Annual Birthday Recap: 33

Man, this time last year, Will, Whitney and I were in Charleston so that Will could ask my dad if he could marry me, and Whitney could eat some she-crab soup. Both missions were successful.

Thirty-three was a pretty wild ride. Here’s a recap for you since I didn’t blog a lot:


Will and I got engaged on March 27, so it was the first significant thing that happened to me at 33. You can read the story here if you want.

Engagement Photos

The timing on this was tricky because we had to do it before it got too hot and sticky in NC, and we had to do it at a time when Amaris was available, and we had to find a time when I wasn’t teaching, and we had to do it before I had my face cut all up. And although it was tricky, and it was starting to get hot and sticky, I think we got some really good shots. Here’s one of our favorites.

Photo by Amaris Fotographic
Photo by Amaris Fotographic –

Surgery on My Face

I had a little basal cell carcinoma on my forehead that was removed about 14 hours after our engagement photo session ended, so basically it was a good thing those pictures came out so good because for the next couple of weeks, I had a giant bandage on my forehead that looked sort of like a Pringle. We called me Pringle-face. It was not so pleasant, but it did provide me with one of my favorite student interactions of the year. The first day I walked into class without the Pringle bandage, one of my students said, with pleased surprise, “Hey teacher! You regrow your face!”


Dear God the moving. Always the moving. If we don’t have to move this year, that will be wonderful. If we do, we’re hiring people. We are too old to be doing it ourselves, and our friends are too old to be paid in pizza. And we live in a third-floor walk-up that actually requires you to go DOWN two floors before you go up three. I cringe just thinking about how many trips we took up and down those freaking stairs moving my stuff in over the course of about two weeks. And then I unpacked over the course of about three months. A little advice, friends. Hire movers. Then spend your energy on unpacking so that it all gets done in a shorter amount of time. I hate living so unsettled like that.

The Very Unfortunate Destruction of My Toe

The day after I moved, we helped some friends move, and in the course of that, I stubbed my toe worse than you can ever imagine stubbing a toe. When you stub your toe on the bed in the middle of the night, that is NOTHING. I won’t give you any details about it because I am a little queasy just thinking about it, but suffice it to say that I couldn’t wear anything but flip-flops for several weeks, and I couldn’t sleep with that foot under the covers for at least a month. Awesome.

Bridal Pictures

After my face had healed enough, I had another photo session. The timing of this one was also tricky. Amaris was getting ready to go to Italy, so we had to do it before that. But we had to wait for my face to mostly heal so I didn’t look like the bride of Frankenstein. Also, it was still really hot and sticky. And on the day of the photo shoot, it rained before we could get the outdoors portion of our plan done. We ended up going back to Amaris’s house, where we got one of my favorite shots of the whole day.

Photo by Amaris Fotographic
Photo by Amaris Fotographic –

Wedding Planning

We still wonder if it would have better just to elope. I enjoyed seeing everyone at the wedding, which I guess is why you have a wedding, but the whole thing exhausted and stressed me out more than I ever want to be exhausted or stressed out again. Maybe I shouldn’t have kids? I know there are people out there who really like that kind of stuff, but it was not my cup of tea at all. Never again.


That’s just nuts. We still can’t believe it’s real. We still feel very much like we felt at this moment:

Photo by Amaris Fotographic
Photo by Amaris Fotographic –


We spent our honeymoon in Gatlinburg and Asheville, and it was GLORIOUS! We read books, we slept a LOT (mostly because we both got sick, bless our hearts), we did the cheesiest tourist things you can imagine, including Ripley’s Believe It Or Not “Odditorium,” a sky lift, airbrushed t-shirt, and a caricature. The caricature is framed and hanging on our wall of random stuff, and I plan to make a throw pillow out of the t-shirt, maybe this summer when I have the time.

The Holidays

They happened. We spent our first married Thanksgiving here with Will’s family and our first married Christmas in Charleston with mine, and both were great. By that time, we had started to recover a little bit from the wedding, and we were able to enjoy just being off work and hanging out with family and friends.

This Semester

Y’all, this semester is beating me up every day like a mean, horrible bully. I have stress dreams about my students. I feel like I’m working all the time. I’m counting down to the day when these classes will end, and I’ll get to breathe again (52 days). Incidentally, I will also get to blog more when this semester ends, so we can look forward to that. Well, at least I can look forward to that. I won’t speak for you.

But no matter how hard it is, I get to come home every night to this sweet man, who cooks dinner for me, then snuggles with me while I fall into a coma for eight hours, then wakes me up in the morning, encourages me to get out of bed, and lovingly pours me a bowl of cereal when I’m running late from staying in the bed for too long.

Photo by Amaris Fotographic
Photo by Amaris Fotographic –

It’s been a tough, stressful, wonderful, exciting, amazing, sweet, crazy, incredible, exhausting, unbelievable year. I can’t wait to see what 34 brings!

Dana’s Truth

Dana is a friend from church. Sort of. We went to the same church for a while, and we knew of each other, but we weren’t really friends until this past year when she joined the mentoring group you’ve heard tell about. She also went to high school with my husband, which is weird sometimes when I hear stories from back in the day. Dana and her sister own a wedding planning business together, and they’ve been building a wedding venue over the past year, which has proven to be…challenging. She is a brave woman, to say the least. Here she is to tell her truth.

