(Not So) Free Fall-ing

Crisp leaves. Changing colors. Cooler temps. These things just don't appeal to me like they do to other people. I remember living in Connecticut and people raving about how great the foliage there was. Sure, there were about two weeks (if it didn't rain too much) of beautiful leaves.You know what happened after that? All the leaves fell off the trees, turned brown, and then it proceeded to be fucking freezing cold for the next six months.

Forgive my wretched mood. The beginning of September brings immense amounts of dread for this girl. It means weeks upon weeks of work travel, which unfailingly causes me to have a breakdown and to get sick. Every. Single. Year. I have done my very best to limit my travel, but there are a lot of trips I just can't avoid. The fall is when shit gets done, and I have to be there if I want to be part of the conversation, even if it's taking place in Colorado or Texas or New Jersey. Why everyone can't just move on down to North Carolina remains a mystery to me.

I fault my upbringing for this mostly. I lived in the same house from age 3 until I left for college. Since then I've practically moved every year, but I've never been good at having my routine interrupted. Also, my family didn't take many trips because we couldn't afford it. A vacation in our world was driving the hour and a half up to Beaufort, SC and staying in the Days Inn to watch my brother play in a soccer tournament. I did love the powdered donuts at the Shoney's breakfast buffet though. That was something at least. I realize that even those getaways were a luxury compared to most other people's lives, but they sure didn't adequately prepare me for a job of jet-setting.

I spent the weekend doing my best to get ready for this stretch of being gone. I did some shopping, stocked up on work essentials, paid my estimated taxes, took donations to Goodwill, and cleared out our junk drawer. I figured the more organized I feel now, the less anxious I will feel being away from home. In some ways, I think it had the opposite effect. I kept saying to myself, "This is the ONLY opportunity you have to do all of this shit!" It was motivating, but also anxiety-building. This morning I woke up with a knot in my stomach.

I know I can do this. I know it will be fine once I get going. The anticipation is always worse than the thing itself, right?

Getting Ready for Baby, Maybe?

I shared a few weeks ago that MT and I signed up for an online course called Purposeful Conception. (See button on the right for more info.) Mostly it was an overview of things I had already researched, but it lead to some interesting conversations between the two of us. Mostly, how can anyone really be ready for the journey of becoming parents?

For both of us, but for MT in particular, considering the losses is much easier than projecting the possible gains. The loss of freedom is one that resonates most. We have no concept of just how much freedom we have right now because we've never been without it. Flexibility to make plans as far in advance or on a moment's notice is something that we both treasure. While I wouldn't consider us spontaneous people, having a kid will challenge even our "super planner" personalities.

It's also a scary thing to make ourselves vulnerable to the process of trying to get pregnant. There are so many things out of our control and so very few that we have power to shape. Even when the pre-natal vitamin is taken religiously and the sex is timed perfectly, the chance of conceiving each month is dismal. Potential disappointment lurks around each monthly cycle's corner.

And yet, here we are, in the process. We went from actively avoiding to actively trying, kidding ourselves at first that we'll just "wait and see what happens." That isn't who we are. We are the 100% committed kind of people! We want results. We want affirmation.

There is so much yet to be learned, things I cannot even imagine. I'm nervous but excited. I know I'm not ready and that I never really could be, but I'm comforted in knowing that no one ever is.

My Strange Addiction

The context of this isn't that important, but after experiencing a serious hangover after a dinner party, I was just screwing around on my laptop, hoping my headache would go away if I watched enough dog gifs on Buzzfeed. For no particular reason, I was looking at a blog written by one of my college classmates. She and I weren't exactly friends, but the school was small and our paths inevitably crossed from time to time. Since college she's gone on to have a pretty huge presence in the blogosphere and I've sort of followed her from time to time when I was bored at my job.

When I googled her website the other night, I found another blog listed second below her url with a mission to satirize everything she writes. I thought to myself, stupid trolls. They're just jealous of her success, right? But the more I read the critique (very hilariously written, by the way), the more I found myself agreeing with most every point. Now I can't stop reading it! I'm about a third of the way through 100 pages of this artfully crafted mockery, and I've stooped to using it as a mid-day reward when I've completed some big project. ("Come on, KT! Finish up this report and you can read 5 pages of the hilarity.")

At first I thought pretty poorly of myself to be participating in something that's just pure snark, especially towards an acquaintance whom I don't really have a personal problem with. But it's made me reflect on myself and my own online presence, which is albeit minute in comparison, and yet there is one thing all bloggers share: we choose to publish information related to who we are for public consumption. Admittedly, there is some bit of narcissism involved, right? We want people to read about our lives. It's categorically different from keeping a journal. Writing for an audience means that we open ourselves up for the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Back when more people read my blog, especially when I was posting about dates which attracts more voyeurs than talking about buying a car with your husband (and I am among the voyeurs!), I used to get the occasional snarky, even mean comment. I took it way too personally and would either delete it or try to defend myself. I couldn't believe people would hop on the internet to go shit all over someone's life choices.

