginger - Dockside had her engagement ring ready to go! Wow… it was certainly unexpected (although great) news! We picked up Rob and headed downtown.

Oksana loves the ring. Let me tell you, it was worth all that effort that we went through just to see her putting it on! It's a little bigger than I expected it to be, but I guess that's because the diamond itself is fairly large - if the band itself wasn't big enough, it would constantly be rolling over. Oksana doesn't seem to mind. She said the ring felt very comfortable.

More good news! We didn't even have to pay for it! Well, "yet," anyway. Ginger didn't know how much the metals used in the mold cost, so she needs to get that invoice first before she can bill me. Before leaving, Oksana convinced her to make a pearl necklace for her for the wedding, too. We'll go back and pay for both when the necklace is ready. We went home with a large bag full of jewelry stuff -- everything from the official paperwork for the diamond to the actual molds used to cast the ring. Pretty cool.

On the way home we stopped at Pel Meni, a Russian restaurant, for dinner. It wasn't very good.

We finally got home around 8:30pm and at 9pm Jennifer stopped by to try on the dress that Liza had mailed. It's definitely going to need some hemming - Jennifer is a bit shorter than Liza. Hailee, our flower girl, came by, too. She's pretty excited about wearing her new dress and throwing the flower petals around. Before they left, dress in hand, I made sure to invite them to the rehearsal and dinner on Friday (they hadn't received word yet because it was just last week that Oksana had asked her to be a bridesmaid.)

Jennifer did deliver some bad news before she left, though - it looked like her husband, Adrian, wasn't going to make it to the wedding. Emergency situation at work. I told her to try to convince him to look into chartering a flight out of Elfin Cove at the last minute - maybe he could still make it! I really hope he can. Adrian's a good friend and he should be able to see his wife and daughter in the ceremony, too!

At the end of the day, Joe Sears stopped by and hung out with us for a bit before taking Rob back to his condo. And can you believe that after such a busy day, Oksana and I even managed to get to bed at a reasonable hour? It's a good thing, too, because from this point on the days are only going to get busier.

August 13, 2002


Tuesday morning might well have been my last few peaceful hours before the wedding. I sure wish I'd known that at the time - perhaps I could have enjoyed it.

Around 11am, Oksana left to spend time with her family and I started in on a web page update. Once "Monday" was all typed up, I took a shower and got ready to run errands for the day. My PDA warned me about the day ahead - four trips to the airport!

Before the first run, though, I stopped by the university to pick up a FedEx package - I tried to pick up a package, rather. Since I'd stopped by at lunch time, facilities services was locked up and I couldn't get anything. I used the time to swing around to Media Services to drop off the laptop that Oksana's family had borrowed and then checked out a new one. Then it was off to the airport.

While waiting for my sister's flight to arrive, I had the opportunity to type in a little bit more of my web page updates on the new laptop. Oksana, her brother, and her niece showed up shortly before I was about to quit typing, anyway. Mariah arrived shortly thereafter and I made all the introductions and took some pictures.

We had a few hours to kill and Mariah had nothing better to do, so we decided to have lunch at the Broiler with Oksana, Andrey, and Lena. While sipping a milkshake, Mariah experienced what I've gotten used to these last couple weeks - a meal with a translator. Poor Oksana always seems to be the last one to finish eating…

After lunch, we split up and I took Mariah with me on a couple errands. I picked up that package at the university -- Leah's dress from Nordstroms (we tried to deliver it to her, but no one was home.) On the way back to our apartment, we stopped at the pet store and bought a few crickets for Oksana's pet hedgehog (Yozhik) and then at Costco to buy some film for Mariah's camera.

Once we got home, Mariah had enough time to play with Yozhik (and get him stuck up the armpit of her sleeve!) and, for the first time, to see the CD-ROM video that I sent out with the wedding invitations. It was nice to relax at home for a bit, but at 4:30pm, it was time to go back to the airport.

4:45pm saw the arrival of my dad. He stepped off the plane and was surprised to see Mariah standing there next to me (and Oksana, Nadia, and Lena, as well!) Hugs went all around and while we waited for his luggage, we talked about our plans.

Oksana's bridal shower was scheduled to start at 6pm at Michael and Jeri's house. Mariah wanted to go, so it was decided that she would leave the airport with Oksana and her (female) family (members.) My dad had been looking forward to buying a can or two of Raineer beer - living in Huston, Texas, he hadn't had one in years. By coincidence, both carloads of people met up at Safeway. On our way into the store, we passed Melissa, who was coming out of the store with lots of flowers and white and lavender balloons. Hey, those are our wedding colors! Yeah, funny, that.

I can't speak much to Oksana's party - I wasn't there - but she did return quite happy later that night. For my part, I went back to our apartment and hung out with my dad for a few hours. We caught up and he spent some of our limited downtime perusing hundreds of pictures on my laptop (I've downloaded all my digital camera's pictures there.) While he was doing that, I spent part of the time configuring a university desktop computer to be a streaming video server. Good news, I made progress!

At 8pm we left for the airport (leaving my dad's luggage behind to make room in my Jeep.) I had thought that my mom's flight was scheduled to arrive at 8:15pm, but it was actually at 8:07pm - and guess what! It arrived early! When we were walking up to the airport I noticed all these people leaving with their bags. Uh-oh. Sure enough, there was my mom and Mema ("Mema" is her mom, my grandmother - long story…) waiting patiently in the baggage claim area. It was 8:09pm - technically we were only 2 minutes late!

Anyway, the turn-around time for this airport trip was much shorter. It was 8:20pm by the time we left the airport (finally winning the free "under 30 minutes" ticket for short term parking!) and I needed to be back again before 9:30pm. We left in a rush to get people situated.

First stop, Safeway again. Mema definitely needed a drink and my mom needed her tea… Almost as an afterthought we also grabbed a few other "essentials" - ice cream, milk, sugary cereal, etc. Then, because I realized that they didn't yet have anything at the dorms, we stopped by my apartment for a very few bowls, silverware, glasses & cups. Finally we were actually off to the dorms.

My mom and I got through the payment process at the front desk of the lodge and we scored the $50/night price again. $250 for 5 nights… not too shabby. With my dad's help, we unloaded the Jeer and got everyone situated inside as quickly as possible. Since mom and Mema were both tired after traveling, they opted out of having me drop them off at Michael and Jeri's house for the bridal shower.

At 9:20pm my dad and I left for the airport. At the bottom of University Drive we passed Oksan's car going the other way -- the girls were headed home. We jammed on the brakes, reversed, rolled the windows down and they decided to swivel their car around and follow us to the airport.

Strangely enough, Joe and Melissa Nell stopped by the airport after the bridal shower just to greet our newest arrivals, too. We waited only a short while until 9:45pm when my grandparents (dad's side) arrived. They were tired, too, from traveling all the way from Florida, but their night wasn't over yet. While we were waiting for their luggage, my grandfather set about renting a car. I searched around until I found a brochure for the Salmonberry Inn Bed and Breakfast. They'd booked their stay online and it turned out that the Inn was in Thane - on the other side of Juneau!

We made some plans once we hit the parking lot. Granddad would follow me in his rental, but first we needed to detour back to my house to get my dad's luggage. Then we'd head out the road and search our their B&B. Easier said than done.

At 10:30pm the roads in Juneau are hardly clogged with traffic. Granddad was easily able to follow along behind me, but the problem came when we got out the road in Thane. It was narrow, bumpy, and if the rain wasn't enough to making it difficult enough to find the place, the mist more than made up for it. Seeing a sign was not going to happen, so we looked for the "Christmas lights" that the B&B's proprietor said would be on. Guess what. They turned out to be broken.

One turn around and a brochure search (for the street address) later, we finally pulled into the B&B parking lot. "Paula" was there to greet us and while we brought the bags upstairs to their rooms, she talked about such fanciful things as good restaurants, hot tubs on the back deck, and this season's lack of salmonberries.

Shortly after my dad and grandparents had settled in, I departed with a promise to call them first thing in the morning. Then I drove the long (tired) route back home by myself. When I returned at about 11:45pm, I went STRAIGHT to bed (even though, in the back of my mind, I knew that I should have been working on this webpage!)

August 14, 2002


(As this very busy week progresses, I find that I'm starting to lose touch with everything that Oksana is doing. As you read this account of our wedding, keep in mind that she's likely just as active with her own things (probably more so) as I am with the accounts listed below. I just want you to remember that, although this may sound like I'm doing all the work (which is understandable, since you're reading MY version), Oksana is probably doing even more.)

Note: At some point yesterday, my best man, Rob, left to Ketchikan to visit his father for a couple days. Since Joe was the one to take him to the airport, I guess it's understandable that I forgot to mention it in the Tuesday update. He's due back Thursday night.

Wednesday dawned bright and way too early at 8am when the alarm clock forced me to crawl out of bed. Knowing that today was going to be another busy one, I immediately got started writing the "update" for Monday. Having been a normal week, Monday was only a couple days before, and it wasn't too hard to remember what had happened.

By 9am, calls were starting to come in. My father and grandparents wanted to know where to meet us to start the day's events. I had planned to call my mom and organize a Costco trip with her, so I told them to stick tight while I called her first. After a quick chat with my mom, we decided to get to Costco soon after they opened and to meet everyone else there. I called the g'rents right back and gave them instructions on how to get to Costco (Turn right at K-mart, drive all the way to the very back of the valley - easy!)

A quick shower and just a few minutes later and Oksana and I were on our way to the dorms. The morning was a little bit cold for mid-August, and some persistent fog was still hugging the ground. Hey, anything is better than more rain, right? Just kind of "knowing" that the weather would probably hold until tomorrow (as only locals can predict), Oksana and I discussed entertainment options for our relatives. The one we both liked was a day-cruise up Tracy Arm. The only problem is that it was likely to be pretty expensive. We vowed to discuss it with everyone and see what they thought. Oksana then went to get her family from F10, and I stopped by A3 to pick up mine. It turned out that Mema wasn't quite ready to go, so Mariah and my mom were to be the only Costco shoppers this morning.

We arrived at Costco just a little bit after 10am. Not too bad a start for a day with a million errands to run. My dad and grandparents showed up not long afterwards and found us inside the store. Why were they late? They got a little lost. Before you blame me for my directions, you should realize that they turned into Lemon Creek early because "after all the driving they MUST have passed K-mart already!" They hadn't.

After we got all the shopping out of the way (mostly food and essentials for the families' stay in Juneau), we convened in the parking lot to discuss our next plan of action. Lunchtime was looming on the horizon so we tried to figure out what would be agreeable to 20 or so people. The Canton House came up and their inexpensive lunch specials seemed like a great idea to me. Once that was settled, Oksana brought up the Tracy Arm cruise. Although likely to be $100 per person, most everyone was interested in going…

I had to run back to the dorms to pick up Mema, and Oksana (after calling ahead our reservation at the Canton House) had already departed, so I was left with no other option but to give directions again. This time, though, we had a secret weapon - a map! Leaning into my grandparent's rental car, I hastily scribbled a few, key points on their map: The Canton House, UAS housing, our apartment, the university campus, and the Chapel by the Lake. That should do the trick!

Before I left them in the parking lot, my grandfather pulled out a CD-ROM full of pictures of my newborn niece, Lily. He had created the CD after my brother, Kegan, had visited him in Florida with his daughter. Since we were going to have practically the whole family as a captive audience at lunch, I decided that it would be worthwhile to make a quick side trip home to grab my laptop.

Oksana used the time between Costco and The Canton House to make reservations for the cruise. She put the entire party's cost on her own credit card, too. Ouch. With 9 people going, it was just short of $1000. Guess she gets to play bill collector tomorrow.

I, on the other hand, went only slightly over the speed limit as my mom and I stopped by my apartment to get the computer and then we rushed back to the dorms to offload our Costco purchases and onload Mema. Finally complete, we turned right around and drove back to the Canton House.

