Friday, June 26, 2009

From the Mouths of Children

Right not, for a multitude of reasons, I'm happy that B and I don't have any kiddos. For one, it would've been hard to fit into that wedding dress with someone else along for the ride. For two, we're selfish. Sue us! We'll counter sue! For three, my (fabulous) siblings are suddenly charged with an interesting task: Explaining death to people that can't tie their shoes.

I know psychologists have a host of theories, ideas, and suggestions and, for what it's worth, I think my sibs have done a bang-up job. For instance, one of our (our!) nieces, Lily, told her Mom the day after Dad's funeral, "Everyone is here. Everyone except Dee." Not sad, not questioning, just matter of fact. "That's right," her Mom said.

The kids know a lot of things. They know that Dee, as they call him (granddaDEE), is with Grandma Cookie, his Mom. They know they get to see Dee again in Heaven, but that they can't go for a very long time. They also know that Dad's with Simba, the dog we lost a few years ago that only Alex really remembers.

But Lily threw us all off when she told her parents, "Dee's up in the sky flying around the world with Jesus and maybe if I'm really really good, he'll come back to see me."

Funny at first, as Lily has obviously mixed her Vacation Bible School stories with the uncontested truth of Santa, but her Dad had a very good point: Lily thinks Dee isn't coming back (or, worse, is gone in the first place) because she isn't good enough. My sister pointed out how thankful we should all be that Lily said this horrible, sad thought out loud, so that someone could correct her and explain that isn't how it works.

I forget sometimes how me-centric kids are, and not in a bad way. Everything happens to them, not indifferently of them. Say a little prayer for Lily. How much harder would my heart ache if I felt that I had somehow chased Dad away, or that I could do something, anything worthy of bringing him back. Devastating.

It makes me think of the Bible, and of how the concept that there's nothing that we can do to attain salvation always feels so impossible. Surely I can be good enough, whole enough, worthy enough. But it just isn't, and never will be, enough. In some cases, it's a sweet release of mercy (I don't have to be perfect!), and in the same breath it's terrifying (there's nothing I can do?). We're at God's mercy, in seeing loved ones again, in reaching heaven. Mercy in every sense of the word.

Life Lesson Learned; Location: Shower

Wednesday night I got myself really worked up about Dad. I'd been sad that day, but was excited to have a great distraction that night: Stevie Wonder was in town!

I say that with great enthusiasm, but I had no idea what Stevie Wonder sang or covered, and certainly no idea that he was blind (really? He and Ray Charles in the same era? Seems remarkable.), so I did a little research, meaning I opened the emails B sent me and read them, then headed out to meet the law firm group for our outing to see Stevie.

The night began stressfully-- B came home to get me, but we needed to pick up another summer associate (and our tickets) back at the office, which took an hour to get to, then get out to the amphitheater (another hour). We'd been told that Stevie came on promptly at 8, so we rushed (in 3mph traffic) to get there, only to wait and discover that he wouldn't begin playing until 9:30.

What could've been annoying was actually great. We sat out on our blankets with Cokes and beer and watched the sunlight fade into the horizon while a parade of some of the best people watching I've done in weeks rolled by us. Peaceful, serene bliss.

Finally, the lights went down and Stevie came on to begin playing. He thanked God (his purpose for touring for the first time in 10 years) then introduced the teenager he'd been hanging out with for the past several hours, a cancer patient who ended up sitting on stage with Stevie the entire time. So amazing.

In college, the only time I got homesick was the weekend my parents were actually visiting and we went to New York City to see a play. Sitting in that velvety theater seat, alone with my thoughts for the first time in six weeks, I felt my heart drop. Wednesday night was like a vibrant flashback. I was fine during most of the set (did you know he sang "Signed, Sealed Delivered"?), but then he sang a ballad and my mind wandered to Dad and to the next day's schedule and a tear snuck out of my eye.

For a few minutes, I was fine, tears sneaking out of my left eye which was, thankfully, the eye no one could see. Then the other eye went rogue and suddenly I was sitting very still on this blanket, the corner thank God, with tears silently falling down my face. B hardly knew what to do-- comforting would call attention that he knew I didn't want, but not comforting would eat him up as he sat next to me on that little spot, our corner of the night. He asked if I wanted to go, but I declined, instead rising to walk to the ladies' room for a few minutes. I wish I could remember what song was playing as I cried it out for a few minutes, my tears dotting the bathroom's concrete floor in what I'm sure passerby assumed as some less kind treatment of the Verizon theater. It was something remarkably poetic, with a refrain that called for the audience to "take comfort." God works in mysterious ways, even Stevie Wonder, I suppose.

I gathered myself and headed back to B, who gave me a big hand squeeze and a tender forehead nuzzle asking if I was ok. "Yes," I said, my eyes welling up, "but if we talk about it, I'll cry again!" He quickly got me singing along to "Son of a Preacher Man."

That night, we got home around 1 and, in my exhaustion, I found myself needing to shower before bed to ease the next morning's early trip to Birmingham. I cried putting my clothes away, cried picking out a dress for Thursday, and cried as I got in the shower.

The tears wouldn't be chased by a lesser-important water source, and continued to come, harder and more furiously as I started to shower. Suddenly, my mouth was full of water. Surprised, I spit it out and kept crying, wallowing a little in my sadness and exhaustion. Again, I got choked by water. I finally had to laugh. "Ok God, I get it. You can't sob and stand under a heavy-flow shower head." A time for everything, indeed.

I got in bed and told B that I didn't know why Thursday's plans had me upset. I knew the meetings with the lawyers would be anything but emotional and yet I couldn't lock it up for anything. He held me and let me cry as we both fell asleep, but at least this time, I knew had no fear of drowning.

Estate Planning Quote of the Day

Estate Planner: Ok Joan, just start thinking at some point about how your budget might change. I see that you've been drawing this amount for a few years, but before that the amount you drew was much higher.

Me: (Checking dates) Yeah, that's when I left the payroll.

Estate Planner: Ha! Oh, wait. Really?

Estate Planning Quote of the Day

Lawyer: Wow, this one mutual fund really took a hit last year, huh.

Mom: Which one? Oh no, that was the wedding.

Lawyer: (furiously backpedaling)

Mom: And a funeral.

Lawyer: (furiously shuffling, glances at me)

Me: (smile and shrug)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Next Thing

These days I'm having trouble writing. Sure, I can write about four kinds of chicken for work and a matching number of cheesecakes and get it all done by 5, but I can't just write. Nothing seems important, yet everything feels too sensitive.

Driving home from Birmingham yesterday I was thinking of a few moments I wanted to remember from the past few weeks, and now I can't think of them to write down. I'm forgetting.

Just now I turned on the TV, background noise for my chicken and cheesecake programming, and landed on, first, the SC governor's press conference (negative) and then I Dream of Jeannie on TV Land. Suddenly, tears were in my eyes. When I was in high school, Dad and I watched TV Land at night, and he loved the foibles of Major Nelson and Jeannie. Or maybe he didn't, but knew I'd watch with him and maybe stay for I Love Lucy, which came on right after.

