Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Honeymooners

Now that Vivian and I have tied the knot, it's time for our getaway. We flew out on the Sunday after our wedding to spend a long, romantic week together in New England, exploring the countryside in Maine for the sole reason that we'd never been to that part of the country before.

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On Monday, We flew into Manchester and drove up to Mount Desert Island, home of Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, and our home for the honeymoon, on Monday. It was about a five hour drive, so we got to enjoy the New England scenery on the way, which included loads of trees, Dunkin Donuts, and a pretty city called Belfast. Our home for the week was the Lighthouse Inn, a lovely bed and breakfast in Seal Harbor. It was a lovely little place far away from the crowds of tourists in Bar Harbor. By the way, as soon as we arrived in town, Vivian and I had bisque. It was very good, to say the least.

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On Tuesday, Vivian got her lighthouse fix by visiting the Bass Harbor lighthouse. We weren't allowed to go inside, but Vivian was able to get right up next to the beacon and give it a good hug. It wasn't easy getting a picture of the structure without a boat, either. We had to clamber out on some rocks before you could see it standing proudly on the side of the cliff. We had lunch at a "lobster pound" in Trenton, one of those little eateries where they let you pick out a live lobster that they'll cook for you in their outdoor ovens. It the first time Vivian and I had eaten a whole lobster before, and it was quite the experience, particularly when Vivian cracked it open and got to see its insides, colorful guts and all.

That afternoon, Vivian and I climbed to the top of Bubble Rock, enjoying some of the gorgeous scenery, fresh mountain air, and ample opportunities to roll boulders down the hill onto passing tourists' cars. Back in town, we had the best clam chowder ever, and then enjoyed seeing the local comedy group Improv Arcadia perform while having blueberry soda and a blueberry martini. Blueberries are apparently the thing up in Maine.

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On Wednesday, Vivian and I took a trip down to Sand Beach so we could get in some swimming. It was the first time Vivian had seen the Atlantic Ocean before, and it was a brisk 55 degrees. We still enjoyed the water and throwing seaweed at each other, but wound up getting some pretty bad sunburn. Afterward, we took a trip up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in Maine and anywhere else along the Atlantic Coast. You could see all of Bar Harbor from up there, though it was very windy and too cold to stay for long without a hoodie.

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On Thursday, the sunshine made way for some fog that rolled in around noon. We stopped by Jordan's Pond to have popovers at the restaurant, and then went outside to pick some wild blueberries growing in the gardens. Blueberries seem to be very popular in Maine, where you can get blueberry pie, blueberry soap, blueberry tea, blueberry wine, and just about anything you can imagine.

Later on, we stopped by the Thunder Hole at high tide. It's a crevice in the rocks where the waves crashing can shoot up hundreds of feet in the air. They were pretty calm this afternoon, however, so we didn't stay long. We had scheduled a sunset cruise that was unfortunately canceled due to the weather, so instead we had a "lobster feast" at a local church and then finished off the evening playing miniature golf.

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Vivian and I had signed up to go on a nature cruise on Friday. There was some pretty heavy fog, but the cruise was apparently still on. We got to see a few homes of the rich and famous from the turn of the century, and also a bald eagle before the captain decided that the fog was just too thick and turned back. We got our money back, fortunately. We had a late lunch at the Thurston lobster pound, feasting on steamed clams and crab cakes. Back in Bar Harbor, we got to do a little dancing, a long-standing Friday-night tradition for the two of us. A local guy was doing salsa lessons, so we took a lesson and then got to do a few swing moves for the crowd of five couples that joined us at Carmen Veranda that night.

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The next morning, Vivian and I got up early to watch the sun rise on the top of Cadillac Mountain. This happened around 5:12 in the morning, and we were among the first in the country to see the sunrise. It was a beautiful sight. There was plenty of thick fog down below that scared away many of the would-be tourists, but from the top of the mountain it gave one the impression of standing on top of the sky.

We drove back down to Manchester afterward, stopping by a Dunkin Donuts to grab a bite to eat in Augusta. We don't have any of these things in Nebraska, but they were all over the place in New England. It was nice to stop at one as our last meal in Maine before heading home to corn country.

You can see all of our honeymoon pictures here.

Our honeymoon video

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tying the knot

Matt and Vivian Johnson

July 19, 2008

The light of my life, the woman of my dreams, Vivian Marie Taber, you have made me the happiest man on earth today. My lovely fiancée walked down the aisle with her father, and together we walked back down as husband and wife. It's difficult to write a blog entry about the biggest day of my life. I'm at a constant loss for words, but I'll do the best I can.