After everyone had arrived, and while the waitress was taking our order (which can take awhile with 20 people!) I set up the laptop and put in the CD-ROM that my grandfather had given me earlier. I was impressed! Without anything to install, the disc spun up and a full-screen slideshow began. I was at the head of a very long table so I pivoted my screen around and let everyone else watch the show.

Soon after, our food arrived and everyone dug in. Everyone except Oksana, that is. My family was very interested in meeting and getting to know her family - as they should since we're about to bring our families together in marriage! - and Oksana was the only person there that was able to translate. Here's a tip: One translator is not enough for twenty people! By the time everyone else was finished with lunch, Oksana had barely touched hers.

Of course, with 20 family members eating lunch together, it was inevitable that an argument would ensure over who would get the bill. I hoped, with our families, that everyone would want to pay! I knew that the discussion was likely to be long, especially with Oksana having to argue for her side, and since I needed to be at the airport before long to pick up one of my groomsmen, Noah, I wanted to get things started quickly. I excused myself and dropped $20 on the table. There was the expected outcry on how I shouldn't have to pay, but I just smiled and ignored it. Got to be at the airport!

Before I left, everyone decided to meet up again around 4pm at the university for a brief tour of the campus. I grabbed my laptop, along with my mom, sister, and grandmother and jetted over to the airport.

Noah showed up right on time and while we waited for his luggage, my mom and sister waited in line at one of the car rental counters. Normally I would have just let them borrow my Jeep, but with all the people and all the errands we needed to run, I figured it wouldn't hurt to have an extra car around. Besides, my mom and sister were bound for the flower shop and I didn't want to have to chauffeur that particular expedition.

By the time we were ready to go, they still didn't quite have everything ready with the car. Noah and I agreed to take Mema back to the dorms for a nap before we took Noah's stuff over to Joe's condo where he'd be spending the night.

Although my grandmother was obviously tired, I decided that we should still take the opportunity to drive her out to the Mendenhall Glacier on the way home. Sure, it's just a big hunk of blue ice, but it never fails to impress when you see it up close. Noah didn't mind a bit, so we drove on out to the glacier visitor's center to have a look-see.

When we arrived in the parking lot we were surprised to see my dad's side of the family along with Andrey Jr. & Sr. just returning from the scenic outlook and the visitor's center. We chatted with them for a few minutes and introduced Noah all around before taking Mema to the nearest viewing spot. I gave her my coat to ward off the chilly air coming down off the glacier, took a few pictures of her with my digital camera, and then we jumped back in the car.

Mema was duly tired by then, so we dropped her off at the dorms for her nap. Noah was going to stay with Joe Sears for the duration, but Joe was still at work. He decided to hang out at my place even though he was well aware (having been through a wedding of his own just a year before) that I probably wouldn't have much time to catch up with him.

Actually, it wasn't so bad. That afternoon, my main task was to send a confirmed guest list to Tracy at the Mt. Robert's Tram. We weren't too far off our original estimate of 91 guests, but I wanted to be sure that we wouldn't be overcharged for the people in attendance. Before I could report in, though, I needed to make a few calls to find out if a few friends in Juneau who hadn't RSVP'd would make it or not. Unfortunately, after a number of phone calls, I discovered that two of my best friends, Adrian and Russ, wouldn't be able to make it after all.

With our revised list in hand (having dropped the bottom line only a little bit after factoring in the number of children under 12 - and their reduced rate) I gave Tracy a call on his cell phone. He took down the new number, assured me that everything was under control for Saturday, and asked that I e-mail a final list of guests to him so that the tram operators would let everyone pass for free. When I asked what we might be able to do if 1 or 2 other guests changed their minds at the last minute, he told me that it would be quite alright because he always leaves a 10-person leeway "just in case." Gee, wish I'd known that before I gave him the final list… We would have low-balled the number by 10 and saved almost $250!

Right around 4pm, I finished up and Noah and I left for the campus tour I'd promised the families. Since we were a few minutes late, it wasn't hard to find the huge group of milling people standing outside on the grass. Noah and I joined them and before long someone took out a camera to take advantage of the sunshine and totem pole backdrop. When Noah stepped forward to snap a picture of his own, practically everyone asked him to take a picture with their cameras, as well. In seconds, Noah had cameras dangling from his appendages and he soon had to focus his attention on zooms and shutter releases. Everyone got a picture… But it's too bad that Noah wasn't in any of them!

Oksana was ready to start translating again, so we started our grand tour of the University of Alaska, Southeast, Juneau campus - all five buildings. Our first stop was right on the other side of the crosswalk: The computer center. Although I'm employed by the same department, I actually work on the other side of campus. Still, I have a few friends there that wanted to see my family and meet Oksana's. We spent 5 or 10 minutes in there making introductions and catching up.

From the computer center we left for a brief excursion to the Auke Lake dock. It's a nice place for picture-taking, but other than the blue lake, snow-capped mountains, and ice blue glacier in the background, there's not a lot to see. But, hey, it did give everyone a chance to walk through two of the more boring buildings on campus.

Our tour finished in the Egan Library which is on the other side of the campus. It's not far, but we took a break half way there to let some people rest up. Once we arrived, though, it was worth it. The library is easily the most beautiful building on campus with its 3-story wall of windows and interior décor. This is where I work.

I showed off (to those who were interested) the inner workings of Media Services and our broadcast control room. Now, having seen just about everything on campus, people were ready to get back to… well, whatever it was that they were doing earlier. Before leaving Media Services, though, my coworker, Jim, mentioned that Facilities Services had called to let me know that a FedEx package had arrived.

By now it was almost 5pm, a truly wonderful time on campus when most staff members are released to go home. Rather than risk getting to Facilities too late, I called ahead and told Vicki that I'd be there ASAP to get… our wedding bands? Yep. She confirmed that the box was from Absolute Titanium! Okay, sure, we've got our wedding bands, but what's even more important is that we have ONE LESS THING TO WORRY ABOUT!

Outside the library the tour group split up and headed their separate ways. Joe Nell, who had tagged along on the campus tour, joined Noah and I as we rushed to get the rings. Of course, I opened them up to make sure they sent the right ones and I checked the fit of mine. Not bad. A little loose, but not bad.

Andrey stuck with the three of us as we left the university and drove back into the valley to The Wedding Shoppe. Although Rob was in Ketchikan and Kegan had yet to arrive, we had an appointment set a week earlier for a tux fitting. Kegan and Rob would just have to reschedule on Friday.

Mr. Garcia met us at the dorm to his home/office and ushered us in. Once we sorted out whose items were whose, we divided ourselves into different rooms to try on all our various monkey suit items. Shirt, shoes, vest, bow tie, jacket, cufflinks… it's an ordeal! Luckily Mr. Garcia was there to help us figure out how to make ourselves look good. For instance, did you know that a tuxedo's front pockets have holes in them at the top, under the belt, so that you can tug your shirt down with your thumbs? A great thing to know after you bend forward and find your shirt puffed out like some sort of male frigate bird in heat! Also, Mr. Garcia had a great euphemism for Joe's, shall we say, "extra midsection baggage:" It was his "prosperity." We all got a kick out of that and teased him about it for days!

Once everything was in order, and we were all looking pretty snazzy, Andrey snapped some pictures. Assured that our tuxes would fit, we stripped them off and slipped back into our street clothes. We left behind our credit card info ($152.50 for each tux rental!) and took our leave of the Wedding Shoppe, new monochromatic clothes in hand.

Against my better judgement, I had made plans to go play a round of Frisbee golf after the fitting. I knew that I should have been working on more wedding planning, but I had a hunch that I really needed to take some time off and RELAX. We were running a bit late for a 7pm meeting at the disc golf course, but I still opted to drive through McDonald's to get us some food. By the time we finally got to the tee-off, a whole bunch of friends had gathered. For the next hour, we hucked a lot of discs, taught Andrey some English, saw a big ol' porcupine climbing a tree, and generally had a really great time. In retrospect, setting aside fun time like this should be essential for anyone getting married!

Since we were playing with so many people (Myself, Karl, Cody, Joe Nell, Andrey, Noah, Joe Sears, Michael, Mike, and Eric - plus we were joined on the first 4 holes by 3 of Andrey's friends!), it was pretty late by the time we were done. In fact, it was pretty dark already… and that's saying something when you're out on an Alaskan summer night!

Joe Nell caught a ride home with someone else, and Noah decided, since he was going to be staying at his place anyway, to leave with Joe Sears. Andrey and I were the only ones left from the tux fitting, and I drove him back to the dorms and dropped him off. While there, I decided to stop in and say "hi" to any of my relatives that were awake. My mom and sister were still up and we chatted for a brief while. It was getting late, though, and tomorrow was going to be a very early morning (to get everyone to the docks downtown for the Tracy Arm cruise), so I gave out some hugs and went home to Oksana.

Not surprisingly, Oksana was still up and doing laundry. We were both exhausted, and although we knew we could have been knocking out a few more items on our respective lists, we ended up on the couch, zoning out in front of the television until her clothes were dry. Just as soon as we got them folded, we went straight to bed and made "lights out" just before midnight.

August 15, 2003


For some reason, people have been telling Oksana and me that our nervousness about the wedding will prevent us from getting a good night's sleep. Not true. It's having to get up at 6:30am that's preventing us from getting a good night's sleep!

We dragged ourselves out of bed early this morning so that we could pick up our various family members and take them downtown for their Tracy Arm Cruise. Oksana grabbed most of her family (mom excluded) while I grabbed my Mom, Mema, and my sister. The Midgetts, thankfully, were able to drive themselves.

During the drive downtown, the mist that had been obscuring the sky started to lift. Before any of the out-of-towners really knew any better, Oksana and I had already proclaimed the day absolutely perfect for their outing. (A year ago, we had taken the same trip… on a day just as spectacular. We knew what they were in for!) I felt good about this upcoming trip - even if Juneau continued along its normal, rainy routine for our wedding, I knew that our families would remember their time in Alaska by this sunny day.

By arriving early, our families were insured of having the best seats on the boat. We waited with them at the top of the ramp until they were finally boarding, half an hour later. As they left, Oksana and I promised to be back to pick them up in the evening (and we looked forward to having a day free from family to run some important wedding-related errands!)

First stop after dropping them off: Dockside Jewelers. We still needed to pay for the engagement ring, plus Oksana wanted to pick up an inexpensive pearl necklace for her wedding attire. The necklace that Ginger had made for her wasn't up to Oksana's standards, so she offered to make another one before the day was out - we could just stop by before picking up our families.

Paying for the ring was a bigger disappointment. Originally, Ginger had told me that the whole process was likely to end up costing around $700-$900. That's for everything - the metals used, the wax molds, setting the stone… everything. When we picked up the final version, she still hadn't received a bill for the cost of the metals. Her estimate was lower than I had expected - only about $200. Adding it up, the mental total I expected to pay today came in around only $600! Excellent!

That excitement lasted only until today. The final bill was $965, plus tax. Since the price was about what I'd originally expect to pay, I couldn't really get mad at Ginger. I had only myself to blame for getting my hopes up…

We left dockside and split up. Oksana went to run errands (with her mom in tow), and I stopped by McDonald's for breakfast before going home to work on the web page. Lots of typing to catch up on this week, but I couldn't stop now - not after working so hard on my updates for so long!

Before long, Noah stopped by and I took a break from the updates to test out the streaming video server. It was easy enough to get up and running, and before long I got word that everyone at UAS's computer center were watching Noah and I go about our business in my apartment. It's strange to think that people are watching everything you do. Stranger still to realize how quickly you can forget that fact. Good thing we didn't have the right cable to hook up the audio or they'd have been eavesdropping as well as spying on us!

Eventually Noah decided to run out and get something to eat. I let him borrow my Jeep and he busied himself by getting coffee and souvenirs at UAS. I, of course, went back to working on the web page.

One of the problems we discovered during the last week of planning for our wedding is that our phone never stops ringing! (Our answering machine: "Hello. You. Have. Thirteen. Messages.") While typing away, I got two more important phone calls.