And I still don't. But if I'm hoping to avoid the pervasive presence of trolls, I'd be better off just removing myself from the Internet altogether. The next time I get a comment that's "trollish" I'm going to let it ride. The last thing I want is to believe that anything I say is above reproach or criticism. At the end of the day, I need to have confidence in myself that I'm just doing the best that I can.

I will probably continue to block the crazy spam comments I get, although some of them are so horribly written they'd be funny to let fly.

So, fellow bloggers, what do you think? Do you agree with the points I've brought up? How do you feel about trolls?

The Car of our Future

I never realized how much emotional baggage a vehicle could hold until we traded one in last weekend.

Growing up with a mother who avoided the most necessary of tasks in order to function in her anxiety-filled state of being, I have overcompensated to a fault. I'm the person who is likely to put that beloved t-shirt you haven't donned since last September in the discard pile and get it to the Goodwill before you can spot in missing in your bottom drawer. The second something pops up that causes me an ounce of anxiety, I am on a mission to resolve it as quickly as possible, even if it means a trip to the dentist or the gynecologist or, worst of all, the DMV.

At the same time, I am an incredibly cautious when it comes to financial decisions that have long-term implications. Truth be told, I haven't been in that situation much in my adult life. I've had to sign leases for pricey apartments in Connecticut and DC, but that's about the extent of it. Thanks to the generosity of my aforementioned anxious mother, I've been driving the same clunker since college, which suits me just fine. It takes a lot of energy to enter a car dealership, don't you think?

What's funny is that we weren't even replacing my car. We were out to trader in MT's functioning, yet rapidly deteriorating Saturn Vue. Let me tell you, finding a part for a car from a manufacturer that no longer exists is about as easy as scouring Ebay for a pair of gently used silver size 10 Jimmy Choo pumps. Sure, they might be out there, but how much of your time and energy do you want to spend on your search?

While the Vue was running just fine, minus a few brake pad replacements here and there, it had some cosmetic things that were starting to become problematic. For instance, the passenger side door developed a leak between the window and the door, so that after a hard rainstorm, which is basically a daily afternoon occurrence in the summer, when MT made his first hard left turn, I'd end up with a bunch of stinky brown rain water dumped in my lap. So, we'd still get where we were going, but not in the most pleasant way imaginable.

Ultimately my desire to remain dry on the way to a restaurant on date night overrode my desire to put off a huge financial decision and we ended up at the dealership looking at a slightly used SUV that had features that pretty much made us start salivating, although we tried not to let on to the salesman that we were desperate. When he'd leave us alone for a minute to check on numbers, we'd squeal, "The Bluetooth is AWESOME! We can listen to Pandora while we drive. Omg, Santigold station!" "Don't you love the wooden finish on the inner console? It looks so classy! And there are FOUR cup holders in the front. We can have two drinks each!"

Of course, by the time you actually purchase the car and fill out the dozens of required forms, it's nearly impossible to even remember what the car you've bought even looks like. There were moments of serious impatience, mostly due to my not having eaten anything since breakfast other than the complimentary popcorn the dealership had for its customers. "I didn't even know we were buying a car today," I snapped at one point.  Somehow we managed to push through the five hour purchase process and made our way home in our new ride, playing with all of the buttons and calling everyone we could via Bluetooth (obviously).

But, it did something deeper than I was expecting. Trading in theVue for a car that we both have equal ownership of was yet another step towards solidifying our new life together as a married couple, putting behind the cars and memories and decisions of the past and looking toward our future of road trips and kids in car seats and joint decision-making. I love our car because it adds to the narrative of us. It means new adventures and memories that we'll make together, singing to the Beatles and Maroon 5 and James Taylor the whole way. The keyless entry ain't so bad either.

Hey (mean) Girl.

I can't remember the last time I was in a situation with a bunch of mean girls. So when I found myself at a bachelorette party for my best friend with a clique of four bitchy ladies, I didn't know what to think about it.

First of all, cliques and bachelorette parties don't exactly go together. The reason you're all there in the first place is to celebrate the bride-to-be, even if you're not all best buddies. Putting the focus on her having a good time should be enough to pull the group together. But when there's a mean girl or two in the mix, it's hard to be unified.