Right now, life is hard. I feel totally robbed of my joy, an overdramatic and overarching statement that I know means I'm letting my joy go willingly, but it's true. I'm sad and upset and I don't know when it's ok to be those things and when it isn't. B's aunt sent me a book about grieving and it says it's ok to tell people when days are hard, that we've lessened grieving from what was once a year-long commitment of memory and celebration of a loved one's life to a neat-and-tidy three day event of death, visitation, and funeral. The odd thing is that the family plans those things, so those three days weren't spent grieving, but more planning and arranging. The fact is that my to-do list during those days looked heartbreakingly similar to the one that remains on my calendar from before the wedding. It's enough to make you want to sit shiva.

I'm torn. So much of me wants people to move on and not give me that look of pity or, worse, fear, as if losing a parent could be catching, but another part of me just wants to stand in the middle of a crowded room and scream that the world shouldn't go on like nothing has changed because for me, everything has.

It's hard to find the motivation to move forward, to see the importance in once everyday tasks. I see now why people get puppies and rejoice in babies during times like these-- they need you. You have to get up and care for them. The next thing is no long optional. They're helpless. It may be a band aid, but you can redirect some of your angst and worries, setting it aside for the time being, because someone needs a walk, someone needs a bottle, and someone needs bedtime prayers.

I hate not remembering what I want to put on here, this place that is my memory in these vast days of thoughtlessness. Already it's fading.

I want so badly to write of happy things, but feel like I'd be cheating them right now. I'm not the girl that's upset that her post-wedding bliss was interrupted by something, but I am the girl that desperately wants to both grieve and rejoice with a whole heart, an impossible task when one's heart isn't whole the begin with.

I started reading The Red Tent, and got to a passage today where a woman's husband was murdered at the same time as the girl's father-in-law and, for the first time reading a book, I felt her pain and longed for the days of the Old Testament where you could simply lose yourself in your grief and not be considered insane but rather mournful.

The hardest thing, for me, is knowing how to respond to people. I feel as though I make them uncomfortable, those who read my cries here or know my heart, so I joke to relieve the tension and release them from their worried gazes. The truth is that I have no idea what I need or how to feel better, or if I even want to yet.

Tomorrow we're sorting out Dad's estate and will with the lawyers. I want so badly to be helpful, even if it's simply being there to keep Mom's spirits up, but I fear that I'll end up in a puddle of quiet tears with looks shooting over my head forgiving me for being the youngest one in the family.

B offered to come with me, but I know he needs to be in the office, especially because they're at trial this week. The truth is, I may need those hours alone in the car to get the tears out, whether before or after the meeting. Besides, he's always good for a hug, so I know he'll take good care of me when I get home.

For now, I sit in my home office sniffling at the credits of I Dream of Jeannie and remembering Dad and his love of TV Land. He always told me these shows were too recent to be on there. Now that they're showing The Cosby Show and Full House, I totally agree. I miss you, Dad.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Newlywed Moment of the Day

Me: Honey, can you tell me how to light the grill so I can get dinner going before you get home?

B: (pause)

Me: I can do it.

B: Ok, go outside.

Me: Check.

B: Take the cover off.

Me: Already did that, and moved the grill away from the house.

B: What? Ok. Open the propane tank to the left.

Me: Ok.

B: Turn the dial to "start."

Me: Check.

B: Now press the ignition switch.

Me: What? No, wait.

B: What's wrong?

Me: What's it going to do?

B: What do you mean?

Me: I mean, is it going to flare up or make a noise or anything? I want to be prepared.

B: No, sweetie, just push it.

Me: Now?

B: Well, the gas is flowing, so yes.

Me: .... Hey! It worked! And I still have my eyebrows!

B: I'm coming home now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wedding Book Preview

It isn't finalized, but this is the preview of what our book will look like from the photographer. Love it! Click slideshow and enjoy.

Dating Deal Breakers (.com)

One of my friends at work created this hilarious site about dating deal breakers, "Those certain things that make a relationship turn from doable to breakable." It made me laugh and made me thank my lucky stars for B. Oh yeah, and I may have submitted a few...


While most days are going ok, some days have major speed bumps that still catch my breath. I was crying to B the other night that it's not actually the "missing" that hurts, but the fear that the hurting will fade that hurts the most.

Everywhere I go, I'm still hit with little reminders, which I'm at equal turns thankful for and saddened by. It makes me wonder if I always thought about Dad this much-- if his presence was so ingrained in my very being that he'd often pop to mind when little thinks struck me. One thing's for sure, those "little things" are now popping front and center.

Reminders of Dad...

Roasted nuts. Twice this week, at the Braves' game and at the mall near one of those food gifts stores, Dad has surged into my mind simply from the scent of roasting nuts. Whenever Dad found a store that had them, he'd try the free sample, then get a little cone, then go back for another before we left.

Houses. B and I were "dream shopping" houses last night in a cute little neighborhood when I had the thought, "Those houses would be hard on Dad when he visited-- the steps are too shallow."

Father's Day. Ugh. Not in relation to anyone else's father, mind you. I'm thrilled to cook ribs and hang out with B's Dad this weekend. Somehow that feels totally separate from my thoughts of Dad.

Radio. Bluegrass, gospel, old country, and anything with a Banjo. I can almost hear him singing along.

When good things happen, I want to talk to him. After talking with Mom on her cell, I want to call him. I dread Friday, one month since he died. I can literally feel myself slowing, as if my refusal to complete Wednesday will slow Friday's arrival.

I told B that I'm so afraid of forgetting, so fearful that next month won't hurt as badly. I know these moments, now painful, should turn into comforting reminders, but I'm afraid things will fade. I never knew my grandfathers, and I don't know much about them now. Where does that leave my (unconceived, unborn) kids in relation to the great man that is my Dad?

I'm sad, and with that sadness comes the desire to simply hide. There's work to be done, forms to be completed, thank you notes to write, and life to continue, but for now, I want simply to disappear for a while.

A good friend, over lunch, told me that I'm lucky to have siblings because we'll remember Dad together and he'll live on that way. That's true, and I am thankful for them, and for Mom. Right now I'm just hurting, and protesting the arrival of Friday. Join me, won't you?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Enjoying the Days

B and I have done a pretty great job of making an effort to enjoy every spare minute. Sure, we have our downtime, mostly reading the paper on the back porch, but mostly we're packing in as much fun as we can handle.

Thursday night, B took me out for a belated one-month anniversary dinner at Parish House in Atlanta. It's a Cajun/creole joint where the food is creative and seasoned with a heavy hand. Loved it! We shared jumbo and a strawberry-and-blue-cheese salad, then he had crab-stuffed catfish and I ordered the barbecued shrimp. Delicious!

We spent our dinner catching up on the small details of each others' work and talking about what's possible for the year after B graduates. No, we're not crazy, he's actually doing interviews and research already for the post-grad year, which he'll likely spend doing a clerkship. I can't believe we're planning for September 2010 already!

Friday night, after I met B for a post-park clean up happy hour (you heard me), we planned to go see The Hangover, but it started pouring outside and we happily dug our heels into the basement's leather couch and watched Body of Evidence (old school) and then Benjamin Button, which we'd both wanted to see. I loved both of them. Benjamin Button's story was somewhat... interesting, but I was dying to see how they were going to make Brad younger and the girl older every scene. So fun!

Saturday morning (ok, noon) we got up, went for a walk, then met up with B's friends to see The Hangover. Funny! I was glad that they finally moved up from teenage kids and into guys in their thirties. A-- more realistic. B-- closer to my age. :) There were definitely some surprise moments, but overall it was a great Saturday afternoon movie, and a great excuse to see B's friends. (Our friends? Yes, but a weird transition to make, verbally speaking.)