First, FedEx called to tell me that they tried to deliver a package to an address at which I haven't lived for over a year. Rather than have them redirect (and possibly delay) the package, I told them I'd pick it up at the FedEx desk by the airport later that afternoon. By the way, who sent it? I'm not even expecting anything! Cool! No wonder I hadn't received the groomsmen's gifts earlier. Now I have to take back what I said earlier about them.

Second, Mike Maas called about the sheet music. He's had luck thus far, but could I check out It seems that there might be a solution there, but he couldn't install the necessary plug-in on his Mac. While keeping him on the phone, I checked out the site. Yes, they had the right music. Yes, I could install the plug-in. But, no, it wasn't free. You have to pay to get more than just the first page of sheet music.

Well, fine. Mike needed to practice, so I decided to just bite the bullet and pay online. $12 or $13 and, literally, seconds later, I had some "special links" in my inbox that let me print out the full versions of the sheet music for each song. Pretty good deal, but I can't fully recommend WeddingSheetMusic.Com, though. You see, you get only two chances to print their music, and you can't save them to your hard drive. You can't really do much of anything BUT print them. And I'll bet you can just guess what happened: Their plug-in crashed Internet Explorer on my machine during the last print and when I reconnected to the file it told me I'd already printed it out twice. Yeah, right.

At least they seem to know they have a problem. I went to their help pages and clicked on the "contact us" button. My e-mail popped up with a line something like this already typed into the message field: "I have encountered a problem and need you to send new authorization to print my ODE TO JOY sheet music." I explained what had happened and hoped for the best. My backup plan was to just purchase another copy if they hadn't fixed things by tomorrow.

Mike got off the phone and stopped by just a short time later to pick up the sheet music that I was able to print out. The one that failed, Ode to Joy, had at least one page printed out, though, and he could at least start practicing that one. After looking over the notes, he discovered that the music was almost pathetically easy to play. Maybe he'll have to embellish it a bit…

Before leaving, I plopped him down in front of my computer to play a little bit of Midtown Madness (since he missed out on my bachelor party.) What does he do? Selects a city bus and rampages through the streets of Chicago. I'll bet you can guess what Mike does for a summer job…

I had to wrap up my work on the web page for the day because it was time to go off on some more errands. I picked up Noah at the university (where he was catching up with his ex-coworker, Barney.) After a few more minutes of chit-chat, we left for the FedEx office. I picked up the boxes from, but wouldn't tell Noah what was in them. He'd have to wait until tomorrow for that.

We then drove downtown to meet Oksana. We found her car near where we'd dropped off our families that morning, but she was nowhere to be seen. I figured (rightly so) that she was at Dockside picking up her new necklace. The Auke Nu cruise ship was nowhere to be found, so Noah and I settled down on the dock to enjoy the sun. Oksana arrived a few minutes later with some good news - Ginger had simply given her the necklace she wanted as a wedding gift. That was nice of her.

Eventually, after a half hour of sunning ourselves, we saw the Auke Nu rounding the bend in the channel. Fifteen minutes or so later, our families were disembarking with smiles on their faces. Glaciers, waterfalls, icebergs, seals, whales, and plenty of sunshine. Surprise, surprise: They had a great time! My grandfather was particularly proud of the fact that he and Oksana's dad were able to communicate some things with hand-drawn pictures and gestures. Would you believe that Boris was able to explain that when he was in the military he had seen San Francisco from the deck of a submarine and that he never expected that he'd get any closer to America? And that my grandfather was able to communicate that he used to fly rescue helicopters for the Coast Guard? Pretty impressive, I think.

Everyone was pretty worn-out after such a long day. We dropped our families off at their respective places and went home to relax for a little bit. Noah and I were starving, so we decided to give Oksana some peace and quiet and go down the block for some Thai food. We got to eat our fill, but we had to do it quickly - my brother, Kegan, and one of Oksana's bridesmaids, Anya, were coming in on the 8:17pm flight down from Anchorage. Don, my stepfather, was due to arrive on the 8:07pm flight up from Ketchikan. At least we could pick them all up with but one trip to the airport!

We arrived just a little bit late, but my mom was already there to greet the arrivals. Anya had already met Kegan on the plane (we had called her to tell her they were on the same flight.) Kegan was exhausted from flying standby red-eye flights, but otherwise okay. We picked up their bags and split up. Anya (and her friend, Cindy) found a rental car and drove off for their own hotel while my mom took Don back to the dorms. Noah and I drove Kegan out to Thane so that he could stay with our dad and his parents.

I was only able to catch up with Kegan a bit on the ride out to Thane. Noah and I dropped him off and made plans for the following morning - we had a free rafting trip planned and needed to figure out how Kegan could get there. Once the grandparents committed to driving him in, Noah and I were off again for the airport. Rob was due to arrive (again) at 10pm.

This time, we arrived on time. Rob came down the concourse shortly after we arrived and we talked about his stay in Ketchikan - things have changed quite a bit since he left in 1993.

It was already 10:30pm by the time we left the airport, so I took Rob and Noah directly to Joe Sears's house so they could crash for the night. Joe was already asleep, but we made some quiet plans while there - I'd be back early in the morning to take them with me while transporting those interested in rafting. After that, we'd grab some breakfast and then do what Rob had been talking about all week: Hike up onto the glacier.

I left Joe's house and went home to find Oksana getting ready for bed. We were more than ready for sleep. Again, worries about the wedding would not get in the way of a good night's sleep.

August 16, 2002


Another early morning. Luckily for Oksana, she could sleep in just a little bit longer than I could today. I got up at 7 and was out of the house by 7:45. First stop, Joe’s house – to pick up Noah and Rob.

Noah and Rob were ready to go and, because I needed to pick up some family members, we didn’t spend much idle time at Joe’s. Joe was interested in hiking the glacier with us, but he needed to go to work first to see if they could spare him for the morning. The plane was that if he could swing it, he would meet up with us at the trailhead. With Rob and Noah in two, I headed off to the dorms to pick up some rafters.

One of my college roommates, Mike, has been rafting the Mendenhall River as a summer job for the last few years. I had asked him this spring if he thought we could wrangle a free trip down the river for anyone that came up for the wedding. Not a problem – a date, time, and enough able-bodied rowers was all he’d need.

At the dorms we picked up my Mom, Don, and Mariah. Oksana, having roused herself from her slumber, showed up to escort her brother and nephew for the same trip. Everyone was ready to go except my brother, Kegan, who was nowhere to be found. He was supposed to meet us at 8am, but we couldn’t find him at the dorms. Hmmm. Maybe he thought we were to meet at the university, instead. Our train of cars drove down to the campus looking for my grandparent’s rental car – or any other sign of Kegan.

No luck. Eventually I was forced to run home and get my PDA so that we could call Kegan’s cell phone. We rang him up and found out that he was… waiting for us at the dorms! He must have shown up moments after we drove off. We returned to the dorm parking lot, added their car to our train, and made it to the head of the river just a little later than I’d hoped.

Mike was there and all ready to get everyone suited up and in the boat. While they were getting their feet sized for boots, their legs sized for rain pants, and their chests sized for life jackets, those of us not going took plenty of pictures and made plans to pick them up at the pull-out. Soon enough they grabbed their paddles, hopped into the boat, and floated up the lake towards the glacier.

Rob, Noah, and I took a few pictures of their departure and then heading off to Safeway to get some breakfast and some hiking food. While there, Noah gave Joe a call at work – no luck. There were too many important things for him to do at work.

We grabbed a breakfast of donuts (and coffee for Noah) and some food and drinks for our backpack before driving back to the same parking lot where we’d dropped off the rafters earlier. Once there I loaned out a couple pairs of shoes to Noah and Rob, we filled Noah’s pack with our supplies, and dressed in layers because the morning was a bit chilly. That was a mistake – 15 minutes into the hike and we were shedding them fast.

Ever since Rob had agreed to be my best man, he’d been looking forward to climbing up on the glacier. Apparently, the last time he was in Juneau he didn’t bother to make the trip up to the big ice cube and regretted it ever since. I had promised him that we could take some time to go up there earlier in his week-long stay, but it didn’t work out. Unfortunately, today was the last day before the wedding – I had plenty of other things I could have been doing!

On the way up, I made the decision to hike the “long” way to get up onto the glacier. We could have taken a shorter route, but it would have placed us at the leading edge of the retreating ice flow, not further back into the impressive ice field. Considering the fact that we were in a hurry, it was not the right thing to do. As the trail kept disappearing around the bend and going up, up, and up, we had to hurry. When we finally did get to the lookout over the ice, the glacier seemed impossible to reach. Steep cliffs of broken rock surrounded us and our allotted hiking time was running out.

Rob was ready to give up and head back. I didn’t want him regretting another trip to Juneau, though, so after breaking for a few granola bars and a drink, I encouraged them to “look around the next bend.” We found an area that didn’t look entirely impossible to get down. If we hurried, Rob might yet get to stand on the ice.

Using three different routes, Rob, Noah, and I reached the bottom and found an ice cave. While Noah and I had been snapping photos like mad, Rob had been saving the few remaining shots in his disposable camera for a picture in a cave. He found one and I happily obliged. And then we found another one… bigger, longer (disappearing far into the glacier), and with a much more vibrant, blue-ice background. It was tough to climb down and into, but was just too good an opportunity to pass up! We got our pictures and started the climb back up the cliffs.

Looking back the way we’d come, over steep-angled ledges and loose, broken rocks ranging in size from pebbles to boulders, I began to think about the possible consequences of such a hike taking place only one day before my wedding. Of course, the “gee, wouldn’t it be great if I broke a leg” concept ran through my mind, but I also thought about how small cuts and bruises could really mess up the wedding photos. I was extra careful on the climb back up.

The way trip back down the trail was fairly short in comparison – only about an hour compared to the three hours it took to climb it. Still, I had plenty of plans for the rest of the day and I felt a little rushed. On the last leg of the trail, while Noah and Rob entertained an Irish girl who we’d helped to find the trail again, I borrowed Noah’s cell phone and started making some calls.

First, I scheduled an appointment with The Wedding Shoppe for Kegan and Rob – they still hadn’t had their tuxedo fittings. Then I tracked down my brother and made arrangements to pick him up in about an hour. Finally, I called Oksana to check on her and see how her day was going. She was doing fine and, thank God, didn’t need any help from me before we were scheduled to meet for the wedding rehearsal at 4pm (She did have some bad news to report, though. We finally heard from Jeff, mere hours before the rehearsal was to begin, and he was still on the east coast – no wedding video for us.) I must admit that it felt funny to be conducting business while hiking in the Alaskan wilderness. Cell phones have changed many things in the last few years…

We got back to my car at about 1:30pm. I immediately took Noah and Rob back to Joe’s place so that they could grab a shower before the rehearsal. I stopped by my own apartment to do the same. A quick change later and I was back at Joe’s to pick them up again. We wasted no time before charging out to find Kegan at the dorms. Once he was on board, we headed for the wedding shop.

Noah and I were all set, so while Kegan and Rob were getting fitted into their monkey suits, we stood on the porch and chatted with Mrs. Garcia. The fittings took longer than the conversation, though, so we spent the rest of the wait downloading the day’s pictures from my digital camera to my laptop. It was gratifying to see that we had a couple great shots from the glacier trip.

When they were finished, we loaded up the tuxedos into the back of the Jeep and headed straight for the Chapel for our rehearsal. We were early – and because of that, for the first time all day, I finally relaxed. There was a flip-side, though. We were famished and there were a couple grumbles that we hadn’t stopped for lunch. With assurances that we would all have a huge rehearsal dinner, I dragged my groomsmen off to the nearby vending machines at UAS. At least we would get something to tide us over.

Poptarts and candy bars in hand, we returned to the Chapel. The first thing we noticed upon entering was that someone had set up the chapel for a concert. There wasn’t anyone around, but the front of the room had been turned into a stage, complete with a drum set, half a dozen microphones, guitars, etc., all spread out. It seemed impossible that we would be able to take our positions during the rehearsal.