Actual things that happened over the course of the weekend:

  • Clique decides to leave for the beach an hour after the rest of us do. Then they decide to leave early and make several pit stops on the way back to the hotel, excluding the bride among others.
  • After going out dancing, clique decides to go on a rickshaw tour around the city--without the bride.
  • Sunday morning, clique decides to have breakfast in the hotel--without asking the bride who was in the adjoining room if she wanted to join.
The worst part was that they paid lip service to the idea of all of us being together, but then went out of their way to minimize that time as a group. And it hurt my friend's feelings when the whole weekend was supposed to be about her. While they aren't my friends and I don't really value  what they think about me, I felt disrespected as the planner of the weekend.  Later I was annoyed to hear that the Queen Bee of the group was talking shit about me behind my back. I have no way of knowing if it's true, but it's disturbing.

SaraKay Smullens talks about dealing with mean girls in the grown-up sphere:
So what to do if, in your life, you come face to face with this "Mean Adult" syndrome? Most importantly, know that confident, secure people do not act in a thoughtless and exclusionary way. Further, friends who witness it will immediately intervene if they see it happening. This of course means that "friends" who stand by allowing this need to be crossed off of the friends list, sooner rather than later.
I'm grateful for this weekend in a way because it made me realize that I'm a thoughtful friend and I don't have anyone in my life whom I would classify as mean. Sadly my friend is having to reevaluate her relationships with these women, but better to do so now rather than later.

Photo: Filler Magazine

Only the Lonely

Dad, when are you coming home? 

Does a week at home alone to do whatever you want, including running around the house in your underwear and dipping tortilla chips straight into a tub of sour cream, sound awesome? Yeah, it did to me too until I actually got it. Now it just feels kind of sucky.

MT is off on a work trip (ha, his turn finally!) and we won't see each other for nearly a week. At first I thought I might enjoy the alone time, which I have to an extent, but at a certain point watching Real Housewives of Bumbfuck and eating frozen chocolate chip cookie dough loses its luster, especially the morning after when I feel the surge of regret over my dietary choices.

Life with MT is just better. Period. The only upside to his being gone is that it makes me appreciate him more (that and I have total control over messes and when they get picked up.) But his absence has also left me feeling a little I have been walking around in a sort of fog. I did have social plans on Tuesday (that got cancelled) and Wednesday (that went really well), so I don't feel too much like a pathetic wife waiting for her husband to come home so she can make him dinner (which rarely happens in our house because Matt is the real cook.)

Rather than feeling too sorry for myself, I am just really grateful to have MT in my life, as my live-in buddy and confidante. It's nice to have someone to walk with the dog with at the end of the day and talk about what went down at work. It's fun to have someone who wants to stay up late playing Lego Harry Potter on the PS3 and will even stop to make popcorn in the middle of it because you are hungry. I feel really fortunate that we fit together in the small ways like that.

Baby, please come home. Our DVR is full of things I cannot watch until you return.

Reflections on Wedding Planning (Part Four): Other People's Weddings

Exactly three months after our wedding, MT and I got to celebrate the marriage of my brother and his new wife, and it was absolutely impossible not to compare the two. While we planned for 13 months, they planned it all in 6. We had 50 guests; they had double that. But probably the biggest difference was in their level of enjoyment, especially my brother. He was totally stressed and anxious the entire weekend with few exceptions! If I had to give him some advice, this is what I'd say.

How to have a low-stress wedding

1. Give yourself more time to plan if you can wait. That way you're making fewer big decisions at a time.
2. Hire a coordinator if you can afford to. If you aren't naturally organized, hire someone to be organized for you.
3.  Put time and energy into your wedding service. Don't wait until the week of the wedding to find out that it's stuffy and impersonal because by then it's too late to change it.
4. Communicate with people before the wedding weekend about when they need to be where. Finding out about family pictures through hearsay isn't the best way to get everyone together and organized.
5. Have an actual count of your guests so you're not surprised when you have more people than you have seats.
6. When it doesn't go according to plan, just take deep breaths and realize you're married and that was the whole point of having a wedding in the first place!

Late Night Laughs

Instead of our usual Kindle reading at bedtime, MT and I were snuggling up to each other, exhausted from our respective days. Tired from the worries of the world and annoyances at work, it felt so calm and peaceful to be still and quiet in our togetherness.

After a few minutes, MT said sweetly, "My favorite part of the day is coming home to you."

I don't know why, but I responded, "My favorite is lunch."

We then proceeded to giggle uncontrollably for the next ten minutes. It was a laugh that we both needed--a reminder that there is joy and goodness during the darkest of times.

It's great to be married to your buddy who likes to laugh as much as you do.

Rage Fatigue

Have you ever experienced this? When things in the world just seem so crappy that you don't even want to leave your house ever again? That's how I've been feeling lately.

As much as I love a job where I get to feel like I'm making a difference in the world, it's also really exhausting. Each bad policy or funding cut or snub from a nay-sayer takes a toll on what used to feel like an endless supply of passion and energy for creating long-term systemic change for the betterment of all people. My, how lofty. Now I just want to read Jezebel and work from home in my pajamas.