I was asked to contribute to this series and I immediately said Yes, Of course! Why not? Well, not even a minute goes by after I hit send and I immediately had that sinking feeling. You know that feeling when you realize that you have to dig deep inside to admit something? Whether I was 12 admitting that no, I did not put on deodorant this morning, or when I was 17 and said “I love you too.” I always, my entire life, struggled with the truth.

From the time I could remember, I found myself winding these stories to either explain away a behavior, or to make myself look better, more compassionate, more loving, and more desirable. I struggled from the depths of my soul with disappointing people. I never understood those people that just said “to hell with them! I can do whatever I want!” That idea scares the literal crap out of me.

So, to admit my truth, to dig down deep to what I know is true and clear, was hard. I spent weeks journaling, thinking, and playing around with “my truth.” I would come up with a good one, and then shoot a hole straight through it. I always came back to this one, undeniable truth – My husband loves me. Okay, you can all start gagging now – but I really started to meditate on this simple fact. I started to think about the time when I was 17 and I admitted that yes, I do love this kid. The facts were spilling out of me and I just had to sit to write it all down and contain this waterfall of emotion and truth in my life.

Sam and I met in high school. We dated through college and got married 6 weeks after we graduated. The first few years were bliss. We had normal squabbles, but truly some of the happiest times of my life were the first few years we were married. Even then, I still struggled with who I was. I felt somewhat secure in who I was in my husband, but who was I in God, in my family, in my job, in my skin, in my friends? I found myself slipping back to the unrealistic vision of who I should be. I wanted to create a more exciting life, a more spiritual one; I started working out a lot and strived to be the skinniest I ever was. I felt like I had to put on a mask with everyone. This only got worse when I had my daughter.

We decided I would finish out my year and then quit. I was so excited. I had these grand ideas about my days home with this sweet baby. It was hard. I lost a part of me. I lost the part of me that studied for years to be a teacher, who dedicated their time and energy to sports and after school activities. I saw fewer people, talked less like an adult, and just felt out of sorts. I couldn’t shake it. I made up a schedule to keep the house clean, to cook perfect meals, and to look like a person (i.e. showering, brushing my teeth – you know – being human), and I would fail.

I would fake it so well on the outside, I smiled in my MOPS group, I posted pictures of my kid who was screaming two second before with the caption “isn’t she perfect?” I would gush about staying at home and no one was the wiser. My husband would get home; I would look at him and hear, “What are we having for dinner? What did you do today?” I was hearing the lies I was telling myself. I convinced myself that he just loved the idea of who I was. The real me, the mess, the disaster, and the lost me, he did not love and he desperately wanted the idea of me back. I spent years believing this. I tried to impress him, make him see my worth, my value to this family. I never let him in on my true feelings. I kept walking through life that I was happy. To admit that I was not over the moon about being a stay at home mom, made me feel like a failure and a disappointment. I wanted to so desperately prove to him that I was the perfect mom and wife.

It took this last year to really see the man I married. We have had a tough year, lots of downs, lots of stress, and lots of honest to God depression on my end. When I listened, when I looked, I saw this man standing before me as I am blubbering away that I am so sorry I dragged us into this. And he would respond, “its okay, I love you.” I would throw my hands up saying I just can’t do this, I can’t be around this 2 year old for another minute, nothing I do is right, nothing works! He responds, “its okay, I love you.” I would sit in the bed and cry that I was terrible mom who can’t even find time to make Valentines with her daughter, that this path we are on has cost us so much and I just don’t even see the value. Instead of agreeing or getting upset that I did indeed bring us down this road he responds, “I love you Dana, always will.”

It was then that I realized I could be a mess, I could be a straight up disaster with a month long of unshaved legs and he would look at me with the most genuine smile and tell me I am beautiful, that I am loved, that I am valued. I think back to when I stopped feeling the need to lie. To start being honest – I feel crappy. I feel angry. I feel so tired, so lonely, and so.. and it was with him. I could dig down to the ugly parts of me and serve it on a platter and he would take it and say, “but, I love you – YOU Dana.”

There is something freeing about finally believing a truth you have so desperately been praying and seeking for. It is a sense of peace, of knowing how perfect the world actually is. When I curl into his arm at night and we fit perfectly like two jigsaw puzzle pieces, I know that this was God’s perfect and ultimate plan for me. He gave me a man that is able to give me something no one in my life could ever give me. The comfort to speak truth and believe I am not ugly for it. I am not considered a waste, a disappointment, or even tossable, but I am loved. His simple words, simple actions brought me to my knees with God. If my husband can love me this much, how much does Jesus love me? How much does he desire to see my ugliness, take it and tell me I am loved? The thought is unfathomable. I will never really know. But what I do know without a shadow of doubt, as sure as I am that God laid down his life for me, my husband loves me. And that my friends, is my truth.

For more from Dana, here is her business blog. Check it out, and if you are getting married, HIRE HER IMMEDIATELY. If I could go back and change one thing about my wedding, that’s what it would be. She and her sister ran my wedding day, and it was the best thing ever. I just wish I had hired her to plan the whole thing.