While we waited for the major players to arrive, I showed my groomsmen around and we discussed likely places to put video cameras, the streaming video computer, and which window to crack open for a direct line-of-site to the university. Before we could discuss everything, others arrived and began clamoring for my attention.

There was my mom: She and Oksana (and some of the bridesmaids) were concerned about the decorating. I purposefully omitted myself from most of the discussion, but what I picked up was that we’d have two candelabra, flowers, and bows of ribbon along some of the pews.

There was Mike: His only real concern was where the piano was to be located. Oksana wanted it moved from the right to the left and we wanted to arrange it so that he could see the procession and know when to hit his cues. While we worked with other people, Mike practiced with the sheet music.

There was Bonnie: She seemed to be there simply to answer questions concerning the church. It was quite nice that she was always there when you needed something, yet never in the way.

There was Scott: He wanted to know where we wanted to place him as the photographer. Keep in mind that Bonnie (the Chapel by the Lake wedding coordinator) had told us in an earlier meeting that her one rule with photographers is that they stay in one place throughout the ceremony. Apparently, she strongly believed that a mobile photographer (or videographer for that matter) would draw the audience’s attention away from the most significant couple. Oksana and I disagreed. Discreetly, when Bonnie wasn’t listening, I told Scott to do whatever he thought would get him the best shots! Even so, we did go a long way towards compromising. For most of the ceremony, we decided that Scott would be up front by the windows, nestled into a recessed stairwell. He would have the benefits of the natural lighting (no flash), and, near the end of the ceremony, he would also be able to make a quick escape down the stairs, through the hallways underneath the sanctuary, ready to appear at the back of the chapel just in time for the recessional.

There were many family members: Most were just waiting around to find out what role they had in the ceremony and to understand the schedule of events. Oh, and we had a rehearsal dinner planned for afterwards, too. I’ll bet they were interested in that a bit, too.

And, of course, there was Dave Tubley: He was pretty much running the show once everyone had calmed down. He took the wedding party aside and we tried to find our marks in among all the microphones and musical equipment on the stage. We discussed how and where the groomsmen and bridesmaids would arrange themselves (on the stage or off? Two on the stage and two at floor level? How much room would we have?)

While we were getting our placements memorized, Oksana and I asked Dave if he wouldn’t mind making a few, last minute changes to the ceremony:

1) We weren’t too keen on having him introduce us as Mr. and Mrs. Arlo Midgett. Mr. and Mrs. Midgett would do just fine.

2) No translation during the ceremony. While planning this wedding, I always thought that it would be a great idea to integrate some Russian into our ceremony. It is, of course, a union of two cultures and I try to be continually conscious of that. We discussed having someone translate certain, key parts of the ceremony and eventually discarded the idea. My favorite, having Oksana give her vows in Russian was vetoed because of the logistics of having Dave prompt her in English (plus, Oksana was going to be nervous enough during the wedding. She didn’t want to “blank” on the translation!) Eventually we decided that the ceremony would simply be in English and that two bilingual people (Jana and Marie) would be strategically seated among the Russian-only crowd. I expected it to be quite distracting, but this late in the game there were few options left.

3) Where was the “you may kiss the bride?” section in the program he had given us for review? We were told not to worry – it would be in there. Good. I started to think this was some weird sort of corporate procedure or something… I want to kiss my bride, dammit!

A wedding rehearsal without a run-through wouldn’t be a wedding rehearsal. Dave gathered us all up in the foyer just before the entrance to the sanctuary and laid down the ground rules. It was going to go something like this:

(Mike would start us off by playing “seating” music.)
The groom and best man will wait in the foyer.
The bride and maid of honor will be hidden in a second section of the church.
The ceremony begins when the ushers begin to seat the direct family.
Noah had the honor of escorting Oksana’s mom down the aisle. The rest of the bride’s family (excluding her father) would follow.
Kegan would then escort our mother down the aisle and seat her on the opposite side. The rest of the groom’s family would follow.
Once the ushers have returned, Dave would lead the five men to the stage via the side aisle and we would take our previously established positions. (Music stops)
Once the groom is safely out of sight, Oksana would be brought in to stand with her father. (Mike begins playing Pacabel’s Canon.) Her bridesmaids would then begin to enter the church one at a time.
After the maid of honor is in her position, Hailee, our flower girl, would proceed next, throwing rose petals in her wake.
(Music changes to Wedding March.)
Oksana enters with her father and the real fun begins!

With Dave herding us, we went through the procedure once. Oksana translated for the Russian element, and everything was pretty much understood. We only hit a couple hitches. Oksana bobbled one of the lines that Dave fed her to the laughter of everyone there, and Hailee, tired after a long day, didn’t much feel like acting out her role as flower girl and shed a few tears as she went through the motions. Jennifer assured us that she would be fine during the actual ceremony, but we made a backup plan, anyway. If, come tomorrow, she still was too shy to walk the aisle alone, Sandra would walk with her.

There was a lot to remember and because of the concert setup, weren’t able to do it as it would be done the next day. Having all the music equipment on our stage bothered me, and after all this planning, I really wanted to make sure everything would be perfect! I politely put it to the group that we might want to go through the routine one more time, but everyone felt confident that they knew their roles, marks, etc. Maybe they were just getting hungry.

Before we could head off to the rehearsal dinner, though, we still had a lot of planning to discuss. Oksana and I talked to everyone and gave them different times and places to show up at the following morning. I’d be arriving at the church early for the wireless network setup, Oksana would be on her own to get her hair done. My groomsmen would also arrive early to help out, our relatives and photographers closer to the ceremony. Everyone from the coordinators to the clergyman had to be accounted for.

Finally, as things were winding down, I found time to break away and speak to my groomsmen. For all their help and for agreeing to support me on my wedding day, I presented them with the gifts. For Rob, season one of Andromeda on DVD. For Joe, Grand Theft Auto III, for Kegan $50 gift certificate, and for Noah, a couple DVD movies. I also had gift certificates for Mike and Scott. It felt good to reward them for their support, but I still felt that what I was giving them didn’t even come close to expressing my true gratitude.

While I was playing Santa, the rest of the wedding party was getting ready to meet downtown for our rehearsal dinner. Oksana was also in a heated discussion with her brother because he felt that his family, being unable to speak English, was being left out of the rehearsal. Oksana explained to him that we had too much ground to cover and she was just too frantic to translate every little thing for him so that he could be in on the decision-making process. Sure assured him, though, that she had told them everything they needed to know.

Finally, it was time for dinner. We split up into multiple cars for the ride downtown, and I had to divert a few people over towards my apartment before we could go. For the hike, I had purposely removed the gold watch Oksana’s father had given me as a wedding gift, but I wanted to make sure I wore it. The rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself seemed like perfect opportunities to show it off. On a whim, I grabbed my laptop, too, before getting back into the car.

The following was written after a 25-month hiatus.

When we arrived at the Prospector, it took us a few minutes to find our private dining room. Fortunately, there was a sign in the hallway that said something like “Midgett party” and pointed us in the right direction. I made a mental note to take a picture of the sign before I left… and then promptly forgot all about it.

When we entered the room, most of our family members had already arranged themselves around the table. Oksana and I were at one end, her immediate family arranged to her left, and mine on my right. At the far end, 16 seats between us, sat my groomsmen.

I settled in next to Oksana and tried to keep up with everything that was going on around me. In a room of 24 people, with Oksana and I as the center of attention, I initially felt as though we were being pulled in too many directions at once. Just as I was beginning to calm down, our waitress made her way to our end of the table and took our order. I recognized Venietia at once, although I hadn’t expected to see her until the wedding ceremony!

Venietia used to work with me at Media Services. When we were shopping around for a place to have our rehearsal dinner, I thought about asking her about the Prospector because she used to work there. When she graduated from UAS, though, she got a nice, cushy State job. I assumed that she’d left her waitress job behind, but unbeknownst to me, she was still working there part time. I bring all this up because as she crouched down take our orders, she whispered to us conspiratorially, “Why didn’t you make the reservations through me? I could have gotten you a big discount!”

Oh, well. The obsessive planner part of me was smacking himself upside the head, but with the wedding tomorrow, the real me didn’t much care. I consoled myself with the fact that other people were paying for dinner and went back to enjoying myself with my friends and (growing!) family.

As we waited for our food, I got up from my seat to get closer to the other end of the table. I stopped every few chairs to talk with someone, to make sure that they were having a good time. I had the impression that our two families were really enjoying themselves. My mom was trying desperately to learn how to say “thank you” in Russian; Lena, sitting next to me, was practicing her English; Anya sat on the far side of Oksana’s family and helped translate conversations; and my grandfather bought a round for Oksana’s brother (vodka shots) and then Andrey reciprocated by trying my grandfather’s drink – a Rum and Coke. In fact, looking around the table, it appeared that only person not having a good time was my best man, Rob.

Since it looked like it was still going to be awhile before we’d be served, I decided that it would be a good time to whip out my laptop. Despite sending out a mini-CD with every, single wedding invitation, there were still a couple people who had yet to see the video upon which I worked so hard. My mom was first among them, and as I was setting the computer up in front of her, others gathered around to watch. It went over really well. As surprised as I was that my mom hadn’t already seen the video, I was even more surprised to see it bring tears to her eyes!

As I was returning my laptop to its case back by my own seat, Oksana told me that she was going give out some gifts. She raised her voice and got everyone’s attention before handing out little presents brought over from Russia by her family– chocolate for my side of the family and small Zip-Loc bags full of candies for her bridesmaids. It went over well, but I couldn’t help but worry that my family might have been thinking that they should have given gifts as well.

At any rate, our dinner was starting to arrive and it was time to sit down and eat! Of course, conversation (translated, yet spirited!) continued while we enjoyed our meal.

As I was almost finished eating (my last dinner as a bachelor!), I happened to notice my groomsmen, Rob and Noah, talking to Venietia at the other end of the table. They were looking in my direction and it appeared as though they were making plans that might involve me. Sure enough, Venietia soon came down to my end of the table and asked me if I would take a shot of tequila with my groomsmen – on their tab.

It only took me a couple seconds to answer, but I had plenty of time to go over the implications in my head. I had already had an Alaskan Amber with my dinner and I knew that this might very well end up being more than just one shot. I would need to find someone to whom I could hand off my car keys – probably not a problem in a room full of people. I also had time to ponder my reputation as a non-drinker. I looked down the table to see Rob and Noah quietly staring at me, waiting for me to give my answer to Venietia. Was there a bet at stake here?

I turned to Venietia and said yes, I’d love to do a shot with them. She straightened up, sent a huge smile down to Rob and Noah, and left the room. Her departure was met with a mild eruption at the far end of the table that lent credence to my theory. Rob looked the most surprised; I guessed that he would be paying.

While we awaited her return, Oksana and I worked our way down the table. While we socialized, people were forming up for pictures at the far end of the room. We took snapshots of all the men, all the mothers, each side of the family. These were the same pictures that I knew we’d pose for again tomorrow in our formal wear and I wasn’t too concerned that I looked a little shaggy. Not shaving for a week before the wedding was a conscious decision on my part. My skin tends to break out if I shave too often and I didn’t want to risk a bunch of red acne glaring back from my wedding pictures for all eternity. If that meant that my likeness in the rehearsal pictures was going to be best described as unkempt, then so be it. (I also rationalized that I’d look that much better tomorrow when people finally saw my baby-smooth chin perched above a snazzy tuxedo…)

While we were socializing, Venietia returned with our tequila and some lemon wedges and salt. I made my way over to my groomsmen and found out what the all the hubbub was about. As I was sitting down, I learned the story: Noah had offered to buy some shots if Rob would drink with him. Rob, looking for a way out, told Noah that he would drink only if I would join them. I guess that, since moving to California almost ten years earlier, Rob was a little further out of touch with me than he thought. While still a long way off from even your typical casual drinker, I have at least made some peace with alcohol in the intervening years.