That's the danger, right? I feel my sense of impact drifting away, wondering if what I am doing is really doing any good when all I see are forces larger than myself no longer chipping but hammering away at the values I try to uphold in my life and work.

As outraged as I was at the goings on in North Carolina and Texas and Ohio, I couldn't muster up the energy to go stand as an act of protest. I felt defeated, deflated. I still do. I won't even go into the hate-filled gibberish plastered all over my Facebook feed after Saturday night. I don't have the energy to argue. I want peace.

And yet, isn't it my privilege that allows me to choose when to turn it off, tune it out? The guilt of that is crushing...and defeating...and deflating.

I need some light and love. And to stop feeling sorry for myself! And watch John Legend sing.

Maybe Baby?: Purposeful Conception


Before you get too many ideas, MT and I are NOT expecting a baby right now, but we are talking about it and preparing ourselves for what having a child would mean for us. A few months ago I read a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which I would highly recommend to anyone with a uterus (or in relationship with a person who has a uterus.) You definitely don't need to be thinking about getting pregnant to benefit from this book. It will amaze you how little most of us know about how our fertility actually works.

As great as this book has been and as much as I've enjoyed charting my cycles, I have not found much good preparation in terms of the other aspects of pre-conception/conception/pregnancy/parenting, like all of the emotional, psychological, financial, relational, and other changes that will rock our world. That's why I am super pumped to be part of the Purposeful Conception e-course that starts next Monday.

This course was designed by Sara, writer at Feeding the Soil and formerly 2000 Dollar Wedding, who spent a year researching and educating herself on all things pregnancy related before she and her husband began trying to conceive (they now have two little boys, one just born about a week ago!) She took all of that information and developed it into an online course for people who are thinking about conceiving a child or who are actively trying to conceive. The course has sessions for four weeks and includes an online community for discussion and questions. I was thrilled to find such a rich resource because she's done so much of the hard work for us and we get to benefit from her year of study.

I'm super excited for MT and I to go on this journey together as we explore the idea of becoming parents on day. There's still time to sign up for the class. Let me know if you join!

The "Ick"-th Sense

I am a closeted People magazine subscriber. It's not something I'm proud of. But when you're a frequent traveler like me trying to figure out how to kill the time between the nonsensical command to discontinue use of all portable electronic devices and that sweet, sweet tone notification that you've hit your cruising altitude and can whip out the Kindle, an issue of People magazine is the perfect solution. It's light-weight, full of pictures, and requires the attention-span of a squirmy four-year-old to finish. Granted it did spoil all of Downton Abbey endings for me, but the issues keep a'comin' and I keep a'readin'.

Since I'm taking a much-needed breather from work travel this month, I decided to take along the latest issue with me on my morning walk with Lucy. Imagine my horror when I stumbled upon this disaster.

This, my friends, is a scratch 'n' sniff card to accompany the premiere of the next season of what must be the biggest tragedy of television history, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Seriously, a Watch 'N' Sniff? Admittedly I do watch the occasional* TLC show, but this one is too gross for me to watch, even without breathing in various forms of stench as I do.

I cannot imagine anything more ridiculously disgusting than smelling a show like this. Can you even begin to guess how much money was spent on creating the scents to accompany these stupid scratch 'n' sniff cards that smell like bodily functions?

America, we are a disgusting bunch. That being said, if anyone would like one of these cards, let me know and I'll mail it to you. As a connoisseur of pretty awful reality TV shows myself, I have no place to judge.

*Ahem, frequent. Sister Wives! Breaking Amish! Four Weddings!

Why Did I Return to Ohio?

Just over two years ago I wrote this post about meeting my future husband on a trip to visit my boss at the time up in Ohio. I remember that weekend as warm, sun-shiny, and exhilarating with all of that new romance in the air and inklings of a future together.

Fast forward to last week when we went back to visit them. As it turns out, Ohio ain't so great, y'all.  Especially when it's pouring down rain and you're stuck at your in-laws' house where they insist on buying generic ketchup for their barbecue and keeping the thermostat at a steamy 78 degrees. Even visiting the place where we had our first kiss (their hot tub, classy right?) wasn't so great when good ole' Pops was there with us and the water wasn't all that hot. (What is up with their weird temperature issues?!)

Despite their uncomfortable (at least for us) parsimonious life-style choices, our time together was mostly positive. We timed it just right, arriving late on Wednesday and leaving at the crack of dawn on Saturday, thereby avoiding the "house-guests are like fish" situation of staying a third full day. Minus a few prying questions about our marriage and plans to have children, the highlight of the time was having deep conversations about our lives and what we are learning about ourselves through self-reflection. That probably sounds like a snooze-fest, but for us that is quite possibly the most fascinating way to spend time. I learned that my boss turned stepmother-in-law has been in therapy for months, working on her judgmental tendencies, and how that has improved their relationship.

