Monday, May 31, 2010

Obon Festival - unique family adventure

Looking for something different for a family outing?

From my friend, Naomi, who has helped many, many teens to grow into fine adults has let me know about the ancient Buddhist Obon festivals to honor and remember one's ancestors that includes joyous folk dancing, religious observances and traditional Japanese foods. Apparently this festival is the most authentic cultural event remaining in Japanese America.

Festivals occur at different times at various communities around the world. Seems like a really fun street party with colorful dancers and lots to see the learn about.

Here is the 2010 calendar of Obon events in the Southland. Here is the link to a big West Los Angeles Obon Festival.

Anyone else been to one of these festivals? Share your experiences.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How to have a fabulous wedding on a shoestring

Do you know what I think is the most financially scary image? A woman with a copy of “Brides” magazine in her hands. It means that this person has entered into a land of overpriced, over hyped, unnecessary desires that promise the perfect day at the possible price of destroying the very union the event is celebrating.

In other words, spending a fortune on a wedding can be dangerous to your marriage.

I’ve seen brides-to-be who are marrying a young man who only has an entry level job INSIST on walking down the aisle in a $1000 dress. The same girl who will need to clip coupons to buy a can of soup will blithely create a wedding day that includes a horse drawn carriage, a sit down dinner for 200 and monogrammed sugar cubes.

There is something about the idea of getting hitched that sends the female population into a veritable vortex of insanity. The first sign is the 400 page bridal magazine clutched firmly to her breast.

The point of no return is the wedding dress. Heed my words here. The price of a wedding will be set by the price of the wedding dress. You simply can not have a small casual justice-of-the-peace ceremony in a $2000 frock. If you have maxed your credit card for an outfit you are only going to wear once…then by golly, you WILL wear it in an appropriate setting with enough people to admire your getup to make it worthwhile and an expensive photographer to capture it all for posterity. This is just a plain truth that I have never seen violated.

Unfortunately, the price of this overindulgence in an attempt to recreate the fairy tale atmosphere seen on the pages of super expensive fashion magazine advertisements and multimillion dollar movie scenes can be a financial burden that a new marriage simply can not endure. Might this have something to do with the high percentage of first marriages that end in divorce?

I am not trying to tell you to have a small, ugly, boring wedding. In fact, I want to tell you that you should have the most creative and loving celebration that you and your fiancé can put together. BUT, it should be done on a shoestring.

Life insists that you be creative. Life insists that you be capable of figuring out how to have the best time on limited resources. If you don’t learn to do this, then your ship will sink from the weight of unnecessary cargo.

If you and your husband-to-be can not figure out how to throw a great party without going into massive debt or blowing your savings or expecting daddy to pay for it… then how in the world do you think you will maneuver your way through the financial landmines of today’s world?

I just returned from a wedding that perfectly accomplished what I am trying to tell you here. There were hundreds of people at this event. The overall cost of the function was a tiny fraction of what most people pay for even a small get-together. How did this couple pull off this miracle?

They invited the world and then got everyone to help them create this special event.

I first heard about this wedding in an article I read in my local newspaper. In the article, the soon to be bride and groom invited EVERYONE to their wedding. Yes, you read correctly. Anyone who heard about the wedding was invited. People were to bring their own picnic and blankets. The wedding couple would provide music, cake and beverages.

Of course, I had to attend… if only to see how they pulled this off.

The ceremony and reception all took place in what had been an overgrown piece of land just off a side road that has been transformed into a park-like setting. The groom had taken it upon himself over a year ago to change this wasteland into something lovely for the community. He started clearing the land, cutting back overgrown trees, and making stone sculptures. During the holidays he theme decorated – pumpkins for Halloween, hearts for Valentine’s Day, and Santa hats for Christmas. He even proposed to his wife with a big sign he placed in the park.

So, of course, the wedding was in the park. His friends donated their specialties – a band, singers, videographer, a bagpipe player, a huge wedding cake, blankets for the ground, popups for shade, flowers and who knows what else.

Oh what a celebration! Oh what happiness. Oh what a great marriage this is going to be.

I’m pretty sure that there were some things that had to be paid for, but at the end of the day, there was a loving and lively party that left everyone happy but not broke. Now there is a marriage that I bet will last.

It is my wish for you, my dear readers, that your matrimonial launching will be an adventure that gives you and your spouse a chance to learn the joy of creating together, in financial sanity, one moment after another that brings happiness not only to yourselves but to those around you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jet Propulsion Lab open house - May 15 & 16, 2010

For those of you interested in space, rockets and the like, the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, CA is having an open house this weekend.

Here is an opportunity to go through the guarded gates and learn a thing or two about what goes on at JPL. A fabulous free family field trip, especially for anyone who has a child interested in this field.

If you are reading this post and the open house date has passed, do not despair. JPL opens their doors to the public at least once a year, so you can catch the next one.

There is also what appears to be a really cool virtual tour of the Jet Propulsion Lab. I say "appears to be" because I just could not get it to load on my computer. Perhaps you will have better luck.