Last night, we got a huge treat. B's firm set up this amazing cocktail party and an outdoor movie in the park across from the offices. We were greeted with a yellow VW van that was basically a cooler, stuffed with cokes, waters, and iced tea. Can you guess the movie yet? Dinner was delicious barbecue (ribs, beef brisket, grilled chicken, baked beans, and about five salads, plus cornbread). We settled in for Little Miss Sunshine (!) as "vendors" passed out candy and popcorn. Plus, the bar stayed open the whole time. Best. Movie. Ever.

I told B that I loved how you'd be sitting, lost in the movie, and then this fresh breeze would hit you and you'd be reminded that you're outside. Perfect summer night.

Movies are still somewhat hard for me. I never realized how many people die in movies, how many characters go to funerals or lose a loved one. I wonder if these events are so "there" because everyone goes through them or because they're a simple way to tug at heartstrings and evoke emotion. I'm no movie-going sobber, but B and I have been careful not to watch too sappy of movies just yet. No sense in more tears than necessary!

Speaking of tears, I got some sad news yesterday: a dear family friend lost their son. He was a year older than me, but I didn't know him very well. His family, however, was close to mine, the Dad even being one of the two witnesses at my Baptism. Clearly this loss isn't something that I can personally take on-- it's their families, but it does make my heart break for them.

I talked to my brother last night, who called up the Indian Jones quote that, roughly paraphrased, says, "We're at the point where God stops giving things and starts taking them away." Can that be true? Is this what adulthood is? I think it's all in your perspective, but still. It hurts. Pray for their family!

Today B and I are doing some errands then heading to Chastain for a concert with some of his law associates. Can't wait!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is It 5:00 Yet?

B's Mom: I'm glad you turned the light on.

Me: What? Wait, really?

B's Mom: What?

Me: Did you say it was time to have a glass of wine?

B's Mom: Um, no, just glad you turned the light on. As for wine, might still be a little early for that.

Take Me Out (After) the Ballgame

Last night, B and I waited until the end of the game then dashed to the Braves' stadium to pick up our favorite Pirates pitcher for a late dinner. We asked him where he wanted to go, anywhere at all, and he picked an Atlanta classic: The Varsity.

Ok, so a part of me was a teeny bit happy with his choice. Who doesn't love a good excuse to eat a chili dog and onion rings at 11 pm? Always happy to be a good hostess, especially when it involves anything beer-battered.

We had more fun talking to R, hearing about his time on the road, his trade from the NY team that no one likes, and just catching up about post-college life. Very fun!

Revelation: I'm a social person. I suffer from yielding fully to inertia, and refusing to get up and go (hence why I still haven't started the name-changing process). However, once you get me up, out, and going, I'm so happy. Much happier. Maybe I should buy B a cattle prod.

Life in Atlanta is good. I can't believe how quickly the weeks are blowing by. Tonight B and I are belatedly celebrating our one-month anniversary with a fun dinner out. B asked where I want to go:

Me: Hm, some place that serves wine. And... no, just wine. I don't need a martini, margarita, or mojito tonight.
B: Well this place has a really good wine list.
Me: Oh. It doesn't have to be good wine. Just wine.

He loves me, and that makes it ok.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Newlywed Moment of the Day

B: How was your first anniversary? I know the Braves game probably wasn't what you were thinking would happen, but I did get you a hot dog.

Me: Let's just say that it wasn't the kind of diamond I was expecting...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

State of the Union: One-Month Anniversary

A month ago today, B and I tied the knot. Got hitched. Took our vows. Said "I do." You name it and, if it involved marriage vows, we did it. Here's our month in review...

Following an amazing honeymoon (did I mention it was amazing?), B and I got a crash course in what it means not to get married, but to be married. I think sometimes people forget to look past the planning and the hubbub of the "big day," so they neglect to see that there's, literally, a lifetime on the other side of that catered affair.

B and I aren't perfect, but we've been dating for a while, long enough for him to know when to pop a lock on a door and when going for a walk is simply going for a walk. It didn't make losing Daddy easier, or the time at which he was taken from us, but it sure did make it feel less earth-shattering to have someone to hold onto that I knew a) knew me, b) loved Dad, and c) wasn't going anywhere. Ever.

The first month has been up and down, but I feel like the turn of events gave us both great perspective. What's a slightly slower wake up in the morning if you pause for a good morning kiss? We don't bicker or fight over who does what or what did or didn't get done. For better or worse, we've been oh-so-clearly reminded that some things in life really don't deserve your attention, like the fact that I somehow use every towel we have in the course of a week, leaving B to scour for dry ones in the morning. Sorry sweetie.

Dating so long has also helped us know our weak points. Mine? I like to be given a schedule and then to adhere to said timeline come hell or high water. But, you know what? I'm learning that life doesn't follow my timetable (obviously), and that there are more important things than being right, like, instead, enjoying the evening together on the back porch.

Our first month of marriage has been wonderful. We've managed a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the islands, starting a new job, losing a dearly loved family member, enjoying a date night of margaritas, taken long walks, escaped for a weekend, and survived days, afternoons, and nights of spontaneous grief-inspired tears. We've enjoyed making lunches, dinners, and on-the-go breakfasts. One of us even got orange juice in bed. Brilliant!

Things I Don't Want to Forget:

I sing. All the time. Did B know that before? Debatable.

I am constantly surprised that we have two identical pillows, one that lives on the basement couch, and one on our bed. I expressed (identical, authentic) shock so many times that they now both reside in our room.

B means it-- he doesn't eat breakfast, unless I make it, and he isn't hungry if he doesn't do something physical. None of this "eating to eat." Crazy.

Ask B to straighten up an area and you will return to find it entirely clean, folded blankets, placed pillows, cleaned counters, and all.

B is super good at noticing and giving compliments. New sheets? He notices. Homemade bread? He raves. He makes my heart happy.

Newlywed Moment of the Day

Me: PS--Happy Anniversary :)

B: Right back at you. One month in the books...a lifetime to go.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Newlywed Moment of the Day

7:15 Alarm goes off. B gets up and heads for the shower.

7:25 B back from shower. I pretend to wake up in an effort to continue my "breakfast together" initiative, where I at least hand B a breakfast bar as he heads out the door.

7:26 I fall back asleep, promptly enter a deep sleep and dream that I hop out of bed and have this conversation with B:

Me: What do you want for breakfast sweetie?
B: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk.
Me: Strawberry jelly, right?
B: Right.

Dream A scampers upstairs.

7:50 B wakes me up to kiss me goodbye. Conversation begins...

Me: Do you still want a peanut butter and jelly with milk?
B: What? Go back to sleep.

Just now I called B to see how his day went, then asked if he remembered the PBJ moment:

B: Yeah I do, that was just weird.
Me: You married it.
B: I didn't marry that!

Aw, the fun continues.

Newlywed Moment of the Day

Driving away from Florence after the wedding, I turned to B and said...

Me: I can't believe we got married!

B: I can't believe you said 'yes.' What a coup!

Something's in the Water

Last week, a former (Birmingham!) roommate got engaged then, over the weekend, a dear college friend got engaged. I think I'll (senselessly) take credit for all engagements resulting fewer than 30 days after my wedding with B. Clearly the romance runneth over.