At the end of the visit, I felt closer to my husband and appreciated him more, mostly because he is the only non-crazy person in his family. I have no idea how he managed this, but kudos to him!

On a Soap Box

I am ashamed of my state legislature.

Cutting unemployment benefits.

Cutting education and teacher pay.

Suppressing voters.

And just last night:

Sneaking anti-abortion measures into an anti-sharia bill with no notice

I hope you're all paying attention to what's happening in your state legislature because this shit is happening everywhere, y'all.

Reflections on Wedding Planning (Part Three): It's Not About the Gifts

Did y'all see that crazy post on Jezebel about the couple who decided to confront one of their guests about how they thought his gift was crappy because it included Marshmallow fluff?

I highly recommend you read it because you will be A) horrified and B) amused. If you don't have the time, I'll say that this line from one of the brides sums it all up: "Weddings are to make money for your future." 

I will go ahead and let that one sink in for all of you. Ready to move on? Good. Weddings, as it turns out, are not actually about making money for your future. And if that's what you're expecting from your family, friends, and other guests, you will be grossly disappointed.

As it turns out, people have all kinds of ideas about what it means to be invited to a wedding and how they should act. If you are a person who thinks, "But that's just what you do when you're a wedding guest!," you will be shocked at how others don't demonstrate the behavior that you expect. I don't really think there's a way to avoid this, but I will just say that my lesson learned is that the people you don't expect to be gracious will often go above and beyond, and those who should be won't always do what you think is appropriate.

If I measured the quality of my friendships based on how my friends went about the whole wedding gift thing, I would think that some of them suck big time. And there were moments when I felt really angry that folks hadn't even thought to give us a card. I mean, a card? It's not that much effort. (Again with the "that's just WHAT YOU DO!" that came to haunt me over and over.)

Probably the hardest to deal with were the guests whose weddings I attended recently and had written nice checks for, and they didn't give us anything in return. Granted, folks have a year to give a wedding gift, so perhaps they'll surprise me. But I'm not holding my breath! And in some ways it was even worse to not get a gift from couples who have weddings coming up--because now what do we do in response? Do the right thing or the commensurate thing? It's tough to know what won't leave me feeling resentful or feeling petty.

Here's the thing. Weddings are about having a community of love and support witness your special day. Not everyone will be on their best behavior. Not everyone will be generous. But enough of them will that you'll know you're loved, and even if they don't, you still married the person you love most. And that was kind of the point anyway.

Also, it should go without saying, but just in case: you should probably plan a wedding that you can afford, so  if the money doesn't come rolling in, you aren't starting your marriage in the red.

I personally think Marshmallow Fluff is delightful.

Dirty? More Like NERDY Thirty Celebration

What better way to end the decade of crushing student loan debt, bad e-Harmony dates, and entry-level jobs than with a trip down to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Guess which house the Sorting Hat chose for me?

 Things I learned about visiting a theme park as an adult:

1. Apparently I now get motion sickness on roller coasters. This was not a fun thing to figure out mid-way through the first ride. I didn't puke on anyone, but I felt like I might which was almost as bad.

2. When it comes to waiting in lines (and we had a Express Passes!), the point of diminishing return was somewhere around the fifteen minute mark, at which time I would have preferred to sit in the air conditioned lounge of our hotel and drink a Bud Light.

3. By around 3 pm, I was ready to punch nearly every loud, obnoxious teeny-bopper in the face.

4. The extra ten minute wait for riding in the front row of the roller coaster was TOTALLY not worth it. (See points 1 and 2).

5. I'm still young enough that the recreations of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts gave me the chills. Every. Single. Time. I hope I'm never too old for that!

The End of the Roarin' Twenties

That's right. Tomorrow I turn thirty, and I am PUMPED, y'all! I am ready to leave behind this decade and enter my next. At the same time, I know a ton of good stuff happened over the last ten years, so I thought I would recap a bit of it here:

Age 20: Moved to Florence, Italy for a semester. Visited France, Spain, Switzerland, England, and Germany. Went para sailing in the Swiss Alps.

Age 21: Figured out that I wanted to be in a helping profession. Saw for the first time systemic poverty, working in a homeless shelter in Charlotte, and decided to go to divinity school something. Did my college honors thesis on motherhood and theology, definitely a first step towards my work today.

Age 22: Interned at the most amazing, feminist-y, non-hierarchical organization EVER. Set up for disappointment at all future employment.

Age 23: Moved into a group house with fellow div school classmates. Proceeded to have the most ridiculous party of all time. The cops came and asked what frat we were. We had to tell them, "The divinity school."