I asked Joe if he was planning to drink with us and he declined. Perfect. He was driving. While we lined up for the inevitable photos, Rob gave me a quick lesson downing tequila shots: Tequila first, then go for the salt on the wrist, finally the lemon wedge. All this ceremony, I was expecting the tequila to go down hard. 1, 2, 3; half a dozen flashes go off in our faces, and we’re done. Only Rob made a face while downing the shot, and while I can’t speak for Noah, I thought the lemon wedge was worse. Maybe those vodka shots with Oksana’s family helped to prepare me!

During dinner, discussion turned towards the possibility of a last minute bachelorette party for Oksana. Ideas were batted around, alcohol-serving establishments were mentioned, and names around the table were added to the list. Although I was concerned that a late night might adversely affect Oksana’s enjoyment of our big day, I fully supported her going out with her friends. Unfortunately, by the end of dinner, the plans fell through. Too many people needed to go to their respective homes first, and it didn’t appear that the real party would be able to start before an obscene hour. Ultimately, Oksana decided to call it off.

As the party wound down, I excused myself for a quick trip to the restroom. As I returned, I found my mom and stepfather in the foyer looking over the bill. My mom had decided to honor the tradition of the groom’s parents being responsible for the rehearsal dinner and was now feeling the pain. Although she wouldn’t let me see the total, I did manage to ascertain that it was it was northward of $600. That amounted to about $25 per person and didn’t include the bar tab (everyone had to fend for themselves for alcohol). I was happy to hear later that, when my dad’s parents offered to chip in, they wouldn’t let my mom say “no.”

With the bill was settled, it was time to go home. I gave my keys to Joe and we crammed 5 people into our car. Rob was still looking a little blue and I asked him what was going on. He said that during the rehearsal dinner, he noticed that he was the only one at the table that wasn’t either married or engaged to be married. I did a quick mental check of the participants, and while it wasn’t exactly true (there were a couple kids eating with us), he was essentially correct. I felt bad for him and promised to do my best to introduce him to someone at the reception tomorrow.

It was barely 9pm and perhaps because I had assumed that I would be waiting up for Oksana, I was still pretty wound up. Rob and Noah were also looking for something to do, so on the way back to my apartment, we decided that we’d at least throw in a movie.

When we got back to my place, Rob pulled Real Genius out of my DVD collection – one of our favorite movies from way back. While people settled down on the couch, I sat at the back of the room and only give the movie half my attention. I still needed to work out a few kinks with the software we were going to use on the streaming server to broadcast the wedding over the Internet. While I was working on the computer, Oksana came home from dropping off her family and began packing an overnight bag for our stay the following night at Pierson’s Pond.

With the excitement of the rehearsal dinner behind me, I began to lose energy fast. It had been an extremely long and busy day and I was crashing. I finished up with the computer and had it packed up in a box before the movie was even half over. Oksana was finished with her packing, too, and was as tired as I was. I wanted to spend more time with my friends, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay awake watching a movie I’d already seen a dozen times.

So, at about 10:30pm, Oksana and I bid everyone goodnight and excused ourselves. As we laid down to go to sleep, I could hear the booming surround sound of the movie competing with our roommate, Lonnie’s, music playing through the wall on the opposite side of our room. I worried that I’d end up lying awake all night; I’d be unable to sleep before one of the most important days of my life; I would have huge, black circles under my eyes in all of my…

I was fast asleep in less than two minutes.

August 17th, 2002

The day has arrived!
I've got tons of text to post for the last week, but I'm not going do that today.
Today, there's the live stream.

August 19th, 2002

Everything went well!

August 22nd, 2002

We're Married!

What a wonderful feeling it is to not be thinking about our wedding every waking moment! We're not done yet (honeymoon, INS paperwork, name changing, etc.), and I'm not yet done writing about our wedding journey on this web site. But I am going to take some time off.

It's been almost a week since the ceremony and we're still not back to our normal lives yet. Oksana is in Anchorage with her family right now and will return Friday night. We leave early, early Saturday morning for our 2-week honeymoon in St. Thomas (Virgin Islands.) It's there that I plan to work more on the web page. Unfortunately, you probably won't see the results posted until I get back.

But when you do see the next update, it should be a big one. I doubt I'll have any new video to post by then, but there will be thousands (literally!) of pictures to chose from. Plus, updates for the last two weeks before the wedding will be posted (you didn't really think that there was nothing of any importance to post for that time frame, did you?)

Before the next update, I'd like to ask a favor:

Many of you that are reading this site were at our ceremony and reception in person. Still more of you were able to see at least the ceremony online. While I am going to write up my own take on these events, I would really like to post a vignette or two (or twenty) from someone else. How about it? While I'm on vacation, do you think you (yes, you!) could write just a paragraph or two about some aspect of our wedding and let me post it here on my web site? My view has been the only view thus far - let's add some variety and find out what other people think!

September 17, 2002

Almost a month since my last update and, trust me, I've been hearing about it. Oksana and I returned from our honeymoon in St. Thomas last week (we had a great time) and then my computer promptly died on me. Nothing was lost, but it's taking some time to get back up to speed. I still have lots to post, both Pre- and Post-wedding. I just need some more time to sort through, oh, about 1,000 photos.

More is on the way. I promise.

(P.S. What, nobody wants to write a vignette?)

September 22, 2002

Getting back into the habit of updating this web page seems to be my biggest hurdle! Believe me, I know that everyone is waiting to see pictures of (and, maybe, to read what I have to write about) the wedding. While I'm working on that, I thought I'd "get back in the habit" by posting a new wedding picture for you to see, once each day. Now, since I'm going to take my time and use PhotoShop to make these pictures look nice, you should realize that you're seeing the very best of our wedding photos. This will make the day when I post the rest of the pictures a bit anticlimatic, but I'll wager most are willing to take that chance.

The daily photos will be on their own page -- I'll keep the link at the top of this page up indefinitely. Please note that if you want to see a better quality image (although still a JPEG), all you need do is click the picture!

After; Part I

Warning: This one is long. I wrote this… wow… about a year ago now. I’ve been meaning to post it on my wedding page, but I still have some writing to do that chronicles what happened before this stuff. I had been waiting (in vain?) to complete that first. I’m posting this on my ‘blog, today, because it has some background information that not every knows about. Unfortunately, it’s background information for some bad news that I need to post tomorrow.


The day after our wedding, Oksana and I awoke in our opulent room at Pearson’s Pond. The room was expensive, but it was also comfortable a quiet. Lying there in the late morning, enjoying the distinct lack of stress, I decided that it was worth every penny. My only regret was that we were not able to stay there much longer – our checkout time was rapidly approaching.

The day before, Oksana had dropped off an overnight bag in our room. I was glad that I’d married a smart woman – it meant that I wouldn’t have to wear my tuxedo again. In fact, because I was back in casuals, we dropped it off on the way home.

Our arrival back at our apartment was a rather rude awakening. It seemed as though every item from the wedding and the reception was piled in up our living room and kitchen. Flowers, clothes, decorations, leftover cake, and computer gear was everywhere. For some inexplicable reason, there was a pair of men’s dress shows on the kitchen counter.

Having said our goodbyes at the reception the previous night, we knew that our friends and family members would be leaving on separate flights throughout the day. We regretted not spending time at the airport to see them off, but we were quite relieved to have a day completely to ourselves for the first time in weeks. Even if we would have to spend it cleaning.

Joe Nell stopped by at some point to track down those countertop shoes. Turns out that they were my brother, Kegan’s, and while he was able to arrange for the return of the rest of his rented tuxedo, apparently he forgot the shoes. I suspect it had something to do with the rumor that many of our guests had continued partying around town after the reception.

Joe left to take the shoes (and our thanks) back to the Wedding Shoppe. He also mentioned that the owners were interested in looking at some of our pictures for their web site… Flattering, but not high on our list of priorities today!

After the house was finally back in order, Oksana and I sat down to open our wedding gifts together. Wow. We didn’t expect much since we specifically told our guests not to bring wedding gifts, but after opening dozens of cards and presents we were shocked at everyone’s generosity. The only down side is that it looked like we wouldn’t get off easy on the thank you cards…

With plenty of time left in the day, Oksana and I did the only rational thing; we took a nap. Another luxury that had been sorely missed these past few weeks!

Late in the day, we awoke and checked our answering machine. Noah had been spending the day with Joe and Karl and they were going to have one last little get together for him before he left on the late, late flight. Having recuperated somewhat, Oksana and I felt we could see him one more time before he returned to Los Angeles and we showed up at Joe’s apartment around 7pm or so. Karl, Mike and Leah, and the Nells were also there and we spent a few hours in the company of our friends before heading back home for bed.

Oksana was lucky. She didn’t have to work in the morning.

Monday morning and I was right back at work. I couldn’t believe that I had to wait a whole week before being able to go on my honeymoon!

Oh, and after all that preparation, you’d think that the work would be done. Not a chance! Today Oksana and I spent my lunch break going downtown to submit our completed marriage license. While downtown we stopped at the university’s personnel department to pick up the various forms that I needed to fill out, too. Change of marital status, insurance, tax form changes, change of beneficiaries, etc. I had no idea there was so much paperwork involved in getting marriage!

By the time all that was sorted out, I had to go back to work, but Oksana decided to stop in at the social security office to inquire about her impending name change. Check this out: Before she can change her last name on her driver’s license, credit cards, bank accounts, etc., she needs to get a new social security card. But the social security office won’t issue a new card until they’ve seen proof that her INS paperwork has been submitted. Guess it’s going to take a bit longer than we expected to do the simple things – like combine our bank accounts.

At least one thing worked out quickly in our favor. Oksana went to the university’s records and registration office and picked up a tuition wavier form. Since I’m a full-time employee there, Oksana’s last semester of school would be free of charge!

Another long day at work, but at least I had a pleasant evening with Oksana and her family. Their trip to the States was almost at an end, and everyone (except me) had plane tickets to Anchorage the next morning. Oksana was going to accompany them as far as Anchorage, spend a couple days shopping, then make sure that they got on the right plane.

We spent the evening at the Hanger on the Wharf, with Oksana, once again, finishing her dinner last because of all the time she’d spent translating.

On Wednesday, Oksana and her family left for Anchorage… and left me alone to go through the motions at work for a couple more days. While they had fun shopping and sightseeing with Anya, I basically cleaned up my desk, sorted e-mails, and generally avoided starting a bigger project before leaving on my honeymoon.

At home in the evening I decided to call Bluebeard’s Beach Club in St. Thomas to confirm our reservations. This turned out to be a good idea because they had no idea who we were. The receptionist said that it wouldn’t be a problem, though, since the resort was essentially empty (what with it being hurricane season and all!) Still, I sent an e-mail to my grandparents and mentioned it to them, since they were the ones that owned the timeshare and arranged for the room in the first place.

Oksana’s parents got on their scheduled flight Friday morning and, later that same day, Oksana returned to Juneau on hers. After picking her up at the airport, we returned home to pack our bags for the looming honeymoon while Lonnie, our roommate, began moving his stuff out of our apartment. Late Friday night, we boarded our jet and began the long trip to the Caribbean.

Before the wedding planning began in earnest, I had suggested that we put off our honeymoon until December – after Oksana finished her finals. But after putting on a wedding like ours, we couldn’t get away fast enough. Honeymoons are important.

Our honeymoon behind us, it’s time for Oksana and I to rejoin the real world. For me, that means returning to work at the university. For Oksana it means catching up in her final three classes and resuming work as a student assistant at the computer center (after almost six weeks away!)

One big surprise upon returning home – Lonnie had yet to move out. Apparently there was some miscommunication as to our return date and he was expecting us the following week. It took just a couple more days for him to move out and wasn’t a real inconvenience, but we had been looking forward to returning to an apartment that would be, for the first time, completely ours.

Late September
Oksana has been working hard to craft us some wedding albums. While the many duplicate photos of the disposable cameras we ordered filled at least two of them, our photographer, Scott, took only slides. I set about scanning all 11 rolls of them into a digital format and then showed Oksana how to manipulate them in Photoshop before printing them out. In no time at all, she had created a very nice album of only the best pictures to take back home to Russia.