Marriage Advice

One of my most favorite pictures from our wedding day came from the photo booth at the reception. I love it for its quirkiness, its uniqueness, and its complete and utter awkwardness.

Photo by Amaris Photography -
Photo by Amaris Photography –

When we saw this picture, we were so confused. “Are they saying that this is what marriage looks like? A beer in your pocket, a husband on your shoulder, looking stoically off into space? Or from the husband’s point of view, grasping the beer in your wife’s pocket, looking over her shoulder longingly at said beer?”

I’m still not sure I understand, but I LOVE this picture because it reminds me that everyone’s marriage is different. People relate to each other differently because they are different, and that is a good thing. There is no one-size-fits-all way to do marriage, but we did get a lot of good advice from the cards on the tables at our reception.

Each table had a box of cards with questions on them for folks to fill out during cocktail hour/dinner. One of them said, “What’s the best marriage advice you’ve ever received?” Here are some of my favorite answers – different answers from different people in different marriages, but all good advice:

  • Always tell the truth with a warm heart.
  • Always listen with your heart.
  • Honor the relationship’s rough places as well as the smooth.
  • A Christian marriage isn’t about whether you’re in love. Christian marriage is about giving you the practice of fidelity over a lifetime in which you can look back upon the marriage and call it love.
  • Listen. Speak softly. Act with love. Give grace.
  • Love is patient. So so patient. Try to be patient.
  • Love – laughter – sex – laughter. All created by God, all good. Yep.
  • Communicate…communicate…communicate.
  • Hear what your spouse is actually saying, not what you think he/she is saying.
  • Have physical contact every day! Even if just to show you care.
  • Don’t try to change the other person; just accept and love him/her as he/she is.
  • Do the marital dance often! Cha cha cha!
  • Pants off! Dance off!
  • Never go to bed mad at each other, and have a lot of sex! (Both of these were very popular bits of advice.)
  • Be good to her, or I will break your knees. (Surprisingly not from my dad.)
  • Right and wrong doesn’t matter. (I think this one was from my dad.)
  • And of course, this…

marriage advice

What advice should I add to my list?

10 Things That DON’T Change When You Get Married

Last month, I told you about 10 things that change when you get married. As a bit of a follow-up to that, here are 10 things thatdon’t change when you get married:

  1. You still have bed-head – Will affectionately refers to mine as “Mozart hair.” And you still don’t care. I think there was a part of me that thought I would worry about my first-thing-in-the-morning appearance when there was someone seeing me first thing in the morning, but make-up or none, glorious 2nd-day hair or Mozart hair, morning breath and all, he still says I’m the most beautiful girl in the world.
  2. You continue in your own individual growth and learning. Just because the “two become one,” that doesn’t mean that you stop being an individual. It just means that you now have a built-in discussion partner for life, who will also be pushed to grow as you tell him what you’re learning, and who will also push you to grow as he tells you what he’s learning.
  3. There are still things you don’t like about yourself. As many times as Will tells me I’m beautiful, there are still things about my body I think he must not have noticed yet. I’ve pointed them out to him, but he doesn’t care. He just doesn’t see me as critically as I see myself. And the reverse is also true. I don’t see him as critically as he sees himself. Being completely accepted by someone else doesn’t automatically make you completely content with yourself. But it does make you completely loved, and that is more than enough.
  4. You still want the same things. I still want to go to Europe on vacation. I still want to buy everything in The Container Store. I still want ALL THE THROW PILLOWS. I still want to sleep for 9 hours a night. I still want to eat chocolate cereal for breakfast. I still want to help immigrants learn English. I still want to tell women that they are valuable, worthy of dignity, completely loved, and absolutely necessary in the world. I still want to dance with somebody (with somebody who loves me).
  5. You work the same job. The only difference is that your boss now has a plan somewhere in the back of her mind for what she will do when you have a baby. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if the boss-baby thing is true. My boss will have to chime in here to clarify.)
  6. Your spouse doesn’t change (not that you’d want him to). This is why it’s important to marry someone you already love and respect completely. And of course, over time, all people change. I just mean that marriage itself doesn’t cause people to change drastically. They are who they are before and after the wedding, so you just have to make sure you know them really well and love them a whole lot before you get married. I suggest being friends for six years first.
  7. You still don’t have all the answers. Your wedding vows don’t automatically endow you with knowledge on how to be married, but hopefully, you’ve been learning how to communicate well and work as a team all through your dating and engagement time, so you just keep doing that.
  8. You have good days and bad days, individually and together. You get tired and cranky, you get stressed out, you get over-peopled if you are an introvert, you get under-peopled if you are an extrovert, you get stuck in traffic, you get sick, you get promotions, you win radio contests, you find $20 in your winter coat from last year, you check off everything on your to-do list and feel like a rock star, you connect really well and feel all gushy and in love, you can’t seem to get it together, you feel disconnected and confused. Being married doesn’t get rid of the feeling of relational disconnection any more than it gets rid of heavy traffic. Before and after the wedding, when you feel that way, you talk about it and work it out.
  9. You don’t stop dating. At least you shouldn’t. My husband still brings me flowers (and I still kill them within a few days). Then he takes me out to dinner and picks up the check, and we sit there holding hands across the table and grossing out the rest of the diners and the waitstaff with our googly eyes. And at the end of the month, when we don’t have the money to go out to eat, we still cook dinner together, then cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie.
  10. You still hate whatever chores you hated before you got married. It’s amazing. You don’t become some kind of super-wife who can magically now clean the toilet without gagging. You cross your fingers and hope that your spouse will do whatever it is that you hate doing, but if they hate it equally, then you make the choice to suck it up and do it (or pay someone else to do it)…just like you did when you were single. I think laundry and toilet-cleaning are the only things Will really hates doing, but I don’t mind either. And taking out the trash is the one thing I really hate doing, but he usually does it, so that works out very well for us.