Age 24: Graduated from div school and got the HELL OUT OF THERE AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.

Age 25: Moved to DC. Got the HELL OUT OF CT. All rejoiced. Quit my job and found a new one that I love!

Age 26: Enjoyed the best of DC: getting invited to a meeting at the White House. Yes, it was amazing, and no, it hasn't happened since. Wah wah.

Age 27: Went to Malawi, first trip to the continent. Forever changed. Hired my first employee. Learned how to be a boss. Like a boss.

Age 28: Met my husband to be. Moved to NC. Got our dog Lucy. Got engaged! Quit the blog. Planned the wedding.

Age 29: Married my favorite person. Went on glorious honeymoon. Picked up blogging again. Enjoyed a more settled life in NC.

Can't wait to see what the next 10 years bring!

Reflections on Wedding Planning (Part Two): Dealing with Family Expectations

Feel free to read my previous post where I talk about keeping sane during the planning process. 

Oh, family. Don't we just love to hate them? Kidding, kidding (kind of). I have yet to meet a person whose family doesn't annoy them, and I've yet to encounter an engaged person whose family wasn't causing them to go bat-shit crazy during the process of wedding planning. Here's the reality: as much as your wedding is about the two of you getting married and everyone (hopefully) on an intellectual level knows this to be true, your family probably on some level believes that your wedding is in fact all about them.

This can take all different forms. At best, it means that your family wants to support you financially/emotionally/physically* and they offer to help out with whatever they can, even if it doesn't come in the form you want.** At worst, it means that they want to dictate exactly how your day will go, down to what kind of aisle-runner you will walk in on so as not to ruin your dress.***

As much as this causes your head to spin around all Exorcist-style, it's important that you not let this emotion take over for too long. The reality is that you still have the power. You can decide if, when, and how you are going to compromise. An important note: if someone is generously paying for an aspect of your wedding, I personally think it's rude not to allow their voices to be heard in that area of decision-making. I don't mean offer them carte blanche but be reasonable. If you don't want them to have a say, don't take the money! If you're worried about it, leave the things that matter least to you for others to chip in on. (At some point I'll tell you all about our rehearsal dinner...)

To me, this is why it is so important that at the beginning of your wedding planning process, you and your partner sit down and figure out exactly what kind of wedding you want, not down to the exact detail but the general experience you want to have.  Meg Keene of A Practical Wedding suggests picking out adjectives that describe the feel that you want. Some of ours were intimate, classic, elegant, modern, and fun. Then think about how that translates to elements of the wedding--how big or small, what kind of service to have, what kind of music, what kind of food and drink, what time of day.

Once you have decided on a wedding feeling, don't stray from it. Don't second guess it. Don't let others suck you into their wedding industrial complex bullshit. This is especially important if you have particularly opinionated family members or friends who are aghast that you aren't going to do a garter toss or have a receiving line. If you and your partner have already agreed on your vision, you're going to feel more resolute and decided about it, and that way you probably won''t be as defensive when someone questions why you're doing things a certain way. You'll feel confident.

Example: I really, really wanted to walk down the aisle by myself. My father hasn't been part of my life in years, and I didn't want my mom to do it. I just didn't. I figured, I'm almost 30! I am a grown-ass woman! I can walk down the aisle by myself, thankyouverymuch! But, I knew that my mom would be a little disappointed. When she came to visit a few months before the wedding, I brought it up with her and explained why I wanted to do it solo. She listened, and while I know it hurt her feelings a bit, she agreed that it was important for me to do what felt right. And on the wedding day, it wasn't a big deal at all. I was happy with my decision to walk in alone, meeting my future hubs midway, and my mom got the best seat in the house to watch me and my love walk in holding hands.

Borrowing again from A Practical Wedding, remember this truth: the whole goal of a wedding is to get married. If you accomplish this, you have succeeded. The rest is literally just details.****

*Never underestimate the power of a burly man or woman carrying your chuppah/centerpieces/tables/pinterest-y decor so you can have the wedding of your dreams.

**I'm talking dolla dolla bill, y'all. Newsflash: most weddings are a ripoff.

***True story. It never occurred to my friend's mom that she might not (gasp!) even have an aisle-runner at all.

**** I would like to point out that I am actually using literally in an appropriate manner. Imagine that!

The Most Annoying Question People Ask a Newlywed

No, it isn't "When are you having kids?" I mean, it probably would be if anyone had the balls to actually ask us that, but so far we've been spared the inappropriate questions regarding our plans (or lack thereof) to procreate.* How long that will last is unclear.

So far the most annoying question I've gotten has been the perplexing, somewhat presumptuous inquiry of:"How's married life?"