One of the most frustrating things about marrying a foreigner is the mountain of paperwork that needs to be filed. Oksana and I had already talked to the local INS official and gathered up the appropriate forms. I had asked, at the time, if there was a deadline for the forms and was told that they just needed to be done. For me, not having a deadline is a dangerous thing – I tend to put things off. That didn’t seem like a good idea when our government was involved, so I devoted one of my precious weekends to the INS.

And that was enough for me. While there was some information that I needed to supply (about my taxes, my parents, my location, etc.,) the vast majority of what they wanted was information that Oksana would know. I was under no delusions that the responsibility wasn’t mine, but Oksana was just so much more familiar with the INS that it seemed natural that she lead this particular little project. So, the following week, Oksana got to devote her time to government red tape.

I worked, instead, on getting precise INS-type photos taken. You wouldn’t believe the perfection they demand! Rather than trust a professional (I mean, pay… pay a professional) to do it, Oksana and I decided that we could pull it off with our digital camera, Photoshop, and After experimenting with backgrounds, the flash, and neck-craning positions, we finally had two digital photos that looked like they would work. I cropped them to the specifications, resized them to specifications, and then duplicated as many of them as I could fit on a 8x10 document. When Ofoto sent it back a few days later, perfectly printed on Kodak paper, all we needed was a pair of scissors!

October 4th, 2002
Oksana stopped by the INS office today and discovered that the rather evil lady we had been dealing with before had been replaced by someone new. Oksana was trying to find out how a newly married alien relative goes about getting her name changed. And hey, do you fill out all the INS paperwork with the new last name or the old? (Use the new name, by the way.) The new guy was very nice and supplied Oksana with all the information she needed. Unfortunately, she couldn’t change anything before dealing with the social security office first.

It was reassuring to discover that the INS does employ actual human beings at times. Or one, at any rate.

October 7th, 2002
We ordered thank you cards today from the same web site that sold us the wedding invitations. I have decided to use pictures from our wedding in an attempt to personalize each one as much as possible. I know it’ll be hard work, but like the invitations, I expect it to be something I’ll later be proud of.

October 11th, 2002
The blank thank you cards arrived in the mail today. Taking measurements from the paper stock, I toyed around in Photoshop and with my printer for quite awhile before settling on a template that I like. The task ahead seems daunting.

October 13th, 2002
Oksana received word a few days ago that her mother suffered a mini-stroke and was taken to the hospital. While the news scared her, after talking to her father and brother she decided that it probably wasn’t necessary for her to abandon school and work to return to Russia.

However, today Oksana received even worse news: While in the hospital, her mother had a major stroke and was subsequently paralyzed on one whole side of her body. After hearing this, we worked to get Oksana on the next available flight.

October 14th, 2002
Oksana booked her plane tickets today. She’ll leave on the 17th. They’re opened-ended tickets, but it appears that she’ll be gone for at least a month. Even if her mom regains the use of the left side of her body, which doesn’t seem likely right now, she’ll still need Oksana’s help in the short-term. Until she arrives, her father and sister-in-law are doing what they can.

With three days to wait, Oksana is justifiably fearful that she may not get home in time. Tensions are high and I decided to take a few days off from work to help Oksana get through this.

To add insult to injury, Oksana isn’t yet able to travel under her new status as an alien relative because we haven’t had time yet to complete the INS paperwork. Instead, she’s going tmao leave her wedding ring behind and travel under her student visa instead. We’re hoping we get lucky for her reentrance to the States because we’ve heard horror stories about how our friends, Thane and Yana, were separated for six months while they worked through the red tape after a situation like this.

Isn’t married life supposed to be happier than this?

October 17th, 2002
Oksana left for Russia today. And last night I received news that my aunt Betty had passed away. She had been fighting ovarian cancer and although it wasn’t completely unexpected, it hit hard. It’s going to be a long month without my wife.

October-November 2002
Oksana has been having a hard time of it in Russia. For most of her stay, she’s been with her mother in the hospital – and from what I hear; Russian hospitals are not good places to be. Nadia is recovering – slowly – and Oksana has been struggling to put into place a system by which her mother can be cared for after she leaves. It looks like the best plan is going to be to hire a physical therapist to stay with her for $8 a day. With her father there to help at night, it should be enough to keep her mom under close observation and, God willing, bring her along the long road to recovery.

As Thanksgiving approached, I received word that I’ll have to go on my yearly visit to Ketchikan alone – Oksana needs to extend her trip by three weeks to make sure everything goes well. I’m not terribly excited by the news, but I am at least happy to have a date on my calendar to look forward to.

I’ve also been taking Russian 101 at the university. Anatoli, rather than Jana, is teaching this semester and his loud, gruff instruction has been… interesting – and rather fun, I must admit! I still feel as a bit as though learning Russian is like free-climbing glass walls, but I do enjoy the discovery of the occasional Spanish-Russian or Russian-English cognate. And at least now I have a big enough vocabulary to ask for Oksana on the phone.

Eta Arla.
Oksana doma?

In the meantime, the burden of the thank you cards has fallen squarely on my shoulders. Somehow I could not find the will power to work on them after work each night, so I used the entirety of three weekends writing, selecting appropriate photos, printing, stamping, and mailing them.

For your wedding I recommend either one of the following options: Requesting that no gifts be given, or investing in robotic thank you card writers.

November 29th, 2002
Cutting my typical Thanksgiving vacation short by a day, I joyfully flew back to Juneau to reunite with my bride today! Getting to that moment was a far more difficult process than it should have been.

About a week before Oksana was scheduled to fly back to the States, Anya (in Anchorage) called to ask her what she was going to do about Mavial's cancellation of all flights until Christmas. Excuse me, what? It seems that the airlines didn’t have enough passengers for its weekly route and simply canceled all flights for a month.

Without notifying their customers!

Thanks to Anya, at least we had enough warning to do something about it. Oksana got on the phone and confirmed the bad news, then called up a competing airlines to seek alternatives. Vladivostok Air had just one flight leaving the next day, and it would go through Vladivostok, Korea, and Sea-Tac… did she want to buy a one-way ticket for $1100?

Oksana called me in Ketchikan and we decided that our only real option was to buy the ticket and have her speed-pack her bags to make the flight the next morning. Costly, yes, but I was scheduled to leave for Peru in a couple weeks and we couldn’t stand the thought of going another six weeks without seeing each other. We’re newlyweds for Pete’s sake!

Ironically, Oksana’s final flight was due to arrive in Juneau about 10 minutes before my own from Ketchikan. After over twenty-four hours of travel, including a mad dash through the Vladivostok airport to catch a plane with seats held just for her and her giant suitcase, Oksana landed in the Juneau airport. Once there she realized that I’d managed to fly standby on an earlier flight just to be there when she arrived.

For a time, happiness.

December 10th, 2002
After only 12 days together, it’s time for me to leave for a month-long Spanish class in Peru – without Oksana. Want to hear a depressing thought? Sometime in the second week of January, Oksana and I will have officially been apart more than together since our wedding five months before. I’ll have plenty more time to dwell on that sad fact in Peru.

January 12th, 2003
Today I returned from Peru with a resolve not to continue with Russian 102 this year. This semester, I want to have every possible evening available to spend with my wife. Happiness does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

Besides, after the first week in Peru where I kept trying to use Russian words, I promptly got back into my Spanish groove and proceed to push all the Russian rules and vocabulary right out of my head.

February 3rd, 2003
Today, after much work on Oksana’s part, we sent off a huge stack of INS paperwork, in folders, with sticky tabs, everything duplicated, itemized and correlated.

Every time Oksana packs my guilt trip bags about how much work I didn’t do on the INS forms, I get to remind her how much of a pain in the ass the thank you cards were.

February 28th, 2003
Today we received word that Oksana’s father passed away in a tragic accident.

March 1st, 2003
After much energy expended in trying to find a way to get Oksana home again to attend her father’s memorial and to be with her family, we have been forced to give up in despair.

I went so far as to call the central INS office in Nebraska (Of all places for the department of immigration, why Nebraska?) and grilled them about the Travel Authorization Document that we had submitted a month prior and was told curtly that only the Anchorage office could supply me with information about it. But I had already tried that route and learned that correspondence with the Anchorage office could only be achieved though the U.S. mail system or in person. Neither are viable alternatives when time is of the essence.

I asked them, hypothetically speaking, mind you, what would happen if my wife were to leave the country without a Travel Authorization Document? Simple. First, she wouldn’t be allowed back into the country. Second, they would immediately terminate processing of all of her paperwork. Great.

It turned out to be a moot point, anyway, because while I was on the phone with the INS, Oksana was busy calling all the airlines and no matter how she tried, she just couldn’t find the connections that would get her home in time for the funeral, anyway.

Match 11th, 2003
We received a large envelope in the mail today from the Anchorage INS office. Inside was a copy of all our paperwork and a hand-printed note that said simply: “Everything is OK. Please send $50 check for fingirprint [sp] fee.”

No word on the status of the Travel Authorization Document. Not that it would do any good at this point, anyway.

March 12th, 2003
We made a check out to the INS office for $50 and photocopied it before mailing it back to Anchorage today. I made sure to print “For fingirprints” on the memo line.

March 15th, 2003
Armed with a new Social Security Card, Oksana paid for a new driver’s license today. Now all the cops that stop her for reckless driving can snicker at her new last name.

March 27th, 2003
Seven months after getting married, Oksana and I finally opened up a joint checking account today. We would have done it sooner, but we had been waiting on the INS paperwork. Once we had received proof that it had been processed, Oksana took that information to the Social Security office to exchange for a new Social Security Card. Once that was processed, she was able to get her driver’s license changed. Finally, with a new driver’s license in hand, we were able to sign up for a bank account under the same last name.

Well, three bank accounts, actually. We opened a joint checking account for personal use, a joint checking account to manage the electronic billing of all our monthly expenses, and a joint savings account. For a short time there, we actually had seven accounts! (One old checking account each, Oksana’s old savings account, and a business checking account.) The person behind the counter obviously didn’t believe us when we told her that having all these accounts would actually help us keep track of our money.

Online bill payments and an Alaska Airlines Visa card are wonderful things.

April 1st, 2003
Oksana started her new job as accounting intern at the Mendenhall Auto Center today. No foolin’.

April 9th, 2003
On the way to work this morning I found another letter from the INS in our mailbox. It turns out that Oksana already had an appointment scheduled for her on the 23rd to have her fingerprints taken… in Ketchikan. Apparently, they don’t think it much of a hassle for an immigrant to travel over 200 miles by boat or plane for a 15-minute task.

Fortunately, the new guy at the INS office had told us earlier that we should expect a letter like this and that we should definitely ignore the location (Anchorage or Ketchikan). Instead, he asked us to bring the letter to him when we received it. That afternoon, on our lunch break, we did just that.

We walked in, showed the letter, and were finished with the entire fingerprinting process in less than five minutes. Visiting my mom in Ketchikan would have been nice, but spending $400 to get us there wouldn’t have!

While at the INS office, we also inquired about our tardy Travel Authorization Document. The officer told us that he was scheduled to make a call to Anchorage the next day and that he would ask about the hold up then. Good enough!

April 15th, 2003
Oksana received her new Social Security Card in the mail today. Coincidentally, she also received her first paycheck from Mendenhall Auto Center.

April 16th, 2003
Today Oksana received another letter from the INS ordering us to appear for our personal interview in mid-May. Perhaps the organization is finally getting Juneau into the picture now, because the section listing the address of the Anchorage office was covered up with a sticker for the Juneau office.

This is it, though. This is the scary interview that we’ve heard so much about. The one where the separate us and ask all sorts of embarrassing, personal questions before comparing our answers. And the list of things we need to bring was daunting: letters of employment, passports, completed INS forms, tax histories, rental agreements, “photos of our shared lives,” etc.

And, of course, we have a whole month to sweat it out.

May 12th, 2003
We stopped by the INS office today to confirm our May 15th personal interview. The pleasant, knowledgeable guy with whom we’d come to enjoy working told us that he didn’t know anything about it. For the personal interviews, a different person flies down from Anchorage. Let the panic begin.