The Good and The Bad

This weekend was incredible. Friday night, B and I talked his parents into joining us at a new (to us) taqueria/tequila joint, where we feasted on signature tacos (everyone), sangria (me), and a tequila sampler (B). After a fabulous outdoor dinner, his Dad one-upped us by suggesting dessert at the nearby crepe place. Brilliant! We went in with the idea of splitting one crepe and instead ordered four, plus a flight of champagne, two cappuccinos, and a coffee. Full and satisfied, we all slept well that night!

Saturday, B's parents flew off to visit his little brother in New York City, where he's working for the summer in the city's main ER. Seriously. B and I slept the morning away before talking a walk then heading to the Virginia Highlands for a pub crawl/summerfest thing with his coworkers. We left the house at three and I swore we'd be home by six. At midnight, after meeting up with his high school friends, catching a Cowboy Mouth concert, and drinking my weight in margaritas, we decided to turn in. It's a good thing, too-- his friends kept the night going until about three, which would've done me in for sure.

Sunday morning we got up and headed to Mass, a first for me since the wedding, then did a little shopping before grabbing lunch at home, reading the paper on the back porch, and working on a few life things (thank you notes, B's case notes for his law journal). His buddies and one of their wives came over for dinner and we sat on the back porch eating BBQ Chicken Pizza, rosemary bread, wing dip, peach-and-blueberry cobbler, and lots of wine until long after sunset. Our first dinner party!

After they left, we cleaned up, which felt fun and right, even if we were playing pretend in a kitchen we didn't own. We fell into bed around midnight, neither of us tired, and talked for a while. Just before falling asleep, I told B that I still get sad about Daddy, and we stayed up for a good hour or more telling Dad stories, talking about what we missed, and what we think heaven really is like. I cried, and B was there, and it was better. I am so thankful for him, that he loves me, that he knew (and loved!) Dad, that he understands me even when I don't understand myself--and tries to help.

I know marriage can't be all roses and sunshine, but if this is how it feels to have someone to really turn to in the literal darkness, then I am all in. Forever. As if there was any doubt.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Newlywed Moment of the Day

B: Are you changing the sheets again?

Me: Yeah, it's Friday.

B: Oh. Great!

Me: Something tells me your life is going to get better.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Going Back... to Virgin Gorda

I WISH! B and I had such an amazing honeymoon at Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda. We/He picked that spot for several reasons, including a) we wanted to go someplace that people we knew had gone and loved (his parents celebrated their wedding anniversary there a few years ago), b) a direct flight from Atlanta (plus a little puddle-hopper), c) it fit the "warm, beach, massage" requirements I set early on, plus it had walls around its bathrooms, which, believe it or not, some "honeymoon spots" do not. Note to B: We are not there.

The crazy thing about the honeymoon was that I didn't really have a chance to look forward to it. Normally I love thinking about trips, planning and researching them, and picking out what to take. This time, due to the buzz about the wedding, I didn't really do any of that! So now I want to go back, mostly so I can have the amazing pina coladas again, but also so I can look forward to it a little!

We flew out Monday morning from Atlanta and arrived in St. Thomas around 1 in the afternoon. "Those poor saps," I told B, looking at all the people waiting to board the plane back to the states. Not us! Right across the runway from the airport was the Virgin Islands University, so we figured we'd transfer B there for his last year. Brilliant! We're never leaving.

Our charter captain, Will, met us with a little sign that said "Kappel" (but no hat) and ushered us to the little four-seater on the other side of the airport. We took off for the 15 minute flight to Virgin Gorda, admiring the dots of islands below us and the fact that we could see through the gorgeous water from the windows of the plane!

We arrived at the airport (read: 1 runway and a small garage-sized building), where we were met by the Little Dix Bay representative, who shuttled us the five minutes to the resort, filling us in on a little local information along the way. No crime on the island, "everyone knows everyone here."

Pulling into the resort, we passed the welcome area and cruised straight to our beach villa, where we were met by a hotel representative and welcomed into our suite. "There are no locks on the doors," he said. "No keys in paradise!" He also pointed out the restaurants, pool area, and the kiddie care building. "You come back for the five year anniversary and leave the triplets there," he said. Ha!

We quickly changed and headed out to the beach, strolling the pristine sands and dipping our toes in the water to relax after a day of travel and nine months of wedding-related (fun!) hubbub.

We got ready for dinner that night (the famous seafood buffet) and headed to the Pavilion to feast on crab legs, lobster, salmon, tuna, shrimp, and pretty much anything else that swims and is edible.

After an amazing dinner, we strolled home, waving off the friendly golf carts that offer to take you everywhere, and worked off a fraction of our dinner on the way to the villa.

The next morning, we headed to the spa for our couples' massage. There are no words. The spa was all open air and totally silent, including the area around the natural stone hot tubs and the infinity pool. We were taken to a private villa with a porch overlooking the ocean for an indulgent hour that I wish could've lasted a lifetime!

Wednesday, we got started by (of course) taking a few pictures of our villa and indulging in a room service breakfast of croissants and fresh fruit on the back porch before heading off on the snorkel day sail, which took us and five other couples out for a day of reef-peeking, laying out, and gourmet lunches on the edges of the catamaran. We returned around 3, marveling that we hadn't even been at the resort for a day yet and already it felt like a (wonderful) lifetime!

Highlight so far? Watching B hit his ring hand on just about every rock in the room (think outdoor shower) and anything hard at the resort. Bless his heart, it made him so frustrated. "I keep dinging it!" he'd say. First time for jewelry. He'll learn, dings happen! Nothing you can do.
We spend some time in the afternoons floating around our bay, or taking the Hobie Cat out for a spin, sitting by the gorgeous pool, or just laying in our lounges under the beach hut in front of our villa. Corona Ad, Take 5!

Each night before dinner, B would shower and sit outside with a book or magazine in his fabulous LDB robe with a run cocktail and enjoy the sunset while I got ready. In our newly married life, I've decided we definitely need robes, rum, and a back porch. Always.

That night, we had dinner on the beach, a fabulous thing LDB does where they actually set up a table for you on the beach with tiki torches and white linens...quite possibly the most romantic thing I can imagine. We dined on lobster and steak (and yes, more pina coladas for me) just inches from the water with the stars glowing above us. Heaven.

The other nights, we dined in either the Pavilion (more casual) or the Sugar Mill (adults only, and toes-in-the-sand elegant. During the day, we either ordered room service breakfast or went to the buffet at the Pavilion, and often got lunch at the Beach Grill or packed for us in the picnic baskets that they'd prepare for you. We were on the "Full American" meal plan, which we soon realized was aptly named!

Thursday we did the beach lunch on a remote shore with some of the other people from our resort. They staff went ahead of us, setting up beach umbrellas, a delicious grilled spread, and a steel-drum band. We spent about three hours simply enjoying the music and exploring the beach. The best part? At one point, the sky opened up and rain began to pour down, despite the continued bright rays from the sun. B and I snuggled up under our umbrella and let the rain come. Amazing, and so cozy.

That afternoon, we hiked into town, about a ten minute trek, and "shopped" the yacht club for boats and just peeked into a few stores before watching the sunset over the harbor of Spanish Town.

On Friday, we rented a car and drove the island, all eleven miles of it. We started off with a trip to the Baths, a wonderful beach-and-cave situation that you can explore and enjoy as one of the island's national parks. We had fun climbing around the caves and snapping pictures where we could before packing back in the car and heading off to explore.