I get it. Since I got hitched, you're all kind of stumped on how to interact with me now that you can't ask about how the wedding planning is coming along. I get that "how's married life?" seems like a natural question to ask a newlywed. But implicit in the question, at least in my mind, is that it's somehow supposed to be radically different from pre-married life.

Reality check: it isn't--at least for us. Sure, it's kind of fun for me to call MT my hubs, and that's new. We also officially combined our finances, which I will probably write a series of blog entries about at some point. But all in all, life is pretty much exactly the same as it was before April 20th except that now we aren't paying for a wedding anymore. Now THAT'S something to celebrate!

While our wedding day was incredibly special, that was not the day that we committed fully to each other. That process happened long ago and was affirmed each time we worked through a conflict without the threat of leaving or stood beside each other when life threw us a curve ball. And that process will continue now that we're married. The wedding day was just that--a day. The real work and internal changes happened well before we married and will continue long after.

The following reading "Union" by Robert Fulghum encapsulates this beautifully and was what was shared right before we said our vows.

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.

The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”

Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

For after today you shall say to the world –
This is my husband. This is my wife.

So  when people ask me about married life with expectant eyes and genuine smiles, I don't bitch them out. I just happily say, "It's great, just like our life was before." 

*I can't even begin to talk about how invasive it is to ask people about their plans to have a family. You're asking about their sex life, their use of birth control, their fertility issues, their futures. GAH! STOP ASKING PEOPLE THIS QUESTION.

Reflections on Wedding Planning (Part One)

One thing I learned very quickly after MT and I got engaged in January of last year was that "wedding planning" when you aren't planning your actual wedding but rather fantasizing about one in your head is absolutely nothing like the real thing. How many of you have--or have friends who have--a Pinterest wedding board (or several) but aren't looking for a serious relationship/engaged/planning a wedding? I did too! And it was loads of fun. But honestly once MT and I were engaged, I never looked at the thing again.

I can honestly say that for 99% of the time that we were planning, both MT and I maintained our sanity and even enjoyed ourselves. There are a few key reasons why.

1. We sat down and created a budget before we decided on anything else. We looked at our savings, our monthly incomes, and decided what we could afford to save each month to pay for the wedding. We guessed what each element of the wedding would cost and then added an extra 10% for unexpected costs. And then we stuck to the budget.

2. We decided what was most important to us and focused on those aspects a majority of the time. For us, those elements were writing an intimate, personal ceremony, making sure we had excellent food and wine, creating a fun party atmosphere, and building a sense of community amongst our guests. The flowers? Not so important to us. The cake? Not so important either. Did we have beautiful flowers and cake? Yes, but we let the professionals do their jobs and we didn't try to micromanage the process.

3. We took our family's input in stride and we remained a unit. Both of our moms at various times pissed us off or rubbed us the wrong way over some detail of the wedding. My mom, for instance, insisted that MT and his groomsman wear identical khaki tuxedos, to which we said, "OH HELL NO." MT's mother, on the other hand, insisted that the Embassy Suites across from our venue--a five-star hotel--was a much better options for guests because--get this--it has an indoor pool. I should also mention that we offered up our house to her for the wedding weekend to save on costs. But, even when those little inevitable moments of differing opinions came up, we stayed a unit, laughed at our moms, and never made it a conflict between the two of us.

4. More for me than for MT: I did not read wedding porn, aka wedding blogs, wedding magazines, etc. We would occasionally watch Four Weddings from time to time for ideas, but all of the rest of the TLC wedding franchise was swiftly deleted from the DVR. I didn't want to second guess every decision we'd made. The one exception re: wedding blogs was that I devoured A Practical Wedding because it affirmed that we could plan a wedding and maintain our sanity. And they are right!

5. We took what we wanted from traditions and said to hell with the rest. I walked myself down the aisle. We didn't do a bouquet toss or garter toss. MT and I spent the night before the wedding together and had a lovely wedding morning eating breakfast in bed and enjoying each other's company. You have to do what feels right to you, even if other people don't understand. If you are out to please everyone, you will please no one, especially yourselves. Sure, you want your guests to be comfortable and enjoy themselves, but that doesn't mean you must give into their every whim and expectation. Just make sure the booze is a'flowin' and people will quickly forget that you didn't read that awful passage from 1 Corinthians or take your new husband's name.

I have a feeling I'm going to have a lot to say on this topic. Stay tuned!

The Power of Powerlessness

Today didn't off to the greatest start. It all sounds a little silly in retrospect, but here's how it went down. After a nice morning walk with Lucy, I'd geared up for a hardcore workout care of Amy Dixon's Breathless Body DVD which I'd just gotten in the mail the day before.* I even had my episode of The Good Wife all queued on my iPad when the damn computer kept spitting out my disc. I must have tried about eight million different things to get this sucker to cooperate, but the stubborn thing would just not play.