May 14th, 2003
Returning home from work today, we found a message from Joy, or perhaps Joyce, from the Anchorage INS office on our answering machine. Joy/Joyce told us that she was working on our Travel Authorization Document and needed our “A number,” which confused us at first because we’re not that familiar with INS lingo. She did mention that it should be on a receipt that accompanied our returned paperwork. After digging that up and checking it against Oksana’s temporary green card, we learned that it was her “Alien Number” that the Anchorage office had misplaced.

Joy/Joyce left us a telephone number that, after multiple listens, we finally puzzled out, but in the next two days neither Oksana nor I were able to get a real, live person on the line. At least we knew we had the right number, though, because the answering machine identified itself as the INS office in Anchorage. We repeatedly left a message for Joy/Joyce and hoped it would find its way to her.

I guess it’s not surprising that no one ever answered the phone because, as we had discovered before, you can only communicate with the Anchorage INS office in person or via the U.S. mail.

May 15th, 2003
On Thursday, Oksana and I arranged a long lunch at each of our places of employment for our INS interview. This was it. The big deal. We had heard so many horror stories about the questions that they might ask – everything from anatomy to feminine hygiene was fair game. Not that we had anything to hide. In fact, I think we have very good communication in our relationship and can probably answer just about any personal question about each other. Without blushing, though? That’s another question entirely.

We arrived at the INS office 15 minutes early and waited for the official to finish with the married couple ahead of us. Oksana had a nice, three-ring binder with her that had all the important documents organized and tabbed. Our rental agreement, our tax filings, all the legal evidence of our shared lives together were in that folder. I, on the other hand, had the personal evidence. Two photo albums and a CD-ROM full of digital images, ready to be displayed on my laptop. Waiting, we weren’t exactly worried. Anxious, maybe, to have this behind us.

A couple minutes before we were actually scheduled to start, Mr. Official motioned us up to the counter. He cheerfully began to ask us questions – where can I find this form? Where is your tax form? Oksana was ready with it all. She was fingerprinted again and after precisely signing his name on each of a dozen documents with the help of a sharp bookmark’s edge, he neatly collated everything into the official Arlo/Oksana binder that he had brought from INS HQ.

At one point, he asked Oksana for her Visa. He cancelled it and wrote a note into her passport that she could re-enter the country up to one year from that day’s date -- She would need that until her Temporary Green Card arrived. (The Temp Green Card will last for two years, but we’ll have to remember to apply for a Permanent Green Card 90 days before it expires or they’ll deport my lovely wife!) We asked about the tardy Travel Authorization Document, to see if he could look into it when he got back to Anchorage, but he explained that by stamping her passport, she no longer needed. In fact, it was superceded by that act completely. The TAD was no longer useful.

We asked him if he wanted to look at our pictures (wanting to know without saying it if we were getting ready to go into seclusion for the personal questions). He explained that he was working his way through a stack of folders 2 feet high and if everyone came to their interview on time, he might just be able to cut his Juneau time down to a single day. He assured us of his confidence that our wedding pictures were top notch and then recounted the story of another couple who came in earlier in the day who belligerently asked, “Do you want to watch us have sex?!” I guess, you know, to prove that they really love each other.

By the time we left the INS office, our paperwork finished and presumably bound for their Nebraska headquarters, only 25 minutes had passed. We had dodged the “personal” portion of the interview completely and the only hitch in our whole bureaucratic odyssey was a missing Travel Authorization Document.

May 16th, 2003
Oksana’s Travel Authorization Document arrived in the mail today – exactly one day after it was rendered obsolete during our personal interview. I guess that $110 filing fee was a waste. It pisses me off, too, because it was the lack of this exact document that prevented Oksana from returning home when her father died. We thought about calling them on it, but then decided against making waves in the otherwise smooth process we’ve enjoyed so far.

July 1st, 2003
Oksana’s official Temporary Green Card arrived in the mail today. It’s pretty cool – very official looking and seemingly tamper resistant with all its holograms and covers-the-entire-back-side magnetic strip! Her name is printed “Kadachigova Midgett, Oksana,” which I’m not sure is right, but I think any reasonable official would overlook a first and middle name mix-up. I dare say that my wife is the only Oksana Kadachigova Midgett in the United States – very likely, in all the world (though there may be one on Mars.)

September 4th, 2003
Oksana was offered a full-time position at the Mendenhall Auto Center today. Originally the plan was to hire her as an intern (the only way they could hire her before her temporary green card arrived) and she would continue in that capacity until she took over the comptroller position. Also, she was only supposed to work 20 hours per week.

Well, after the first couple months she was already putting in around 30 hours per week and had quit her student job at the university. That worked fine for awhile, until they noticed that she was inching up towards 40 hours a week over the summer. Eventually they just decided that she was indispensable and committed to paying her for full-time work. Which was fine, but she wasn’t getting benefits for it.

So, today the considerate owners decided that she was officially full-time – not only that, they pushed her “full-time start date” back to the date of her original hiring. So now, upon her anniversary of employment, she’ll get all those groovy things that a one-year employee deserves. You know, benefits, vacation time, uh… cake. I don’t know. I don’t work in the private sector.

October 8th, 2003 to November 8th, 2003
Oksana traveled to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski and Irkutsk in Russia to visit her mom. One year after her stroke, Nadia is doing much better – she’s walking again and is able to do many things on her own. She still has little mobility in her left arm, but that should improve if she can be convinced to use it more often.

Nadia has been living with her sister-in-law in Irkutsk, Siberia for some time now. It’s been a situation that has worked out well for everyone involved, and it’s her help that had enabled Oksana’s mom to recover to the extent that she has. But Nadia didn’t want to spend the winter in Siberia, preferring to stay in warmer P-K instead. Oksana needed to fly to Irkutsk (with her brother) to sort things out.

They were able to convince Oksana’s aunt to spend a good portion of the winter away from home to be with Nadia. Nadia returned to P-K with Oksana and her brother, and her sister-in-law will fly down a few weeks later. She will care for her until April when, I suspect, they’ll go back to Irkutsk next summer. In the meantime, Nadia is staying with Oksana’s brother’s family.

December 11th, 2003
After much fear, uncertainty, and doubt, the university has decided to offer another trip to Cuba this year. I committed myself to going – unfortunately, again, without Oksana. So, just like last year, we’ll be separated for another month over the holidays. For the last time, I hope.

The End (Or, rather, The Beginning)
And that’s about it. There isn’t much left to write about with regards to our wedding. And actually, the last few items don’t really relate at all, but I hope that they help to bring closure on a few of the happenings earlier on. With the exception of the INS paperwork we’ll have to fill out for Oksana’s Permanent Green Card and U.S. Citizenship (if she chooses to get it), there isn’t much in the foreseeable future to add.

If you’re still interested our shared lives together, I’m sure that a story or two might find its way into my weblog.

It’s been… long. Thanks for reading!

After; Part II

My grandfather once told me that it doesn’t matter how well you plan things out, there will always be unexpected events to trip you up.

Of course, we were talking about finances, but I think that his lesson applies equally well to life in general.

Oksana and I have been looking forward to going on a vacation together since last December. Finances are really no longer a problem as we can save up vacation money fairly easily, but getting the time off from work is an entirely different matter. I have the university calendar year to plan around, while Oksana has to give consideration to her job at the Mendenhall Auto Center.

Fortunately, we knew far ahead of time what we wanted to do. There was a family reunion (on my father’s side) scheduled for late June in Daytona Beach, and we also wanted to visit my mom parents on the beach in N.C. We asked our respective bosses early and were lucky enough to find two weeks in June that we could both afford to be gone.

Even though we had such advance warning, Oksana and I made a mistake. Instead of booking our tickets as soon as we’d received permission from work, we procrastinated. We thought it would be okay since we still had more than six weeks to go V-day, but we underestimated the number of people who go on vacation in June. The flights weren’t full yet, but we lost our opportunity to purchase a “saver” ticket with our accumulated miles.

Further complicating matters, we needed to take a roundabout flight path. Alaska Airlines (where we have a mileage plan) only flies to a handful of cities on the East Coast, so in order to spend a week in both North Carolina and Florida, we decided to fly round-trip to Orlando and purchase another ticket to Norfolk, VA, on the side. We could have done all that by cashing in 40,000 miles and paying $144 each on airfare.

Instead, we ending up cashing in 73,000 miles, paid $175 to purchase 7,000 extra miles, and spent $250 each on the additional FL-to-VA tickets. Lesson learned.

As June approached, we hardly had any time to look forward to our vacation. I was very busy trying to complete as many projects as possible and had even gone so far as to reserve my entire Memorial Day weekend to work on another video club project. Oksana was gearing up to begin her CPA training with a huge set of training books and CDs she had purchased on eBay. With all that was going on around us, we couldn’t wait to leave it all behind to get in some nice, relaxing beach time.

And then, on Saturday, we received some very bad news. Oksana’s mom has had another stroke. A bad one.

Nadia had never fully recovered from the stroke in 2002 that had paralyzed her left side. After it had happened, Oksana spent seven weeks in Russia helping her to recover and trying to find a way in which she could be care for long term. Since then, been looked after by her husband, her brother’s family, a live-in nurse/physical therapist, and, quite generously, buy her sister-in-law. Because her sister-in-law lives with her own family in Irkutsk, Oksana’s family was able to work out a system where her mother and aunt would alternate living between Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski and Irkutsk, depending on the seasons.

And over the last year and a half, Nadia’s improvement has bordered on the miraculous. She has managed learn to talk again, has conquered the dizziness that used to occur whenever she sat up, has learned to walk again with the help of a cane, and even has limited use of her left arm. Since the first stroke, Oksana tells me that she’s had trouble keeping her emotions in check, but otherwise we’ve all been amazed at how well she had recovered.


As I understand it, there were no indications that another stoke was coming. Saturday afternoon (Sunday morning, Irkutsk time, I think) Nadia simply collapsed in the kitchen on her way to pick up a book. Her sister-in-law, a doctor, was right there and immediately set about doing whatever it is that doctors do for stroke victims. She called her daughter-in-law, another practicing doctor in the family that even specializes in stroke victims, and they had her in bed, medicated, and hooked to an I.V. as quickly as could be expected. Throughout all this, Nadia was non-responsive. They decided to call an ambulance.

It’s hard for me to remember at times, but Russian medicine isn’t the same as it is here in the States. The paramedics knew less about how to handle the situation than the member’s of Oksana’s family, and when they called it in to the nearest hospital, they confirmed that if she was brought in, the level of care she would get would actually go down. Faced with that information, they decided to let the ambulance go, keep her under close watch, and try to get her to a better hospital on Monday.

When they tried on Monday to get Oksana’s mom into the “good” hospital, they had to overcome a lot of resistance. Apparently, most Russian hospitals have a policy of not admitting second-time stroke victims. Fortunately, the two doctors had enough clout to get past the regulations, but when the doctor on duty realized that she’d been admitted, he hit the roof. By that time, though, she was already in intensive care, and they couldn’t very well release her.

The first we heard of this was when Oksana received a call from her brother on her cell phone. She was driving home from shopping and had to pull over because she knew right away that it wasn’t going to be good news. She was composed, though, stoic, when she came home. Ever since her mom had her first stroke, we’ve known that it could happen again. This didn’t blindside her as the news of her father’s death had.

Still, we both knew that that simple phone call had changed our summer plans. Oh, I kept hoping that somehow, someway maybe things could still work out. Maybe her mom would be okay or maybe Oksana could get to Russia and back in time to go to the beach. Deep down, though, I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

I put my video editing plans aside and let Oksana use the computer to look up flight information. Even I knew that the weekly flight from Anchorage to P-K is only on Fridays, so she set about finding alternate routes. Juneau-Seatlle-Korea-Vladivostok. Juneau-Seattle-New York-Moscow. Nothing was convenient and the short-notice prices were up to $3000 for a one-way ticket. Armed with a lot of indefinite information, Oksana called her brother back.