It should be noted that we’ve only been married for 2.5 months. I know my self-esteem, my desires, my job, my knowledge, and even my husband will change over time. Most things do. But marriage isn’t the cause of the changes; life is. And I will welcome those changes when they come because I hope they mean that I’m growing and changing too.

10 Things That Change When You Get Married

I know I haven’t posted anything since I got married. It’s not that I’ve forgotten or that we’re too busy having all the sex for me to blog; it’s that I’ve been trying to figure out what to say. I feel like some big life lessons or revelations are in order considering I just went through (and am still going through) a major life change. I don’t know if I have any big or important things to say, but I feel like I should, and maybe the pressure of that has just had me blocked. So I’ll just start with some basic differences between single life and married life, and then maybe the words will begin to flow out of me like fresh limeade from my Fiesta™ pitcher. Oh wait…we didn’t get the pitcher. Not a good sign, but let’s get started anyway.

  1. You get to live with your best buddy. I know this seems like not that big a change for me considering the awesomeness of my past roommates, but it’s true. Ideally, you marry your best friend, and you’re closer with him than you are with any of your girlfriends because you’re closer in a different way. And then you get to live together, which is just fun! You goof around, watch movies, fall asleep snuggling, wake up next to each other, and come home at the end of good days and bad to your favorite face. It’s great.
  2. People suddenly stop making coy references to your sex life. Before the wedding, questions about the honeymoon were always punctuated with sly winks and elbow nudges. Now when people ask about it, there is none of that. I don’t know if they assume that now that we’re married, we’ve stopped doing it, or if they know that we’ve now started, and that weirds them out too much. Either way, it’s nice that these kinds of conversations have ended.
  3. Your laundry is insane. I know when/if we start having kids, our laundry is going to quadruple, but seriously, washing two people’s clothes seems like a lot more than double just one person’s clothes. I don’t know how that works, but I really need to start doing it twice a week instead of just once.
  4. We run the dishwasher like every other day. Part of this is because when you live alone, you don’t cook for just yourself that much. You eat frozen things or go out with friends or let your married friends cook for you. Cooking for one just requires way too much effort for nothing more than sustenance. I can get sustenance at Taco Bell, and the clean-up is nothing. You only cook for yourself when you’re trying to save money, and then you’re eating sandwiches (on paper towels, because seriously…), mac-n-cheese (and you wash and reuse the pot the next day for more mac-n-cheese), or soup (which you pour directly from the can into the bowl and microwave). But when you are married, it makes more sense financially to cook, so you cook a lot, and then you have all the pots and pans and prep bowls and dining dishes, and it doesn’t take long before your dishwasher is full.
  5. You share a bedroom. This has been one of the most difficult things for me. On our honeymoon, it was fun. We got to have sleepovers every night!! But when we got home, I started to get really cranky in the evenings right around bedtime. This was worrisome, but I think I’ve figured it out. I’m an introvert, so my brain really values alone time. And before we got married, I had built-in alone time every night when I was getting ready for and going to bed. As much as I hated leaving Will at the end of the night and going home alone, I really enjoyed that alone time at the end of the day to wind down and process the day’s events. So after we got married, my brain was pissed at me every night when it was bedtime and someone else was there. But since I’ve acknowledged this shift, things have been much better. My brain has started to understand that it can’t rely on having alone time at night, and that’s ok. I get plenty of it at other times, and I’ve learned to ask for it when I need more.
  6. Your schedule really opens up. Now that I’m not planning a wedding (hallelujah), I have all kinds of free time. Unfortunately, it’s in the afternoons, when most other people are at work, but I’m ok with that (alone time, remember?). Before the wedding, I read that people sometimes get depressed after their weddings are finished because they miss the planning and the stress and all the attention being on them. I am not that girl. But I do like to have goals and to work toward something, so I’m slowly starting to fill my newly reclaimed free time with new projects.
  7. You’ve always got a helper. My car wasn’t starting so well toward the end of last week or over the weekend, and we couldn’t figure out why. Turns out it was just the battery dying, but not quite dead. It wasn’t a big deal in the end, but when we didn’t know what it was, we started to brainstorm how we would get by without one car for a day or two while it was being fixed. Because we live together and share everything and work together to help each other, this didn’t seem like a big deal. I’d drive him to work and pick him up. That way, I could take his car all day and do whatever I needed to do. When you’re single, you can figure out a way to get by without a car, but it takes more effort, and you have to ask people to put themselves out to help you, which I don’t really like doing.
  8. You are more aware of your negative feelings because there’s always someone else around to experience them. Even if you’re just gassy or tired, you can’t feel bad without it coming out in your words, actions and attitude. If you’re single and home alone, you can just stay home alone and not subject other people to your crankiness. Even if you have a roommate, you can escape to the solitude of your own bedroom. But when you’re married and your headache comes out in curtness, you can’t escape that. It’s good in a way because it makes you identify the source of your feelings and work them out, which helps you feel better faster and helps your spouse not get treated poorly. Also, when you’re trying to work out your feelings, you have your best buddy there to help and support you.
  9. You can go to bed at 9:30. Before we were married, it was SO HARD to say goodbye every night and go home. Consequently, the goodbye-ing took forever, and we rarely went to sleep before 11. Now that we live together, we’re brushing our teeth at 9:00, reading at 9:15, and drifting off by 10. AND because you’re married, your friends fully expect you to be a grandma and not go out with them. I got a solid 9 hours of sleep last night, and it was awesome.
  10. You feel like you ought to feel completely different, but you really feel exactly like you’ve always felt. Because of the whole changing-of-the-name thing (which I haven’t officially done yet), I’m having a little bit of an identity crisis, but other than that, I’m still me. I wear the same clothes, do the same getting ready routine in the morning, do the same job with the same coworkers, make the same jokes, think about things in the same over-analytical way, have the same friends, and eat the same foods. The only difference is that now there’s someone else around to witness it all and love me unconditionally through it. There’s someone to watch me silly-dancing while I put on my makeup. There’s someone to laugh at my jokes or tell me I can do better. There’s someone to listen to my over-analysis and tell me if I’m being unreasonable or help me find solutions to problems. And there’s someone to look at the outfits I put on in the morning and say, “You look gorgeous. You’re the most beautiful woman in the world.” (And yes, that is a direct quote.)

