Not Wedding Wednesdays: Planners and talented friends

A couple weeks ago Sean and I met with Carmen, a potential wedding planner and day-of coordinator. We’ve been able to handle planning ourselves thus far, but from the beginning knew we’d likely need a day-of coordinator. There are a lot of organized and on-task people in my family — several family members are experts when it comes to parties — but they’re in the wedding party. I can’t expect my mom to coordinate the set-up at the reception venue if she’s taking photos with the rest of the wedding party.

Enter Carmen, referred last year by Wendy. We met at Carmen’s home in Alhambra. Not only was she organized and informative, she was also a great hostess. She offered us drinks and delicious homemade zucchini bread. I passed on the coffee, but had to try the zucchini bread. I love zucchini anything.

We caught Carmen up our plans, progress thus far, and what we’d need help with going forward. She assured us that we were on task for our timeline. It felt good to know that we weren’t behind, especially as I compare myself to bloggers or brides posting on the Weddingbee boards. I also like that Carmen speaks Spanish, is comfortable MC’ing and didn’t judge us for having a big guest list like other vendors. She’s coordinated 400 people Mexican weddings, this should be easier.

The only thing Carmen admonished us about was the invitations. We’ve just ordered them. Yeah, we know we’re cutting it close but it should be okay since we sent out save-the-date magnets in February. About those…

The minimalist characters were created by our friend Dennis de Groot, a talented illustrator/graphic designer. His recent work features minimalist renderings of pop culture icons like Donatello of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson of The Roots. Fifty illustrations have been included in his book Bare Essentials (2011). ‘Essentials’ is currently on display at Battalion, Lijnbaansgracht 206 in Amsterdam. Sean worked on the layout for the magnets using Dennis’ illustration.

Sean’s friend and former co-worker, Noma, agreed to design our invites last fall. A couple weeks ago, she sent us ten (!) different options — she said she got a little carried away. The various invitations differed in printing costs and how they incorporated our colors and other ideas. Although we don’t have a particular theme, we wanted the invitations to reflect the bicoastal and long distance origins of our relationship. We sent her these cards from Etsy for some inspiration: a tale of two cities and you and me city skyline. Dennis got married to his girlfriend, Sherisa, in 2010; their invitation was an inspiration as well.

Noma did an amazing job. We loved all of her designs, but picked two that would fit our budget and be less work to assemble. The invitation above was one of our favorites, but not the one we’re gong with. Last week, Noma priced printing options for everything including the envelopes and designed the reply cards. On Monday she put in the order. We should have invitations soon!

Sean and I haven’t been trying to make our wedding aesthetics “us” since that’ll be taken care of based on the fact that we’ll be the ones at the altar. How much more “us” can it be? I understand reflecting taste, personality and relationship history in weddings, but it seems like a lot of extra work. The invites and save the dates, however, were areas where wee knew we could express our personalities and relationship without trying too hard. I’m grateful we have friends like Noma and Dennis who are willing to use their time and talent to help us achieve that goal.


Did not finish


This isn’t about running*. This is about my education and career path.

I’m leaving my doctorate program.

I won’t complete the proposal process and the rest of the dissertation. I won’t walk another stage at graduation and get hooded. I won’t earn a doctorate in education. And no one will be calling me Dr. Mosqueda for the novelty of it before I tell them to stop because it sounds ridiculous.

This wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve been thinking it over for the past five months. I cried a few times and stayed up too late considering the pros and cons. I’ve done both simultaneously.

  • Pro: I can go out and find a full-time job and get started on that career thing.
  • Con: The job market sucks right now and higher education is definitely not recession proof.
  • Pro: I already have a good chunk of the proposal written. I just need to write an introduction and flush out chapters 2 and 3, literature review and methodology/theoretical framework, respectively.
  • Con: Once I propose and advance to candidacy, I still have to recruit students, interview participants, transcribe interviews, analyze the data, and write up my findings. I like interviews and analysis, but I hate transcribing. Paying someone to do it is not cheap.

And so on.

My decision didn’t come down to a rational and orderly list. I went with my gut (funny how that makes itself known when running too) and decided that leaving was my best option.

The PhD will be a DNF.


I cried as I composed the email to my advisor, La Jefa, letting her know my decision. Email was my only option as I couldn’t schedule a meeting with her at the time. La Jefa is a busy woman. Maybe it’s best, because I would’ve come out of her office with puffy eyes and a red nose.

La Jefa has been supportive and encouraging as I floundered in the past few years. Although she knew I wasn’t interested in a research career, she offered me a job on her research team. That was a huge plus as the position included fee remission and grad student health insurance.

She saw some potential in me when she took me on as a student eight years ago. I didn’t live up to that potential. I hate that.


We're facing more fee hikes this year. The CA budget sucks.