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We held the ceremony at Twin Valley Church in Bellevue. We had the honor of having my Uncle Ben, a true man of God, perform the ceremony for us. My groomsmen were my brothers Nathan (my best man) and Jonathan, as well as my good friend Mike Duweling. Vivian was accompanied by her maid of honor (and former roommate) Jenny, and her good friends Venche and Tamra. Our ring bearer and flower girl were my cousin Barbara's children, Ben and Shannon. Barbara also played the piano for the ceremony, while Vivian's neighbor Toni sang "The Wedding Song" as we lit the unity candle. It was a beautiful ceremony, and it was quite a thrill to see so many friends and family gathered in one spot to celebrate with us.

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After greeting everyone in the reception line and getting a few pictures taken, Vivian and I headed off to our reception at the Bellevue Social Center, where we got to have our first dance as husband and wife. My cousin-in-law Arlan took the liberty of decorating my car with stickers, funny foam, and toilet paper. I actually wanted someone to do that, which is why I didn't spend too much time hiding my car before the ceremony.

I had hardly eaten all day, so I was famished when it was time to hit the buffet table for dinner. It felt so strange to be first in line without feeling like a pig. We ate and drank some sparkling champagne and got ready for a couple toasts, courtesy of the Best Man and Maid of Honor. Eric also had a surprise tribute song for us that he performed with Micah and Sarah Epperly, a song so sweet I was nearly left speechless when it was time for me to say a few words afterward.

IMG_5783After dinner, of course, came the dancing. Vivian and her father were the first ones to take to the floor, then I got to do a little east coast swing with Donna as Vivian winced and mouthed the words "slowly" from the head table. Then came the dollar dances — the biggest workout I've had on the dance floor to date (and that includes the Jack and Jill competition of 2006). Troy played song after song as Nathan and Jenny collected money from our family and friends. It was amazing to see how many people wound up paying to dance with me, especially guys like Eric, Dean, and Ben. I was sweating through my tux by the end of it all, but I kept on dancing afterward when we opened the floor for everyone else.

When it came time to cut the cake, I found myself at the opposite end of a dozen or more cameras. I suppose it served me right, considering how brazen I am with my little pocket Canon. Donna spent a week or two working on our gorgeous wedding cake, complete with three tiers and hand-made flowers all around. It was delicious, though I only had a small sliver before the dancing resumed.

IMG_5824Vivian and I got to do all the other wonderful wedding traditions, including tossing the bouquet and the garter and doing the chicken dance together. The party wound down relatively early (for us youngsters, anyhow) around ten o'clock, so Vivian and I changed into our getaway clothes and made our escape. I feel such gratitude to all of our friends and family who helped put this together. There are too many people to thank in one posting.
  • Donna, who made such a beautiful wedding cake (and a groom's cake we got to eat after our honeymoon)
  • Eric, Sarah, and Micah who gave us such a wonderful tribute song
  • All the friends who helped decorate the reception hall
  • Jessica Ritchie for doing our video, and Jim Scheifelbein for taking our photos
  • My Uncle Ben for giving us such a beautiful ceremony
  • Toni and Barbara and Micah for their musical accompaniment
  • Everyone who stayed to clean up the dance hall so Vivian and I could enjoy our wedding night (mostly by collapsing in exhaustion).
Vivian and I owe you and everyone else who helped us get here an enormous debt of gratitude. Thank you all for being a part of our lives and sharing this day with us!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dress rehearsal

It's been a busy week getting ready for Saturday, and now the big day is almost here. Friends and relatives have been arriving in Omaha all week for our wedding: my parents flew in Tuesday, and Vivian and I got to take them out to dinner and meet her parents. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and their kids have all been arriving as well, and we got to meet a bunch of them on Friday when we had our rehearsal down at the church. They got to meet some of our swing dancing friends for the first time last night, as well as Mike and Bekah from Lincoln. Vivian's brother Oliver also arrived from Colorado, and he got to meet a bunch of us for the first time. It's amazing to see so many people from so many different parts of our lives coming together to share this moment with us.

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We gathered together at Twin Valley Church in Bellevue, where we ran through the order of events for the ceremony, and then Uncle Ben actually signed our marriage certificate, making us about as official as we could possibly get, (at least until I drop the paperwork in the mail).

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We had dinner afterwards at Gorat's Steakhouse on Center street, a restaurant best known for being a favorite of billionaire Warren Buffet. My dad picked up the check, and we made sure to have a defibrillator on hand, just in case. He also had a present for Vivian's father: three plush camels from Campbell University. When I asked Jack for his blessing, he told me he wanted three camels as a dowry, so I suppose we're making good on the deal.

By the way, we have our fair share of shutterbugs among the jitterbugs I've created a Flickr Group in anticipation of the overwhelming number of photos people are likely to take. It's going to feel so strange for me not to be taking pictures at such an exciting event, but Vivian and I have recruited Jim for that task. We'll be adding his shots to the bunch once we get them back.