Top 5 Least Helpful Things to Say to a Bride-to-Be

Dear Married Friends,

If I ever said any of these things to you when you were planning your wedding, I sincerely apologize. Can you ever forgive me?


Dear Everyone Else,

If you have said these things to me, it’s ok. You didn’t know any better. But for future reference, here are some things I hear frequently that have not been very helpful, and some ways you could improve them for other brides-to-be in your life.

  1. “It’s going to fly by.” If by “fly by,” you mean “crawl at a snail’s pace from now to eternity,” you are correct. Sure, you look back on any period of time and wonder how it went so fast, but ah, how quickly we forget the glacial pace at which time felt like it was moving while we were in the middle of that arduous task, whatever it was. So instead of lying to me about it, you could say, “___ more weeks/months/days? Man, that sucks. You’re totally gonna make it, though. Why don’t I help you brainstorm some non-wedding projects to keep you busy?” (That one is for gals like me who have like five things left to do and six more weeks to kill.) OR (for gals who don’t think they have enough time to do everything that’s left) “Why don’t I help you divide your wedding to-do list into daily tasks to make things more manageable? And then you can tell me what you need me to take off your plate.”
  2. “At the end of the day, you’ll be married, and that’s all that matters.” Really? If that’s all that matters, then WHY AM I RIPPING MY HAIR OUT PLANNING THIS GINORMOUS EXPENSIVE VERY COMPLICATED AND ANNOYING PARTY?!?!?!?!?! If that’s all that matters, then all y’all can stay home while we go to the courthouse and get hitched. If that’s all that matters, forget the food and dancing and fancy invitations and favors, and let’s just get married. I said it the other day, and I’ll say it again: I’m glad I’m having a wedding. And now that most of the planning is done, it doesn’t feel so complicated or annoying. But there were weeks, friends, when I heard this so many times, and it was not helpful. What I wanted to hear instead was, “Man, that sucks. I’m so sorry you’re stressed out. Let me buy you a massage with a massage therapist who won’t mind you crying through the whole thing. Then let’s get Chinese take-out and watch stupid YouTube videos and not talk about the wedding at all for the rest of the day.”
  3. “You know what you should do…” This one has a few variations:
    – “You know, what so-and-so did was… You should do that.”
    – “Just don’t do… I saw that at a wedding once, and it was terrible. You know what’s really great, though, is…”
    Unless your advice is for me to drink a bottle of wine, take a bath, turn off my phone, and do whatever the heck I want at my wedding, it will likely not help me. I genuinely do appreciate your desire to help me. I really and seriously do. Thank you. But there are just SO many good ideas out there, and I can’t do them all. They don’t all go together, and I can’t afford them all, and some of them aren’t realistic, and I can’t keep second guessing myself and changing things. I don’t even want to tell you to stop offering advice because really, it can be helpful. Just know that I will not use 99% of your ideas, and don’t be offended by it. It’s really not you; it’s me. When you offer advice like this, maybe present it more as a brainstorm than an opinion. I can pick things I like out of a brainstorming session, but I feel bad rejecting people’s opinions.
  4. “It’s not that expensive.” I am skeptical already because “expensive” is such a relative term. If you got your wedding dress at a boutique for $1200, and your wedding budget is $35k, sure, that’s not very expensive. For YOU. My dress was not very expensive for me. But for someone else, it might have been too much. And at this point, anything more expensive than free is pushing it. Give me numbers, people. I need the cold, hard facts.
  5. “As long as _________ doesn’t happen, you’ll be fine.” The only story like this that has made me feel any better was one about how the groom’s father punched the groom in the face at the wedding. I mean wow. Yeah, as long as I don’t have to carry my brand new husband over the threshold because his dad beat him up at the wedding, we’ll be all good. But still, there are moments in the wedding planning when you’re so caught up in all the what-ifs that your response to this is, “BUT SO MANY OTHER THINGS COULD GO WRONG AND THAT WOULD NOT BE OK!!” So perhaps a more helpful thing to say in those moments would be, “Right now, nothing is going wrong. You can worry about what might go wrong later.” And probably later, I won’t be worried about it. It’s just in that moment of decision-making that I think about all those things. If you give me permission to worry about it later, I probably won’t, but I don’t think you’re patronizing me either.