When we got back in the car, I rolled down my window to let some of the heat out then realized ten minutes later that, yeah, there was no way it was going back up. Whatever, I'm in for the natural look. Until the rain starts.

Let me paint this picture for you: B's at the wheel, driving the scary, rail-less mountain roads up over Mt. Gorda while rain is beating down on the windshield and I'm helplessly holding up a soon-to-be-soaked beach towel to keep some of the deluge out. I'm laughing, B's telling me to get in the backseat, and then we realize that the wipers are less wipers and more car-wash fringe, carefully smearing the rainwater around the windshield. Classic!

We survive the drive and visit a few other resorts on the island by ferry, then cruise back home, where we are infinitely glad to be after a long, crazy, fun day.

Highlights? Chickens and roosters everywhere, a sign asking that you not release stray dogs or cats into the forest, and a buffet set up (all alone) on the side of the road surrounded by goats. Oh, and the British telephone booth that turned out to be a shower and the "Irish Pub" that played forlorn music the entire time we drank beer at the Bitter End Yacht Club.

We got back in time to change and head out for the sunset cruise around the islands, complete with delicious appetizers and, of course, fabulous drinks. Jimmy, our bar guru throughout the week, was fantastic, saying, "This cooler better be empty when we get back, otherwise, when you buy a beer tomorrow, I'm selling you the same one you already paid for tonight!" Booze cruise, it wasn't, but it was close!

On Saturday, we loaded up for a private beach drop on Mountain Trunk, where we spend a few hours snorkeling, lunching, and reading by ourselves with the gulls and our beach chairs. So peaceful. So perfect.

We spent Saturday and Sunday hanging by the pool and on the beach, soaking up every last drop of sun and coconut milk before packing up and flying home on Monday afternoon. Will, our fabulous captain from before, flew us back over the islands while we toasted with beer (B) and Champagne (me) before landing at the St. Thomas airport, where our roast beef sandwiches were promptly confiscated and we were reduced to "sad sap" status of those waiting to board the plane back to Atlanta. It seemed appropriate that, as we waited to board, they called for zones 2-7, creating a crushing cattle call and thrust us back to the American mindset, away from the peaceful tropical way of life. We hung back and let the others crowd in, eager to enjoy our final few minutes on the islands.

Before I got on the plane, I made B promise that we'd come back, someday, and without the triplets.

Newlywed Moment of the Day

Mom: How's it going living with B's parents?

Me: It's great. I really like that, when I'm working at home, I can still hear other people in the house. On Thursday, B and I are making them dinner.

Mom: You know, not many young brides cook for their mothers-in-law starting day one!

Me: True! Good thing I know she likes me. Less pressure.

Weekend Away

B and I had such an amazing weekend. We packed and headed to the lake after he got home from work, stopping only to pick up some barbecue for dinner, then met his Dad and brother at the Blue Ridge location. We spent a little time all three days cleaning or getting the house ready for summer (hello, pollen season!), but mostly we relaxed on the dock, played on the lake, and enjoyed really great food over candlelight dinners at home.

One of my favorite things to do at the lake (and anywhere with B, really) is to go on long walks, so off we went Saturday evening, taking a different path than we normally do. Don't worry-- by "path" I mean turning left out of their gates instead of right. We're still talking main road here.

We'd walked about 20 minutes on the gravel mountain road when we heard barking. Loud barking. Mean barking. B turned around and saw a big dog racing toward us, looked at me, and said "run." No panic, no fear, just "run."

And run we did, for about a quarter of a mile. The dog stopped once we got away from his turf, I suppose, but still. Scary. I know I know, normally you don't run from things that like to give chase, but dogs up in Blue Ridge deal with bears and more, so you don't mess with them. Half a mile later, we passed some people outside on their decks (by now we're both holding sticks), who gave us a good teasing about said sticks, so I told them about the dog. Everyone knows everyone up there, and nobody knew this dog, so he must be new.

Either way, our mountain walk turned into a moutain sprint, so I definitely think B and I earned our steaks that night!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Post-Nuptial Depression

Come on, you know this deserved its own post. According to this non-medical site, in the UK no less, PND makes "sufferers feel desperately low, aimless and disconnected from their newly married state. To them, life after the wedding seems mundane and meaningless with nothing to look forward to and it can be a struggle to even get out of bed. In severe cases the black cloud can linger for up to six months making for a miserable start to married life."

I should say that this particular page has had over 4,000 views. And, when you type Post-Nuptial Depression into Google, you get 19,500 results. Wow. The honeymoon really is over, accoring to Anyone out there experience PND? I won't judge. Too much.

Apparently PND, like most diseases that, ironically, result from too little planning, can be avoided by following 10 easy steps. A few highlights:

4. Tune into yourself. Allocate regular, private relaxation time to honestly acknowledge your thoughts and emotions and release anything that feels uncomfortable or negative. Write it down, share it and discuss it- anything but suppress it. Your courage now will reward you richly later.
(Hmmmm.. "write it down," as in blog? Uhoh.)

8. Allow for a period of adjustment. Feeling married and behaving married takes time. It is an attitude, a way of being that grows and develops. Take the pressure off yourselves and look forward to getting into the groove of being married at your own pace during the first twelve months.
("I'm sorry about that night in the bar, sweetie. I didn't feel married yet." Ok, I joke, but I get this one. I still feel like I'm playing dress up with this ring sometimes, but mostly it just feels so right.)

9. Arrange things to look forward to. Your first year of marriage is special so make it memorable. Hold post wedding dinner parties for friends and family and look at photographs/filming together. Book some short trips away and spoil yourselves as a couple to help you come down gently from the high of your wedding. (Consider yourself warned.)

Plus, the lady who wrote this specializes in getting girls mentally ready to leave their single lives and transition into being married women. Where was THAT in pre-cana? Sounds like it involves martinis. And assorted girly things.

I'm Engaged... What Now?

A dear girlfriend and former roommate just got engaged and said she was looking for the book, "I'm Engaged, What Now?" Trying not to be too into giving advice to the newly engaged, I figured I'd write my thoughts here, in case she ever decides to check the blog and see, in looking back, what I learned from my time as a fiance.

I'm Engaged... What Now?

1. Enjoy yourself. One you pick a date, the train leaves the station and you're officially on the countdown, both mentally and physically. Unless you're hellbent on being married by, say, Thanksgiving, don't fret about not having a date. Just enjoy your new status. Engaged!

2. Know thy budget. Before you get heart-set on anything (a location, a dress, a ring, a band...), figure out what your budget will be. It doesn't matter where the money is coming from (you, your soon-to-be spouse, your parents, his parents, the lottery...), what matters is that you know how much you intend to spend. Then follow those nifty checklists that tell you to devote 10% to this and 15% to that. While your bride status is new, unique, and lovely, the process has been done. Don't reinvent the wheel!

3. Figure out what's important to you: Part 1. What wins: Date or Location? If your heart is set on a location, then be flexible with your date to make it work. If you must get married on a certain day, then you may have to pass on location one, should it happen to be booked.

4. Figure out what's important to you: Part 2. What are you excited about? The dress? The invitations? The flowers? The cake? Pick the things you want to focus on, work on your ideas, and themes will start to pop out on their own. If you're passionate about everything, more power to you! My favorites? The dress, the favors, the welcome bags, the cakes, and the flower girls/ring bearer, so I spent more time on them, punting the flower decisions, etc to my dear Mom (love her!).

