A truly Texas wedding

I’ve posted briefly about my beautiful friend Courtney’s pre-wedding festivities, but I’d really be doing a disservice by not gushing about the big day itself, as it was the epitome of a truly Texas wedding*.

*To all my non-Texans, let me explain that by a “Texas Wedding” I do not mean that the aisles were filled with Southern ladies with big hair or that men were shooting pistols in the air when the bride and groom said “I do.” She didn’t ride a horse down the aisle or have a Dallas Cowboys themed wedding cake. When I say Texas wedding, I mean it highlighted all the things I love about being from Texas: a picturesque countryside, warm weather, greasy grub, and pride in your family’s roots and rituals. 

From the minute Courtney and David got engaged, Courtney knew the only place she could see herself getting married was in her parents’ backyard. They live on a couple acres of rolling green prairie a few miles outside of our hometown of Denton. I squealed when Courtney told me. In Denton, there are few places prettier than Courtney’s house, and no place more fitting for the strawberry blonde tomboy-turned-tender to tie the knot.

The day she and David became betrothed was indubitably perfect. The breeze was strong enough that it cooled the air and kept mosquitos at bay, but not so strong that it blew our carefully crafted coifs off kilter. A string quartet played traditional wedding hymns as she descended the aisle, and two matching flower girls led the way, leaving silky white rose petals in their path. Truthfully, the ceremony was so perfectly put together, it felt almost like I had been cast in a David’s Bridal commercial. How could a ceremony really be that serene?

Photo by Kelly Kate Photography

As is customary, a reception followed. Courtney’s was beneath a tent, its ceiling festively adorned with lights. The sun set behind them as they shared their first dance, and then guests celebrated with frozen margaritas, beer and barbecue. When it came time to dance, the groomsmen loosened their ties while the the bridesmaids traded their heels for sparkly Tom’s gifted to us by the bride. At the end of the night the bride and groom boarded a limo and rode together to their new home.

Photo by Kelly Kate Photography

On paper, the wedding was very traditional, and I think that’s why I loved it so. Texans are big on tradition and keeping things at a certain status quo, which usually jerks my chain, but not today.

When I got married, there were particular elements I knew I wanted or didn’t want based on what was considered “customary” wedding fair. I made a stink about not wanting a lingerie shower and opted to forgo a bouquet toss in favor of more dance time. I knew I wanted to walk myself down the aisle and I banned country music from being played at my reception. I prided myself on being what I thought was a quirky, outside-the-box, not your average-old-everyday-bride.

But Courtney and David’s wedding made me see “traditional” doesn’t always equal cliche. Their wedding felt truly genuine. Though following old traditions can sometimes feel tired or trite, there’s a place for things that have been handed down. There’s value in reliving the same customs as your mother, grandmother, and so on. It’s not about copying what’s been done before or following a pre-determined path of what’s expected or appropriate. Traditions become traditions for a reason; they can pay tribute while being personal and be inventive while following suit. Sure, cake cuttings and champagne toasts have been done before, but who really wants to toast with fresca and cut into wedding casserole anyway?

The bride with Leah and me…a tight-knit trio of gal pals for 10 years.

Cheers to Courtney and David!

The Last Ditch Effort

One billion is a big number. If you wanted to pay someone a dollar each second, it would take almost 32 years before they would see a billion. If you traveled one billion inches from the point at which you are standing, you’d be half way across the globe. And if you traveled back a billion minutes in time, you’d land smack dab in the middle of the Roman Empire. So imagine how big $5 billion must look like and how losing that much money doesn’t come easy.

Thanks to the state legislature and business-oriented governor, Texas is about to discover what it means to lose $5 billion dollars to its public education system. It’s hard enough to comprehend the gargantuan size of that number in the first place, much less to determine how each of those dollars directly affects classroom learning, but we are about to find out.

If you have no experience with public education it’s easy to scoff at the outraged rally cries of teachers over losing these funds in the presence of a looming budget deficit. I used to be one of them. Who are these people who work seven months of the year and earn nearly twice what I make a reporter?  Who are they to complain of poor working conditions and lack of resources? How hard could it be to teach a bunch of kids? KIDS!? But now that I find myself waist deep in the mud with the very people I once belittled, I’m singing a different tune. Being a Texas teacher in this decade is hard.

We compete with facebook and text messaging for our student’s attention and are forced to keep wandering minds engaged in rigidly defined material, to which they can’t relate but must master, in order to advance to the next grade. I don’t deny that the system is broken, but I do challenge the idea that cutting a substantial portion of funding is the way to fix it. There is certainly an element of practically involved in addressing debt and the budget, but why at such a huge cost to education?

On March 12, the family and I went to the Capitol to ask these same questions of the legislatures who seem intent on cutting the budget by any means possible–even at the expense of our future generations. We weren’t the only ones there.

I don’t fool myself into believing that redundancies, inefficiencies and unnecessary expenditures are non-existent in school districts across the state, or that we couldn’t all come together and agree to pinch a few pennies here and there to benefit the greater good. But I do contest the idea that there is $5 billion worth of excess in public education. And I know that students will be the ones to ultimately suffer.

Yesterday Heath’s district elected to cut costs by eliminating 11 percent of their employees from the payroll. More than 200 people lost their jobs and Heath was one of them. But his first emotion wasn’t anger, it was sadness over the service he could no longer provide to his low-income, special needs students.

You don’t have to agree with the sentiments expressed here, or with the idea that education is a right of the people. But you should take a moment to appreciate the teacher that taught you to read this.