I don’t regret sticking around for so long. If I would have left when I first considered it in 2006, I would have never had the chance to make some great friends, serve in student leadership positions on campus, travel across the state advocating for better access and affordability with the UC Student Association, and do some important research with talented scholars. I also would have had a much a shorter stint at [Program]. Since I’ve been there six years, it’s been enough time to see a few cohorts go through the program, excel in their science courses, try research, and become young scientists. Basically, I wouldn’t have seen firsthand that [Program] really works.

I almost forgot I owned these books

If I would have left in 2009, the second time I considered it due to financial issues, I would have never had the chance to be part of a great research team. I got to present at conferences in Chicago and Toronto, went to Michigan a few times to hold focus groups, and learned a lot more about conducting a qualitative research study. I even got a publication in a top journal out of it (co-authored, of course). If I ever do want to finish my dissertation, I know my experience on this research team will be quite useful.


2011 GSE&IS Graduation

It’s commencement weekend. I saw photos on FB of friends getting hooded, waiting in line for the procession to begin, and celebrating their accomplishments with friends, family and their kids (in some cases). While I’m very happy for them, I felt a bit sad and envious. I should have been there. June 2012 was my degree expected term.

Even in the tough times, I thought I’d finish de panzazo (just barely, or doing the minimum to pass). I imagined myself writing that phrase in my dissertation acknowledgements or dedication. I’d get the degree, but I wouldn’t be a budding rockstar in the education research world like some of my friends. That wouldn’t matter to my family. They would still come out in full force like they did for my BA graduation. They’d be proud, even though I finished dead last.

There will be other opportunities to make them proud. I hope.

*I considering drawing out the obvious parallels between distance running and pursuing a doctorate, but I’m not up for metaphors and similes. While I’ve faltered in graduate school, I’ve managed to go from zero exercise to eking out a sub-4 marathon. Personally, the metaphor won’t work. I’m proud of my running accomplishments. Academics? Not so much.


Class of 2002

Grad collage 2

This happened ten years ago. Exactly. Well, some of the photos are from Sunday June 17th, but you get to the point.

I didn’t write much about my thoughts on being the first in my family to graduate, being one of the very few Chicanas with a BA, etc. At that time I wasn’t so keyed in to the issues first generation and underrepresented minority students face in higher education.

Instead, I wrote more about Mexico’s performance in the World Cup and anxieties about starting a new job. I wrote a couple of recaps of the graduation ceremonies. They jogged my memory a bit and it’s fun to see how things have and have not changed.

Grad collage 1

From June 18, 2002, any updates are bracketed:

The apartment is full of flowers thanks to graduations. [My roommate Vane graduated too. She then moved back to the Bay Area.]

Mom has to exit the Durango through the passenger side, because when Dad crashed into a pole on Saturday at UCLA the dent made it impossible to open the driver’s side door more than a few inches. [I totally forgot this happened.]

I didn’t cry when I said my 1 minute impromptu speech at the Chávez Center [Chicana/o Studies] graduation. I was the exception among all the chillonas y chillones [crybabies]. [I was really proud about this. Papá Chepe gave me a 10 for my short speech because I didn’t cry.]

Isa and I agreed that we were annoyed with all the people thanking significant others at the graduation. [Our SOs were out of town/the country.]

I got some nice gifts and money. Lori did too. Tía Luisa has great taste. [My sister graduated from high school a few days before. We had a joint graduation party.]

Mando bought me a heart shaped balloon and flowers for graduation. If I didn’t know any better I’d wonder. [I wonder what happened to Mando. Off to FB.]

Valerie drew me in my cap and gown. She rocks. [I still have kindergarten Valerie’s art on my wall, but it’s faded.]

Hopefully this weekend’s graduates remember more about their commencement weekend than I did. Congratulations, class of 2012.

Cultura, Familia

Pocho studies


Thanks to Daily Chicana’s recent post on how two Chicanas in the same family can be very different, I’ve become really interested in why my younger siblings, Lori and Adrian, are a lot less fluent in Spanish than Danny and me. I’ve seen this in other families and wonder if my family is the norm, exception, or somewhere in between.

A little about my family:

My parents both immigrated as children and completed all of their school in the US. They’re fluent in both English and Spanish as are most of their siblings. I grew up speaking Spanish almost exclusively with both sets of grandparents although they understand and speak a little. All of my first cousins are fluent in English.

In our home, my family spoke English and Spanish but it was hardly equal. I’d say it was 80/20 with a lot of code-switching and Spanglish. Now that Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni live with my parents full time, it’s less lopsided. However, our home is still English dominant.

With the exception of my grandparents, we didn’t watch much Spanish TV in our home. My mom wasn’t a novelera, but as we got older she did get in to a few series. My first novela experience was Rosa Salvaje. I started watching when I stayed at Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni’s house in Zacatecas for a few weeks one summer.