5. Do one thing a day. This time is meant to be enjoyed, so enjoy flipping through magazines one day, experimenting with a signature cocktail the next, and browsing flowers online the following. If you're engaged a full year ahead, spend the day of your wedding (one year in advance) seeing what the weather's like, when the sun sets, what flowers are in season, and what the humidity is doing to your hair.

6. Enjoy it! Tell everyone to bug off (or do go ahead and book/do as they please) and just enjoy being together. The week after B and I got engaged was so fun. It was his last week in Birmingham and we packed it with fun dinners, nights out, time with friends, and special lunches. It's about the two of you. Reinforce that!

So that, dear friends, is my unsolicited advice, sent off into the great beyond. I loved planning the wedding and would do it again in a heartbeat, provided I could stay married to B in the meantime. Hm, maybe that's a good tip: Sneak off and get married first, then plan the wedding. I'm betting you'd be much more relaxed!

PS... Hilarious. This picture links back to a page about how to avoid post-wedding blues. Did you know there's a "condition" called Post-Nuptial Depression? And if you think it's about realizing you married the wrong guy, you'd be wrong.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Do the Next Thing"

My boss sent me this today and I liked the message, "do the next thing."

Do the Next Thing
Marybeth Whalen

"Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways.'"
Haggai 1:5 (NIV)

When I was a new mom, I often felt overwhelmed by my circumstances. The crying, the whining, the mess. I would look around at it all and just want to sit down and have a good cry. At some point during that time, I heard Elisabeth Elliot speak on the concept of "do the next thing." She talked about how, after her husband Jim died, she would have been overcome if not for this simple concept. When her emotions would start to run away with her, she would simply ask herself what the next thing she needed to do was. And then she would do it. And then she would do the next thing, and the next, and the next. And all those little "next things" made up her days.I adopted this principle and began to whisper to myself, "Just do the next thing." Sometimes the next thing was to change a diaper, or start dinner, or return a phone call. Even now I move through my day doing the next thing. Sometimes my next thing is to homeschool my children. Sometimes it's to tidy the house. Sometimes it's to sit down and hammer out an article I have due. Whatever it is, I focus on that one task until it's done. And then I ask myself what's to be done next.
I always knew I learned this concept from a godly woman, but I never thought about this concept being from God. My reading in Oswald Chamber's timeless devotional, My Utmost For His Highest has helped me see that it is indeed a spiritual truth that God wants us to learn. Consider these two quotes:"We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God's power... and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him.""When the Spirit of God comes, He does not give us visions, He tells us to do the most ordinary things conceivable... whenever God comes, the inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things--the things we would never have imagined God was in, and as we do them we find He is there."Chambers referenced the scene in I Kings where Elijah is running from King Ahab. He is hungry and tired and very depressed. (Ever been there?) In that scene God sends an angel to him who says simply, "Arise and eat" (I Kings 19:5). What was Elijah's "next thing" he needed to do? Get up and eat something! Sometimes just moving forward in the most basic way is all God needs from us. With our obedience comes the solution we are seeking.
I hope this thought will help you or someone else who is feeling overwhelmed and even depressed. What "next thing" is God asking you to do? Get up, do whatever it is, and find Him there.

Dear Lord, help me to do the next thing when I feel overwhelmed. Help me to remember that You are right there waiting in that next thing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application Steps:
Make a list of things you need to accomplish today. Now, instead of getting overwhelmed by your list, pray over it and ask God, What is the next thing I need to do? It might just be to cross some of those things off your list!

What is a "next thing" you can do right now?

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 10:23, "I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps." (NIV)

Proverbs 20:24, "A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?" (NIV)

Driving to Birmingham

I'm back in Birmingham for the day at the office (every Tuesday, every week until we return next month) and, to be honest, I hadn't expected it to be this hard. The drive over here was tough, mostly because the last time I drove my car (seriously) was when I was driving around with Mom doing funeral arrangements-- I've pretty much punted that whole responsibility to B so that I can be on the lookout for more exciting things, like geese and puppies.

So I left this morning at 7 est and had a deja vu moment that I was doing the same drive from two weeks ago, I remembered the spot on the highway where I last spoke with Dad, when he told me he wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be coming with Mom to have lunch with me that day.

The office brought back more memories. When B and I came that Sunday to pack my desk, it was a weekend, so the lights were off and the air felt different. But today the lights were on again and memories of Mom's call, followed by the sheriff's call, flooded back.

I don't do well with too much attention, especially when people are feeling sad or sorrowful on my behalf (let's leave the "pity" word out of it for now). It's not that it upsets me, I just don't know what to do with it, so instead I crack jokes, try to make them feel better, or just nod and try to edge my way out of the kitchen area without them noticing. My pen for an invisible bubble!

For the record, I know people are being kind, and it'd be harder if people just ignored me, or what I'd lost, but it's still hard.

Part of me regrets making lunch plans today, because I know I'll be thinking about heading out to eat lunch with Mom two Tuesdays ago. It's odd, if this were a bully or a battle, I'd be mad. I'd refuse to cede my Tuesday happiness, because that would mean that "they'd won." But who wins here? It's not about that. Just triggers, I guess.

I know lunch will be a fabulous time to catch up with a few Birmingham girls, so I'm looking forward to having some time with them, and I know my Tuesdays won't all be reflective or pensive. Just today, my first day back in the same shoes. I wore white, and pink pearls. Light, airy things to remind me about good times and life.

The good news is that if this afternoon leaves me in a little memory heap, I've got B waiting for me at the end of I-20 with a margarita and a big hug. We'll turn Tuesdays around, and hope that making new memories will only remind me of the good ones from "before."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wedding Weekend!

Where did I leave off? Oh yes, the bridesmaids luncheon. I took the curlers out of my hair, quit blogging, and headed off to Turtle Point with Mom (sister and sister-in-law to follow after settling the girls with a sitter-- Ethan was the lucky man who got to brave the room of women).

We arrived to find the dining room covered with beautiful flowers and a nice glow from the warm sunshine outdoors. It made me so happy that many of the girls had met before, so they felt fine to mingle. As for me, I basically wandered from friend pod to friend pod smiling like a crazy person that I had so many of my favorite girls in one room!

We settled down to a delicious lunch of pecan chicken on salad with fruit while my aunt and grandma (the hostesses) got to introducing everyone and offering a general welcome. Ninety minutes flew by and before we knew it we were taking pictures and getting glimpses of the guys, who were coming in off the front nine for their lunch next door.

One of my favorite memories is that, apparently, my brother and brother-in-law had been sneaky about what time golf started, which was around 10 am. They left to "hit a few" and "warm up" just before 8 am that morning. Did I mention we live five minutes away? Turns out they sneaked in the entire back nine before the groomsmen ever got there! We laughed that they felt they had to sneak around. Kudos to them for getting more time on the greens.