What do you think? If you’re planning or have planned a wedding, what were the least/most helpful things people said to you?

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

I don’t think I actually read A Tale of Two Cities. I think I got the Cliff’s Notes and faked the rest. But based on the first line alone, I’m pretty sure the whole thing is about engagement. It’s awesome, and it’s horrible, or at least it has been for me. If you found it to be the best time ever, please leave a comment with your experience. With a month and a half left to go, it might help me to have some tips. Here’s how it’s been so far.


I’ve only been working 20 hours a week since May, but I still feel like there’s so much to do. Between wedding planning and moving, there were a couple of months when I came home bleary-eyed and mush-brained every night and just fell into bed. Things have settled down a bit now that the moving is done and most of the wedding is planned, but for a Type B personality, it was rough going there for a while.

(Tangent: You hear about Type A people all the time, but never Type B. I figured that Type B must logically exist if Type A did, but I had to look it up to be sure. It makes sense, though. Type A people have conferences and things because they love planning them, so you hear about Type A people because their conferences are advertised and tweeted about, and they talk about it a lot. Type B people don’t have anything like that because we’re just all soaking in our bathtubs with a glass of wine. End of tangent.)

The problem with a short engagement is that planning a wedding is a lot of work, and all the checklists you find assume that you’ll have a year or more to plan your wedding (Type A people are clearly in charge of the wedding planning guide industry). They have things divided into time chunks. A year or more before your wedding, do these things. 10-12 months before, do these things. 8-10 months before, do these things, and so on. Our engagement will only be six months, though, so in the first two months, I had to cram in all the 4-12+ month tasks.


On the wedding planning front, lots of things are frustrating:

1. I must have called 20+ venues in the first week of planning, and the conversation went like this:

Me: Hi, I’m looking for a venue for my wedding.
Them: Oh great, congratulations! We’d love to help you. Do you have a date in mind?
Me: Yeah, September 28.
Them: (pause)…of this year?
Me: Yeah.
Them: (laughing) No, we’re definitely booked. We could get you in next year.

If I had known we needed to start planning that far in advance to get the perfect place, I could have called and booked things this time last year…before Will and I started dating.

2. I wanted a rustic-chic wedding, in a cool old barn with vintage chandeliers. I wanted to wear a lace dress and carry fabric flowers. I wanted candlelight, simplicity and sweetness. I know now that a simple, rustic-chic wedding would probably cost $30,000 and take a year and a half to plan, and since I’m not willing to spend that much money or time on one day that is really more about being married than getting married, I had to let go of a lot of what I wanted.

3. But letting go is frustrating too because as soon as you let go of the dream wedding and understand what really matters about the day, you think, “Ok, let’s just take our families and go to the courthouse. Then we’ll get 20 of our closest friends to meet us at a great restaurant afterward.” But something (your parents, society, the idea that having a wedding is what you’re “supposed to do,” wanting to see all your friends, wanting to wear the pretty dress, some combination of all of these) makes you keep pushing through the wedding-planning process.

I really am glad we’re having a wedding. I wouldn’t advise anyone else to do it, but in the end, I’m glad it’s happening. I am looking forward to wearing the dress and seeing all our friends and family and having a great big fun party together and seeing Will all dressed up in a 3-piece suit. But the other frustrating thing about engagement is that WE’RE STILL NOT MARRIED.

Oh my gosh HOW are we still not married? In so many ways, it feels like we are, but then I have to leave and go “home.” WHY do I have to leave every night and sleep in a different bed? WHY do we have to go without seeing each other at all some days? WHY don’t we live together?


I mean this in a good way. I used to think people had an engagement period to give them time to plan a wedding. Now I think you plan a wedding so you can be engaged for a while because engagement is the time when you prepare for marriage, not the wedding. And you need time to prepare for marriage.

Wedding planning is stressful and frustrating and hectic, and it has made me cry on several occasions. But that’s ok because when I cry, Will tells me it’s all going to be ok, and that I’m not in it alone. He reassures me that he is with me every step of the way, and that I don’t have to fend for myself. It has also made us argue, which is actually great because we never argued before, and couples in healthy relationships argue. In our arguing, I found that anger and frustration with Will don’t make me want to leave him. Not even a little bit. They just make me want to not be angry or frustrated. So we work toward a solution and toward understanding, and usually when we understand each other, a solution becomes apparent.