While we didn’t watch much Univision or Telemundo, we attended church services primarily in Spanish. Danny and I sang with the kids’ Spanish choir and were involved in other cultural activities like ballet folkórico. We spoke Spanish at choir practice, but mainly spoke English at dance practice and with our friends there.

Glory days

As for the four kids, we’re all pochos (in the language sense) but to a different degree. I’m bilingual and biliterate, but know I’m not as strong as my friends who grew up speaking Spanish almost exclusively at home. I also get super self conscious when I spend time with my cousins in Mexico. I fear they’ll laugh when I trip over words. They don’t, they’re all very kind and some have actually complimented me on my Spanish. I studied Spanish grammar and literature in high school and minored in Spanish in college. As an adult, I’ve spent a lot more time visiting family in Mexico. My siblings haven’t been to Guanajuato or Zacatecas since they were kids. I also listen to a lot of music from Mexico and South America.

Danny was more fluent and confident in Spanish until we got to high school and I started taking Spanish classes. The least fluent are the younger two. Lori and Adrian speak and understand Spanish, but it’s what many would call “pocho” (literally incomplete, partially formed; colloquially it refers to US-born Mexican kids with less than perfect Spanish skills).


I’m not 100% sure why, but I bet Danny and I are part of the reason. With Danny and I speaking English most of the time, Lori and Adrian heard a lot less Spanish at home. When Danny and I were younger, we heard our parents speak both languages and spent more time at my grandparents’ home.

I’ve seen this with my cousins too. The elder children are fluent/almost fluent while the younger ones barely speak — or don’t want to speak — Spanish.

Adrian and Lori

I was curious about this last week and asked friends on Twitter and FB. Some people related to my experience while others said all their siblings were equally fluent. Some had confounding factors. Like me, they studied their heritage language or spent time studying abroad during college. Some had families where elder children were born in the native country while the younger ones were born here. It was interesting to read the variety of experiences as well as the thoughts of parents with young children who are trying to raise their children bilingual (or trilingual in one case). It made me think more about raising a bilingual child when my partner is not a Spanish speaker.

It’s fascinating to me how the children in one family — only 7 years apart from eldest to youngest — could be so different in language acquisition.

Boda, Familia

100 days and 300+ guests

When Sean and I checked in at the engaged couples retreat last month, the volunteers told us about the optional scavenger hunt in our notebooks. The scavenger hunt — more like people bingo — was a 3×4 grid with descriptions in each square. These included “went to the movies in the past week”, “is having a live band at their wedding,” and “is having a large wedding (more than 200 guests).” If you chose to participate, you could ask another couple to fill in a square. It was a nice ice breaker.

Ureño Saldivar grandkids, 1983

Although we could fill out most of the squares, Sean and I filled out the big wedding option when it was open. While two hundred guests is well over the average guest list — 152 according to the 2011 American Wedding Study — it’s not much more than my family only list. I could have a bigger wedding than average just including my family (with no small children).

Cousins, 1984

Of course, numbers came up. One of us would sheepishly mumble 300, less than the actual total. The other couple would look scared for us and then explain that they were ruthless with cutting the guest list. I felt judged in a way, as if they thought we were going crazy inviting anyone and everyone we had met since kindergarten and friends of our parents we’d never met. It’s not the first time I felt like I needed to explain myself. I’ve heard similar reaction from wedding vendors.

Lots of aunts and uncles

All I need are three simple words: Mexican Catholic family.

More specifically, a close-knit Mexican Catholic family concentrated primarily in Southern California.

Familia Ureño Saldivar

My mom and dad are both one of eight kids. Thus I have a bunch of aunts and uncles and even more cousins. I’m one of the younger kids in my generation. Many of my cousins are married and have their own families. The bisnieto (great grandchildren) generation ranges in age from newborn to mid-20s.

Just a few of my cousins

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my aunts, uncles and cousins. Now that we’re adults, I still spend a lot of time with my cousins. Rather than play hide and go seek, we go out to baseball games or have game nights. I’ve never dreaded seeing my family at holidays. I don’t get that trope in holiday films. Christmas and Thanksgiving are just like other gatherings throughout the year except with a Santa Claus visit, turkey, and tamales.

Cousin group shot

After adding in my friends, friends of the family, Sean’s family, Sean’s friends (not too much overlap among friend groups due to our bicoastal relationship) the total on our guest list was well over 300. Yeah, even we were surprised by the number.

Sure, we could have gone smaller. We could have chosen a location in New York, and greatly decreased my family’s presence. We could include only mutual friends and family members we’ve both met. We could go to a courthouse with our immediate families. We don’t like any of these options.

We’re going big.

Note: Today marks 100 days until our wedding. Check out Sean’s current concern on his blog. It’s not about the guest list, but it does involve our guests.