After lunch, I hugged B and headed home to do a few last minute things (drop our first song CD by the band's store) and change before heading to the hotel. B's brothers had picked out a special gift for us and wanted us to be together, with them, to open it. We met around 3:30 in the hospitality suite (thank you, parents!) to discover that they'd picked out this beautiful silver ice bucket with the most amazingly delicate yet masculine design around the middle. B and I both love love loved it. I can't wait to use it!
The hospitality suite itself was a huge hit and I totally recommend it if you can pull it off! The parents bargained for a better deal for a big suite (one huge balcony, two bedrooms, living room area, kitchen, dining room table, foyer, bathroom, etc), which they promptly stocked with beer, wine, cokes, fruit, waters, bagels, oatmeal, liquor, cheese, crackers, goldfish, coffee, and more. Basically, if you could get yourself to Alabama, you could survive in this room and at wedding-related events the entire time. Plus we had fun stocking it. B and I got so tickled as the boxes, coolers, shopping bags, and hotel carts kept rolling up with food to fit in that (relatively) tiny kitchen! Shockingly, most of the food and drinks disappeared over the weekend (into tummies, down by the hot tub, etc). Not surprisingly, the room was a hit.

Post-present, we headed to the rehearsal, which I was hell-bent on keeping to an hour, tops. We made it out in 45 minutes (you are welcome, friends) and got to go over everything. I walked the wedding coordinator through the entire ceremony, then walked the priest through the entire ceremony, then we actually walked through the entire ceremony (all 12 groomsmen, 11 bridesmaids, 4 flower girls, 1 ring bearer, four parents, bride, groom, and three readers). The flower girls practiced with their petals (and pacifiers, some of them). Green programs were passed out. Notes were written in, especially the one when I asked the priest if he'd say "You may now kiss the bride." He inked it in. Golden! We headed from the church back to the hotels to board the buses and head to the rehearsal dinner.

The rehearsal dinner was amazing. Held overlooking the river out on the back deck of a golf club, the dinner had everything. Waiters welcomed you with Champagne. Trays of appetizers floated around the cocktail reception area. B and I got to mingle, seeing friends and family that we'd missed for too long a time. Then, we headed outside.

B's Mom and Dad had worked tirelessly to make the dinner a hit and, I have to say, it absolutely was. From the beautiful flowers to the sunny tablecloths to the table names (picked for places B & I had lived, visited, or experienced minor league ball in) to the made-to-order sunset that happened just as we sat down, it was picture perfect.

We enjoyed an appetizer of shrimp and fried green tomatoes, a main course of grilled asparagus, cheese grits, and a pimiento cheese-stuffed tenderloin, and a dessert of molten chocolate whiskey cake with a raspberry drizzle. The wine was flowing, we played the slide show (B in funny sweaters, my crooked smile), then the Rose Champagne was poured and the toasts began.

A camera was set up in the corner and I can't wait to see what it picked up, but I have to say that my favorite part of the evening may have been the toasts. We heard from friends and family funny stories from childhood, advice for marriage, or thoughts on the coming day. B's Dad toasted us, saying he picked the menu to reflect each of us; the chocolate cake with B-- crisp on the outside, soft in the middle, and with a stiff shot of whiskey, and the rose Champagne was me--tall, slender, bubbly, and "when she arrives, you know the party can start."

My brothers gave us advice on marriage, loving on another and taking care of one another. B's brothers gave him a good teasing of what it's like to grow up under such a great presence ("Captain, Valedictorian, blah blah blah"). B's friend Ryan shared stories from their trip through Europe, saying how he realized why B was always running off to call me despite their exotic and exiting locale-- when you're meant for each other, it doesn't matter if you have the 999 other puzzle pieces. If that one is missing, it isn't right. Little did he know that the inscription on our rings reads "Puzzle Pieces," for that reason, and more related to our song "Such Great Heights."
I could go on forever. The words, thoughts, and prayers of our friends and family meant so much to the both of us. It's wild-- I sat through those toasts and offerings at my siblings' weddings, but never really thought I'd have that at mine. It was, again, humbling and so rewarding to hear stories of such love and hope for us.

In retrospect, one of the touching moments that meant a lot to all the siblings was Dad's toast. He introduced the siblings, rightfully adjusting the details as his cocktail-party fodder required. My sister and brother said later how much it meant to hear, just 10 days before Dad's death, what it was about them that really stuck out to Dad. What he was proud of, what he wanted to share. Later, in his toast (that's right, he gave two), he called up all my girlfriends in the wedding and had them perform "Daddy's Girl" for the crowd. During the interludes, he'd turn the music down and offer memories, tips, and advice. My brother said later, "It's amazing. Dad didn't know how to pause the music, or slow it down, so instead he wrote--and practiced--his speech to make it fit the time he had."

The lyrics meant the most... funny and still totally Dad:
Daddy's Girl, Daddy's Girl
I'm the center of Daddy's world.
I know I'm Daddy's number one,
For he loves me like I was his son.
Daddy's Girl.

The last verse meant a lot that night too:
I recall the day that your young man come to call.
Seems like only yesterday you swam and played football.
But I know the time has come, that I must set you free.
But no matter where you are, you know what you are to me.

I haven't been able to watch the video yet. Part of me is afraid that the camera cut off before we got to Dad's toast. Another part is afraid that it didn't. I'll watch it someday, when I have B and a bottle of wine, but not today.

The night ended beautifully. No rain, lovely dinner, amazing friends. We loaded the buses and headed back to the hotels, where I said my good nights and headed home around 11. It was hard to leave, but I had to get some sleep! The party raged on into the night in the hospitality suite. Crazy kids. And by kids, I mean B's parents' friends. Love it!

Saturday morning, I woke up at 8 to the sound of torrential rain. I decided to be benevolent and pray for the girl having the outdoor wedding at the rehearsal dinner site later that day. After all, she needed sun, and if I got a little too, what was the harm? God blessed us and the skies cleared around 10, leaving the rest of the day partially cloudy or perfectly sunny. Fabulous!

I got up and started doing my hair. Did it once, unsatisfactorily, and (to my Mother's silent chagrin), tore it all down ten minutes before we were to leave for the church. She patiently helped me put it back up and we headed to Sam's (yes, Sam's) for ice, Chick-fil-A for nuggets (woohoo!), and then onto the church where we set up the massive bridal party buffet and welcomed my make-up lady into the parish house. We snacked then got down to businesses finding the best room for make-up light as the girls began to trickle in. The snacked, applied make up, and got ready as I got all dolled up. Al, the amazing video man, captured every eyelash on camera, and the photographers got there in time to tell me to get the dress on and get this show on the road!

Pictures went well. B and I didn't want to see each other before, but I had to sneak a peek out the window while they were doing groomsmen photos on the baseball field across the street. So handsome! We did an "anticipation" shot, where our hands were touching around a door, but we couldn't see each other.

Some of my favorite photos of the day were the ones with the flower girls and ring bearer, my nieces and nephew. My (magical, amazing) sister pulled a bag of mini marshmallows out of her diaper bag and started bribing the kids with them to stay in the shots. We went one better and eventually loaded the mini sugar bombs straight into my bouquet (sorry, Carl) so that they would a) stay near me, b) smile, and c) maintain a decent sugar high for most of the day (sorry parents).

Before I knew it, 4:00 rolled around and it was time to get the show on the road. It happened in such a flurry. The bridesmaids were gone, the kids were gone, and it was just Dad and me standing outside the church. I heard later that the kids were a hit... no flowers were dropped, Ella ran in yelling "MOMMY! I have FLOWERS!" and Sienna wandered off toward the guys' side of the bridal party, all this after Alex broke rank and tore down the aisle mid-bridesmaids without, of course, his pillow. Outside, I remember Dad turned to me and said, "I have the medicine you wanted for your honeymoon. I'll give it to you tomorrow, I won't forget." And then we went.