Andrey had arrived in Irkutsk and had spoken with the doctors. Nadia’s condition had remained unchanged and, furthermore, no visitors (not even family) were allowed into the ICU. He told Oksana that unless her condition changed, for better or worse, she should just wait until the Friday flight.

Oksana hung up and then tried to make reservations. But the Mavial offices, as well as any travel agents, were all closed for Memorial Day weekend. Russian airlines’ websites are not like what we’re now used to… Oksana’s only hope to make a reservation was to get someone on the phone. She called a friend in Anchorage, Anya, who just happened to know someone that works at the Mavial office. She promised to try to track her down.

With nothing to do but worry, Oksana and I decided that the only way to get through the weekend would be to try to distract ourselves. Luckily, we had just borrowed a new season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs to take our mind off things.


On Monday we found out that Mavial had cancelled the Friday flight to P-K due to low ticket sales – the next flight wouldn’t be until the following week. Oksana called her brother and asked his opinion on what she should do. Andrey told her that their mother was still in ICU and as long as she was there, the doctors wouldn’t allow anyone in to visit. His recommendation was to make reservations for next Mavial flight, but to be ready to buy one of the expensive, express tickets at a moment’s notice. If her condition changed, for better or worse, Oksana would need to be there as soon as possible.

Memorial Day weekend was eventually over and we went back to work. Oksana briefed her boss and we could do nothing save call Russia every so often for an update.

Early Wednesday morning, we awoke to the sound of a ringing phone. The news was bad – Nadia had stopped breathing on her own. She was still in ICU, but the doctors were giving the family a sad prognosis; In their opinion, she had two, maybe three days left. Andrey asked Oksana to fly to Russia as soon as possible – in all likelihood to say goodbye.

Wednesday morning, we both went back to work – if only because we had to. The very first thing, Oksana told her boss what happened and that, although she was sorry, she needed to leave for Russia on the first available flight. I’m sure it was apparent to him how frazzled her emotions were at that point, because when she asked to use some work time to contact a travel agent and to look for tickets online, he told her not to worry about it. And he meant it, too.

Her boss spent the next half-hour on the phone with an Alaska Airlines representative. When he was finished, he called Oksana back into his office and told her everything was taken care of. Oksana didn’t understand what he meant until he gave her some printouts. One round-trip ticket, Juneau to Moscow, leaving the next morning at 8am. He had cashed in his own frequent flyer miles, paid the taxes due on the tickets himself, and denied Oksana the chance to pay him back.

Good God, if only everyone had a boss like Steve Allwine.

To top it off, he gave Oksana the afternoon off to go pack. I, myself, asked for the afternoon off from my own job so that I could help get Oksana ready. We had only a half-day to shop, pack, and get her on a plane that was bound to fly around the world: Juneau to Seattle. Seattle to Amsterdam. Amsterdam to Moscow. From there, Oksana would have to navigate the four, separate airports in the metropolis, find a flight to Irkutsk in Siberia, and pay for it at the counter in cash. It was obvious that the trip would easily last more than 24 hour, easy.

This was an emergency trip, so Oksana didn’t need to pack all the American-type gifts that she normally takes with her on a trip to Russia. We were finished with our makeshift list (pack, find passport, leave engagement ring behind, purchase calling cards, print tickets… that kind of stuff) around 8pm and we went out to the Broiler for dinner. Our mood was somber, yet we still enjoyed what was to be our last evening together for some time.

The next morning, Oksana boarded her 8am flight and I went back to work. I received a call from her in Seattle a few hours later, but didn’t hear from her again until she had sorted things out in Moscow. It was slightly before 5am on Friday morning when I answered the telephone and I wasn’t exactly at the top of my mental game, but Oksana was at least able to let me know that she was okay and had reservations on a flight to Irkutsk in a few hours. After hanging up, I slept better knowing that she was okay.


I posted the “after-wedding” web log entry on Friday, because I know that there are a few people that use my ‘blog as a way of keeping up with Oksana and I. Undoubtedly, some of you didn’t even know that Oksana’s mom had had a stroke in the first place. It seemed that the best way to head off questions that wouldn’t have been pleasant to answer was to post a summery of the last year and a half.

At the time I wrote the introduction to that entry, I had planned to write another quick entry on Saturday to explain why Oksana had to depart for Russia in a hurry. When I finally started, it didn’t take long to realize that, in typical fashion, I was going to go on far longer than I had expected. The problem was that I found myself divided: Should I write a simple update or something more meaningful about my feelings towards this emotional crisis?

I couldn’t decide, so I just started writing.

Barely one page in (marked above, with an asterix), late Saturday night, I got a notification on my computer that I’d just received an e-mail from Oksana. I paused in my writing, opened up my Hotmail account, and read with sadness the first communication I’d had with my wife since she was in Moscow. Oksana’s mother, Nadia Kadachigova, had passed away just six hours before Oksana had arrived.

In her brief e-mail, Oksana gave me an account of what was happening and implied that she wouldn’t be able to call until after the funeral in P-K. I composed a sorrowful e-mail as quickly as possible, hoping that she might still receive it if she were still online. I needed to talk to someone, and with my wife out of reach, I decided to call my own mom.

A short while later, I thought it more important than ever to complete this ‘blog entry and post it online. Friends and family need to know, but I was in no condition to spread the news by telephone. I started writing again, but something had changed. I felt that I owed my mother-in-law something more… it felt like I should scrap the update and begin a eulogy.

I was torn. I felt as though, if I really spent my time on it, I could write a touchingly emotional piece – something I could look back on, years from now, and be proud of. It could take weeks, though, and many tormenting rewrites to adequately describe what I’m feeling... On the other hand, people who have read my previous ‘blog entry and have already lent me emotional and spiritual support were waiting for a promised update. Eventually, I decided to press on… but I only managed another page or so before my emotions got the better of me. I had to stop for the night.

It’s Sunday morning now and although the words don’t come easily, I’m beginning to realize how much writing is a sort of catharsis for me. The prose may not be good, but it’s good for me.


Throughout this weeklong ordeal, I’ve struggled with the fact that, after all our hard work and planning, Oksana and I will not be able to go on a vacation this year. I kept looking for ways in which Oksana could make it to Russia and back in time, could hold off going home until our vacation was over, or even ways I could cancel our vacation entirely – my attendance at my own family reunion included – so that we could save our annual leave and perhaps go later in the year. When I realized how bad the situation truly was, I mentally berated myself for being so selfish. What is my vacation inconvenience to what Oksana’s going through?

She’s only 23 and she just lost both of her parents in little more than a year’s time. Because she moved to the States, because she married me, she wasn’t even allowed to travel to her father’s funeral nor was she able to tell her mother goodbye. I want to scream to the heavens: It’s not right! This isn’t fair! THIS SHOULDN’T BE HAPPENING!

But it has happened. I’m 31 years old and up until the last few years, I’ve been remarkable lucky where the death of friends and family are concerned. Unlike many people I know, I still have all my grandparents, and I was fortunate enough to know almost all of my great-grandparents. Losing family is new to me and I still feel as though I’m the only one in the world who’s going through these emotions.

But that’s not true. Everyone goes through this at some time in his or her lives and it’s selfish of me to think that I’m unique in my pain. It’s perfectly normal, natural even, and has been going on for millions of years. I tell myself that, but it doesn’t help. Baring the hypothetical “hit-by-a-bus” scenario, I will someday go through the same thing Oksana is going through right now. God forbid.

For now, I’m trying to focus on the good things. Two years ago, Oksana and I had a wonderful wedding where I was able to meet and interact with her parents. Unlike most people, I was never able to effectively communicate with my in-laws, but during the happy three weeks they were visiting, that hardly seemed to matter. Looking back, so many things could have prevented them from attending our wedding, not the least of which their being denied a visa by the United States government.

I am so very grateful for the short, joyous time we had together. I will always lament that I was never able to tell them, in my own words, how much they and their daughter meant to me. But then… when I think back to our wedding, I realize that they couldn’t help but to have seen it for themselves.

This "stream-of-consciousness entry" is dedicated to the memory of my wife’s parents:

Boris Kadachigov 1937-2003
Nadezda Kadchigova 1939-2004

February - October 2005
Removal of conditions

You’d think that, 38 months after our wedding, we would be all through with the expenses. Not true, when you marry an alien.

Oksana has been keeping an eye on the calendar and, back in February, it was time for her to submit another INS form. Her temporary green card (i.e., her permission to work in the U.S.) was about to expire and she needed to apply for the permanent extension. We fired up the internet, sussed out the appropriate I-551 form, and started to compile the appropriate paperwork. We wrote a check for the form submission fee ($200!) and packaged it up in an envelope with 20 pages of supporting documents. It was mailed off to Anchorage on February 3rd ($4.30).

A couple months later, we received notification that our paperwork was in process – that was a good thing, because Oksana’s temporary green card would have expired in May.

In late August we received another letter from the Anchorage INS office informing us that her petition for a permanent green card (for the INS, permanent apparently means “ten years”) had been approved and that she only need to do a couple things to make it official.

Step One: Provide three passport-sized photos.
Step Two: Submit the photos. In person… at the Anchorage office.

In the past, we had come across conflicting messages about which Alaskan INS offices could perform which actions, so we were skeptical about the necessity of flying all the way to Anchorage just to sign something. Oksana stopped by the local office to ask if, contrary to the instructions, someone in Juneau could witness her signature. Unfortunately, the answer was no.

There was no deadline stated in the letter, so we decided to wait before booking an appointment online. In late September, Oksana and I both received e-mails about an Alaska Airlines web special. That morning, she was able to arrange to take two days off from work, booked the appointment, and purchased a round-trip ticket to Anchorage ($177.90).

Back at home, we decided, once again, to create the passport photos ourselves. The INS has a seven-page .pdf document that outlines, in excessive detail, the specifications for an acceptable photo – right down to the nature of the subject’s smile. While I studied the form, Oksana made herself pretty. We then set our digital camera on a tripod in the kitchen and sat her down on step-ladder. Five or six photos later, we had a picture with which she was happy.

I took it into Photoshop and cloned out the shadows on the wall, cropped it to their exacting standards, resized it so that we could easily fit three copies on a single, 4” x 6” print, and sent Oksana off to Fred Meyer to make copies. ($.68) She came home, cut them out, and attached them to the paperwork as required.

I used to worry about submitting my own photography for something as official as an INS photo, but I no longer sweat it. In house, I can afford much more attention to detail to things like lighting (not to mention smile mechanics) than your average passport photographer. And now that we can easily submit digital photos for true photographic print processing, there’s really nothing to separate out the “home jobs” from the “pros.”

Oksana left on September 29th, a Thursday, and returned to Juneau on Saturday. Besides the cost, there was no real burden in her trip to Anchorage. She stayed with Anya, who also helped shuttle her around, and they were joined for a night or two on the town with Lena and Ala – all Russian friends she knew, originally, from Juneau.

The trip to the INS was painless, too. She stopped in after lunch, mistakenly neglected to “take a number” because she assumed that her on-line scheduled appointment overruled such necessity, but then, a few minutes after her scheduled time, politely asked what to do. Paperwork here, photos there, inked-up right index finger here, sign in the box, thank you for stopping by. Although they confiscated her temporary card, they put a stamp in her passport that would allow her to travel outside the country and let anyone official know that her new card was in process.

And that was it; the whole trip for a 20 minute encounter.

At least it was productive. Oksana returned on Saturday, October 1st, and we received her permanent (well, 10-year) green card in an extremely, amazingly, astoundingly short 19 days later.

One other bit of good news we learned as a result of this trip: Oksana will be eligible for citizenship in May 2006! We had heard that it would be another 2 or 3 years after the permanent green card was awarded before she could take the big test, but I guess that’s only if she had gotten a divorce. If you actually stay married (i.e., don’t cheat the system), it’s only another year.

So, it looks like Oksana might be a full-fledged United States citizen next summer. Time to start studying for that test, sweetie! (Hint: Slavery was the cause of the civil war.)