I still have a few hours left before heading down to the church to tie the knot. Words still can't express how amazing it's going to be, to be married to such a wonderfully sweet and Godly woman as Vivian. She's my perfect match in every way, and without her by my side, my life would be "incomplete." I love you, Vivian! Here's to our new life together.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The last week of bachelorhood

IMG_0684.JPGIt's my last week as a single man, and it's going by fast. Both Vivian and I had a fun weekend together. We had our last date as an unmarried couple on Thursday, feasting at Khan's Mongolian Barbecue in Bellevue and then watching Wall•E at the Twin Creek Cinema.

On Friday night, we had a 50s-style Ice Cream Social at the Eagle's Lodge. I got to break out my leather jacket for the first time in a couple months and brave the 90+ degree heat. It wasn't easily trying to stay cool while swing dancing in that thing in the middle of July, but I honestly didn't sweat much more than usual, and any of my follows can attest to that.

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On Saturday night, I got to have my bachelor party down at Dave & Buster's. It was hosted by my best man Nathan and a bunch of my truly awesome friends. These guys made it a night to remember, and I didn't even have to do some blackmail-worthy stunts at a strip club while hammered on fruity cocktails. For the record, I had a Walk the Plank, an Appletini, a Mai Tai, and a Schizzle, in that order. Afterwards, we got to play a bunch of the games together, from air hockey to multiple racing games, to old school Donkey Kong to that DDR rip-off they had in the corner. I also learned not to try "Advanced Synthesis 2" in the training mode. That was nuts.

We went down to Mockingbird Lanes after midnight for some dark-light bowling. Eric was in constant communication with Venche throughout the night to track Vivian's movements about town. She was apparently up to more mischief than we were, since Venche seemed to think our trip to the bowling alley was "lame" by comparison.

One more week before the big day.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Licensed to Wed and Independence Daze

Licensed to Wed!It's been another busy, busy holiday weekend here in Omaha, with fireworks, parties, and dancing outdoors. The excitement first started on Wednesday evening, when Vivian and I took a pretty big step toward matrimony: we went to the Sarpy County Court House and filed for our marriage license! We aren't official yet, of course. We still have to go through the ceremony, and my Uncle Ben has to sign some of the paperwork, but we're just a couple "I Do's" away from tying the knot.

IMG_0394.JPGWe had been hoping to go enjoy Shakespeare on the Green with some of our Jitterbug friends afterwards, but it was unfortunately canceled due to "inclement weather," (AKA LIGHT SPRINKLES). We had a great time, despite our weenie thespians bailing on us, as we found an empty picnic table and enjoyed goofing off and having a picnic dinner together. Eric has all the important details of this lemons-into-lemonade event over on his blog.

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On Thursday night, we kicked off our three-day weekend by heading over to Jenny's house to set off fireworks in the backyard. It was loads of fun, watching Hugh's Roman candle tip over and send sparks flying over to the neighbor's back yard, then running around waving sparklers like little kids. I got to experiment with the fireworks setting on my camera, too, capturing some of the pretty colors that celebrate our nation's independence.

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On Friday the Fourth, Vivian and I were back in Ralston marching and dancing in a parade with a bunch of our Jitterbug friends. The weather was very nice for July, with a cool breeze most of the way. Vivian unfortunately twisted her ankle twice before the parade was finished, and wound up hobbling about for the rest of the day. We still made it down to tenth street to watch the fireworks over Rosenblatt Stadium that night, always a beautiful sight.

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On Saturday, Vivian and I spent most of the day unpacking and cleaning up our new apartment, making the living room fit for company at last. Then we went down to Shakespeare on the Green afterward to celebrate. It was a packed house, of course, since it was the last show of the season and a holiday weekend to boot. They were playing Much Ado About Nothing and put on a good how. Vivian unfortunately cut herself with a knife, and the two of us spent the first scene of two with the friendly first aid people patching her up. In between acts, we got to sample our wine, cheese, and fruit together, lounging about like Elizabethan royalty as the rest of the play went on. I'm so glad we didn't miss it.

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Sunday was supposed to be a "catch-up" day for me, but I wound up getting distracted having fun with friends yet again. We were down dancing on the Gene Leahy Mall Sunday afternoon, enduring the steamy July humidity for a couple hours of dancing outdoors. It seems like ages since I've danced indoors on a real dance floor rather than on asphalt in my sneakers. Afterward, most of us wandered south to Bellevue for Eric and Ben's house warming party. We got to gorge on hot dogs and hamburgers while playing Guitar Hero and Apples to Apples. Who would have guess that Hugh would connect "Hot and Heavy" with "My Mother." (Apparently, Sarah did. Lucky guess.)

All in all, it was a fun-filled weekend. Now all we need is another one so we can actually prepare for this wedding thing coming up in less than two weeks.