I remember walking down the aisle, pausing to look back at the photographer, locking eyes with B, being aware of my smile and the guests that seemed to pack the church.

Then Dad and I were at the front, "Her Mother and I do," he said, letting me walk ahead before crossing over behind me (that's a well-experienced wedding Daddy move right there!). B and I walked up the steps to the alter, had our prayer, sat down, and it hit me, "Holy hell, I'm on the alter! How did I get up here? Did I walk?"

The ceremony was lovely. First reading, second reading, homily, vows, rings, then... crickets. We were suppose to go into a rose ceremony, in which B and I would give roses to our Mom's, giving us a selfish chance to hug them and acknowledge the new additions to our families, then a third reading (from The Velveteen Rabbit), then a blessing and charge, then the announcement of us as a couple. Instead, the Abbot sailed straight from the rings to the announcement, telling us to face the crowd as he did it.

I turned, somewhat confused as to what was going on and saw the strings trio on the balcony jump into action. Only instead of playing Ave Maria, they started our recessional! B and I looked at each other then turned back to the Abbot. "We're not done," I said. "I don't know what to do," he replied. It was then that I noticed that the program was missing from his reader and he seemed to have lost his place. B's Dad told us later he could see him furiously flipping through the pages, unsure what to do next.

So B and I walked down (to our recessional music, mind you) and hugged both Moms and my Dad. "Stay the course," I told him, giving the trio an evil eye that I can only hope Video Al caught on camera. I told B later that, had he not been mic'ed, I would've leaned over to the priest and, in not so many words, told him to get his act together. Later I just felt badly for him. I'm sure he knew he messed up, and he certainly didn't mean to do it. Bless his heart.

It was all worth it, apparently, when the guests saw the Abbot's face when, instead of leaving out of the church, B and I marched back up onto the alter. Ha! A: 1, Catholic Church: 0. My brilliant sister leaned over during the rose ceremony and had this lovely exchange with him:
K: Tell him to kiss her.
Abbot: What?
K: Kiss her! Tell him to Kiss her.
Abbot: What?

She told me later that, if she'd had to kiss this Abbot to make him get the point, the whole church might've gone up in flames. Luckily, he did seem to get that, if he let us kiss, I'd call it even. So he announced that B could lay one on me and, the crowd cheered as we kissed, I raised my bouquet in (partial) victory, and we recessed out of the church. As B and I rounded the church, we finally realized that the Abbot had left off about half of our ceremony. At least we got the vows and rings in!

We made quick work of the church pictures, then headed via limo to the reception site, where our wedding party was waiting. We made more pictures there, then headed out front to make our entrance. It was about 10 seconds before the golf cart arrived at the front door that I realized that a) we were about to have our first dance and b) my dress wasn't bustled. Oops. So I half bustle it while riding on the cart, B helps me in the parking lot ("If my Daddy catches you under there...), and then my dear bridesmaid and friend MB arrived out of the clear blue to finish the job before ushering us inside.

My sister and B's Dad offered amazing, heartfelt toasts, then B and I danced our first dance. After that, I got to dance with my Dad. I'm so thankful for that memory. I had decided to do what my sister did at her wedding and dance with Dad and the brothers during the traditional father-daughter dance. It was perfect and wonderful and I wish I could remember every movement of that 45-or-so seconds we had together. Lloyd said later, "I'm so glad we waited," meaning that he was going to come out after 30 seconds, like I'd specified, but decided to let Dad have a few more turns.

After the dances, B and I headed to the cake tables to admire the gorgeous, tasty, and hilarious concoctions that awaited us, mine a towering white and green ribbon beauty with live flowers, B's a replica of a baseball stadium, complete with jumbotron, in fondant.

After that, we got down to greeting our guests and enjoying the reception. We got a Princeton picture to send to our alumni magazine, and the large family photos with everyone on all sides together, plus a Christmas card photo for Mom, featuring our immediate family of...16.

I have such amazing memories of drinks from the martini bar (which I never saw!) and moves on the dance floor by my favorite flower girls dancing to the tunes of our band, the Midnighters. B and I danced, mingled, shared laughs, and were amazed when finally, suddenly it was time for our last dance and for us to (gasp!) leave!

The one big thing (besides, oh, the cakes, the ceremony, the dress...) I'd asked Dad for, and had made his special project, was fireworks to end the night. I wanted them because, well, fireworks are fun, but so many people thought we picked it because that's how so many baseball games end. Sure! We'll take that symbolism. I'm so glad I asked. There were so many times leading up to "the big day" that Dad said, "the only thing that'll make me sad is if I find out there was something you wanted that you didn't get." It made it so much easier to say, "Um, Dad, I asked for fireworks. Do you really think there's something I left off the list?"

The fireworks shot off (from the 18th fairway, to B's chagrin) as our guests gathered on the back yard and balcony to enjoy the view. We were amazed how long--and how good--they were! We expected bottle rockets and got the Fourth of July instead. If you need a fireworks guy in the TN, AL, GA, NC area, give me a shout! Matt was amazing.

After the fireworks, we raced through the arch of sparklers to the waiting limo. I hugged Mom goodbye and got inside, where we found a box full of delicious reception food including shrimp and grits, crab legs, crab cakes, cheeses, pork tenderloin, and cake. We had enough food in that box to feed an army... or at least the two of us later that night, then my family again the next day when we dropped off the leftovers.

The one thing I'm most thankful for is the next-day brunch that my parents' friends threw for us. As B and I pulled away in the limo, I looked out my window to see my Dad propped against the gate in front of the country club. I thought about telling the driver to stop, so I could jump out and give him a hug, but I didn't. Not sure why. I know I didn't want to startle the driver, or scare Mom and make her wonder why we had stopped the car. I'm just so thankful that I did get to hug Dad again, to thank him that next day at the brunch.

We drove off to the hotel, where the driver opened the door for us and told us that he'd lost his wife of 45 years only a few months ago, and that we should always love each other and listen to each other. In fact, if you need a good limo man, give me a call!

We walked inside, B in his tux, me in my dress, to a lobby full of little leaguers in their uniforms and a few scattered congratulations. I'll let those Moms and Dads handle that conversation!
The next day, we got up and headed to the farewell brunch at my parents' home, arriving around 11 to a crowded house packed with out of towners, family, and the wedding party. B and I visited until about one, then finally packed a lunch, packed the car, and headed out on the road to Atlanta, where we'd spend one night in a hotel, have a fabulous dinner at Ecco, then fly out the next morning for Virgin Gorda. Let's be honest. B drove to Atlanta. I slept, waking only for a Wendy's snack and the tease of a DQ milkshake (five exits too late, but B did offer to go back, for the record-- he's reading over my shoulder and just piped up with "What? You could've had it!").
The time I was awake, we kept reliving moments. Guests who came, guests we missed, and fun moments that one of us caught, but the other missed. I loved hearing about his Friday with the boys, and his Saturday morning, the times I'd missed him. Married. Wow.

Wedding Preview

Fear not, words are coming soon, I promise! But just in case you missed it, here are a few wedding pictures (courtesy of Todd) to get you through your morning. I'll give you the dirt later today...