During our engagement, we’ve gone through premarital counseling, and that gave us lots of opportunities to talk about things we might not have talked about earlier. We’ve learned things about each other that we never knew and that will help us in the future to understand. It’s been a time of growth for us as a couple, and for that, I appreciate our time of engagement.


Sometimes my ring catches my eye when the light hits it, and I’m just overwhelmed with love and contentment. Knowing that someone loves me as much as Will does is just amazing. I was single for so long, and I didn’t really date a lot, so I got really good at talking my hopes down. It was enough for me to be loved by God and to have a great family and friends that felt like great family. And that is still enough. It’s not that I need the love of a man now that I have it. But holy cow, it’s a fantastic bonus.

And maybe even more than that, having someone to love in this way is so nice. Every day, I offer him a part of who I am, and every day, he wants it and accepts it completely. Loving someone else and looking out for his best interests means (I hope) that I’m becoming a little less selfish, and accepting the same from him means I’m learning to trust more and not to fight so hard for myself. It means I don’t have to worry about myself at all because I know I’m taken care of. And in return, I get the joy of taking care of him.

Despite the frustration, it really is a very sweet time of learning and growth together, and the emotion that overrides all the others, when I really think about it, is gratitude. I hope I can always remember that in the future when things are hectic and frustrating.

Summer 2013: At a Glance

Since I last logged into my WordPress account:

  • I’ve received 338 spam comments.
  • I’ve had surgery on my face to remove a spot of basal cell carcinoma. Don’t tan, kids. And always wear sunscreen. I didn’t use moisturizer with sunscreen for a long time because they all made me break out, but I’m here to tell you that it’s worth continuing the search for a good product. You don’t want to have surgery on your face. You get black eyes from it, and you have to wear an enormous bandage that looks like a Pringle on your face for at least a week. Just find a good moisturizer with sunscreen in it, and don’t tan. Your skin is beautiful the color it is. I promise.
  • Will and I had our engagement photos done. Here’s one of my favorites.
    Photo by Amaris Fotographic -
    Photo by Amaris Fotographic –
    • I moved. And y’all, I’m done with the moving. I am too old to be hauling all my crap myself, and my friends are too old and too gluten-free to be paid in pizza. Next time, I’m hiring professionals.
    • I helped three other people move. So I moved on a Saturday, our friends Matt and Liz moved the very next day, Will’s mom moved the following weekend (she is smart and hired professionals, but we still helped her unpack), and Will’s sister moved the weekend after that. When that last move was finished, if we had had any kind of energy for it, we would have done a dance. Instead, we just felt really excited on the inside, and you’ll have to take my word for that.
    • I ripped off half my toenail helping with one of those moves. I couldn’t find my shoes, see, because they were all in a box buried under a mountain of my crap in Will’s guest room, so I was in flip-flops, carrying something, and I couldn’t see that I was about to ram my big toe into a concrete step. It hurt, I cried, we went to Urgent Care, they bandaged me up, and I wore those same flip-flops for another two weeks because (a.) I still couldn’t find my shoes, and (b.) the bandage was so big that I couldn’t get anything else on. I’m happy to report that as of last night, all the old, broken toenail is gone, and new, healthy toenail is growing. The tip of my toe still looks a little ragged, but between that and the face surgery, at least I know that my body is very good at growing skin. Way to go, body!
    • I had my bridal portraits taken. For obvious reasons, I can’t display them here, but the ones I’ve seen are GOOD. The rest are still being processed.
    • I had TWO bridal showers in two days, and let me just say, I had no idea people liked me that much. People came from out of town, some just for a night, some just for the day, and they all brought me presents! It was Crazytown. Honestly, I was kind of dreading that weekend because I knew it would be a lot of people time for this introvert, but by the end of it, I just felt so incredibly loved that I didn’t care how exhausted I was (and I was VERY exhausted). So if you were at one (or both) of those showers, thank you. Sincerely. Thank you for loving me.
    • I finished the looooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnggeeeeeessssssssssssssssstt semester in the history of teaching. We started on April 8 and went through August 9. We had a week off for July 4, which was nice because I needed that time to pack/move, but during that time, I was packing/moving, so it wasn’t really much of a vacation. We read three novels, several students “graduated,” and I learned to be very grateful for the lesson plans I made two years ago and the fact that I only had to teach 20 hours a week. Also, taking the summer off from State was the best decision of my life. I don’t know how I would have gotten so much wedding planning done with an extra class. Speaking of which…
    • I had three (four?) craft nights to make wedding decorations, which are now mostly done. We’re just waiting to see how many people are coming so we know how many tables we’ll need so we know how many centerpieces we’ll need so we know how many flowers we’ll need. A last-minute craft night may be in order. We’ll see.
    • We booked the caterer and set the menu.
    • We booked the venue.
    • Our awesome friend Meme designed us some really cool invitations/RSVP cards, which we’ve mailed out. It’s pretty fun now because we get mail from people every day.
    • Oh, and we’ve ordered about a million things from Etsy and Amazon, and people are sending us gifts from our Amazon registry, so we’re getting like five packages a day.
    • We did all of our premarital counseling, which was great. If you’re getting married, I highly recommend it. It gave us a chance to talk about things we might not have talked about otherwise, and it showed us what a great match we really are. When we got to the section on raising children, the pastor said, “Shoot, you could have kids now. You’re ready.” We told him we’d probably wait on that at least until after the wedding, but it was encouraging to hear nonetheless.
    • We planned our ceremony.
    • Our programs are in the works.
    • We got all the wedding attire.
    • I won’t go into all the wedding details as they are numerous, but I’ll just say that while there are things still left to do, if we didn’t do any of them but get a marriage license, the wedding would happen, and it would be fine. People would come, it would be documented, and there would be food. That’s all you really need, right? And to feel that way with six weeks left is a great, great thing.
    • I watched all of How I Met Your Mother. Again.
    • I’ve started watching Doctor Who. And I like it.