I called my resident IT guy aka my husband to save me from my irritation. The poor man had just gotten out of the shower, but up the stairs he came, buck naked and dripping wet, ready to help me out. It's actually pretty hilarious when I think about it. But at the time all I could think was, "Time is a' tickin'! I must get in my 45 minutes of hardcore HIIT training or else this lovely five pounds of honeymoon weight** I gained is never going to come off." After some troubleshooting and careful maneuvering of wiring (he was still naked after all) we finally got the damn disc to play and off I went to suffer breathlessly as Amy Dixon proceeded to kick my ass for the next hour.

 For the next hour, all was well in the universe. Until the power went out. Was there a storm? Wind? Anything? Nope, sure wasn't. At first it was just annoying. I figured I'd take the opportunity to shower and get ready for the day because surely the power would be back on by time I was done. It wasn't. The estimate we eventually got from the power company was noon. NOON? That was more than THREE HOURS from the time the power went out!

MT, who was also working from home, had the luxury of a laptop computer battery which kept him connected for a few hours. But all I had was an iPad with less than 20% battery life and my iPhone which provided the slowest Internet connection imaginable. I could only stand to send an email or two before giving up on the piece of crap.

Power or no power, I was bound and determined to get something done. I started organizing my desk, throwing away stacks of old reports and business cards. I even organized my pens. Basically I was going nuts. Normally a random break from work in the middle of the week would be amazing, but today was seriously shitty timing. I was scheduled to lead a webinar for more than 100 people, and all of my notes, slides, etc. were on the computer I couldn't start. Shit.

Once MT's laptop battery died, we started cleaning the house together. We figured we might as well do the stuff we've been putting off, like taking this ugly-ass table and matching ugly-ass chairs to Goodwill. Then we started tossing eyesores like this rolled up carpet that had once been a lovely addition to the decor in the living room but quickly became known as "Lucy's favorite place to pee and poop." We started mentally planning out a new layout for our sun room, picturing a new comfy chair tucked into the corner where I can read my Kindle while he works on his latest mosaic.

It was all going so well until noon rolled around and of course, we had no power. New estimate? 3:30. I was going to miss the webinar no matter what. I called my colleague, got her to take care of notifying our participants, and threw up my hands. What else could we do?

Not wanting to open up the fridge and let the cool air escape, we were at a loss for what to do about lunch at home, plus we were going slightly stircrazy, so we figured we might as well go out for a bite. Over plates of Chinese chicken salad and cups of soda, we had an amazing conversation about our families--how each of us feels in some ways that we have more in common with the other's family than with our own. MT's generosity is so like my brothers' and mom's, and my desire for deep conversation is so much like his parents'.

He said, "We each have what our families lack. That must make us perfect!"

I said, "We must lack something."

He said, with a smirk, "We both lack perfect families."

The lesson learned for me is that when I let go and allow the situation to be what it is, it often turns out to be better than what I had planned. Sure, I have about a hundred emails waiting for me to answer. And I'm bummed about having to reschedule my presentation, knowing many people will probably have lost interest by then. But I wouldn't trade the day of togetherness, problem-solving, and toughing it out that we had instead. All in all, a very good day indeed.

And yes, our power is back on. Hallelujah!

* I should mention that  last night Lucy had gotten a hold of aforementioned DVD, puncturing the jacket with her lovely little canine fangs. Little shithead.

** Note: if you decide to make drinking an entire bottle of wine by yourself before dinner a nightly habit during a week long trip, you will in fact gain weight. Who knew?

Time for a Comeback? Well regardless, I'm coming back!

For you all who can remember ALL the way back to June 21st of last year, you'll recall that I gave up blogging. I needed a break from it. MT (formerly known as Carolina Man) and I were just beginning to plan our wedding, and the last thing I wanted was another place to talk about that. I was determined to stay sane through that process (and I succeeded! Yes, it is possible to plan a wedding and not go completely batshit crazy.) So, the blog was what ended up on the chopping block.

Fast forward to a few weeks after we returned from a beautiful honeymoon in the Grenadine Islands (never heard of them? Yeah, that was kind of the point), I was starting to play with the idea of picking blogging back up. Suddenly I had a lot more time (not to mention a lot more cash, holla!) to play with, and I started to realize that I really, really missed my community here. Even the trolls. Ok, maybe not them, but everyone else, I missed you!

So, here I am, asking to be let back onto your blog rolls and RSS feeds and into your hearts. I can't wait to catch up on what all of you have been doing and to share the daily goings on of a newly married woman living in Cary, North Carolina.

I am so happy to be back!

Married Bliss

It's been almost a year since my last post, declaring the end of my blog. I'm here to break the rules and post a few pictures from the wedding. Enjoy!