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!