So that’s what my summer has been like and why you haven’t heard from me in a while. After my face surgery, I just slept for like two days straight, and Whitney and I decided it was like my body had shut down all other running programs to focus on repairing the breach in The Head. Something similar, though not quite as serious, happened after my toe injury. It’s just been one thing after another, and every time I’ve thought about blogging, an error message has popped up in my brain like the one you get when there’s not enough RAM available to run any more programs.

That semester is over, though, and with most of the wedding planning done, hopefully (fingers crossed), I’ll have more to say to you in the coming weeks. I have some thoughts stirring about engagement and wedding planning and rest and priorities. But we can talk about all that later.

How Did He Do It?

I’ve been engaged for a month, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told the story of how Will proposed. Thank goodness it’s a great story, and I don’t mind telling it AT ALL. I actually love it. The other day, I thanked a co-worker for letting me tell it. She was crying from the sweetness and thanked me for telling it. That’s what we call a win-win.

For a little bit of back-story, you should know two things:

  1. Making each other CDs has been a big part of our relationship (see previous post).
  2. For a couple of weeks before he proposed, we picked on each other about it a LOT. Every time he said anything remotely related to weddings or marriage or long-term planning, I asked, “Is that a proposal?” And to that, he would respond saying he hadn’t even decided whether to ask me or not, and he hadn’t even bought a ring. Or if he did talk about a ring, he’d say it was nickel-plated ceramic with a 3-carat pink quartz he’d found in the parking lot of his office. Oh, in a hot glue setting. So romantic.

So our 6th monthiversary (Is that a word?) was coming up on March 28, but since he had to work late that night, we decided to celebrate the day before so we could have more time together. I knew a proposal was coming, and that right soon. I knew he had bought a ring, and I knew he had talked to my dad about it. It could happen any day, any moment really. And the night before we were planning to celebrate 6 months, I got a very strong feeling that that’s when it would happen.

Normally, plan-making goes like this:

Me: What do you want to do?
Him: I dunno. What do you want to do?
Me: (Shrug) Do you want to come over to my place, or do you want me to go to yours?
Him: I don’t care. What do you want?
Me: Doesn’t matter to me. Do you want to eat?
Him: Sure. What do you want to eat?
Me: I don’t care. What do you want?

But the night before our 6 month celebration, the conversation went like this:

Him: Tomorrow, I’m going to come over and pick you up, and we’re going to go for a walk around the lake, and then I’m going to take you out to dinner.
Me: Yes sir.

So all day, I was a basket-case. I let my afternoon class out like 20 minutes early because I just couldn’t concentrate any longer. At some point, I texted Whitney and told her I was really nervous (she knew about the plan for the day and also thought he was going to propose). She reminded me that I would be fine when I was with him, and that turned out to be true, but the whole day leading up to it was completely nerve-racking.

I came home from work. He came over not long thereafter and, bless his heart, was so nervous. Right when he came in, he went to the kitchen and downed an entire glass of water. I just thought he was thirsty. I had some things I needed to prep for class the next day, and while I was doing that, Whitney came home to a slightly tense/awkward scene in which we all knew what was about to happen, but no one was talking about it.

We went out for our walk and reminisced about the first time we’d held hands 6 months earlier, walking that same path. We came to a bench, and he suggested we sit down. I knew this was it, but I had no idea how he was going to do it. When we sat down, he said he’d made me a new CD. Ok, I thought, the CD is involved. But how? On the cover was a picture of Kermit and Miss Piggy getting married (in The Muppets Take Manhattan, one of my favorites), and it was titled The Hidden Message Mix, an homage to the second mix I made for him – the one with all the mushy love songs, not the one with all the break-up songs.

I opened it up and looked at the play list. At the top, it said, “Read the song titles.” So I read them all and just thought, Man, this is the most random mix ever. It had some really good songs on it, and it had a bunch of songs I didn’t know, but the overall message of the titles didn’t seem to be “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” It seemed to be more like “I love you, and hey look! Rocket Man!”

“Do you see the hidden message yet?” he asked. And that’s when I realized I wasn’t supposed to interpret the message. I was supposed to literally see it. With my eyes. I’ll highlight it for y’all so it won’t take you as long as it took me.

  1. M&Ms – Pickin’ On Series
  2. All You Need Is Love – The Beatles
  3. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
  4. Red Sweater! – The Aquabats
  5. You Really Got Me Now – The Kinks
  6. Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard – Paul Simon
  7. Every Breath You Take – UB40
  8. Boss DJ – Reel Big Fish
  9. Elenore – The Turtles
  10. Two of Us – The Beatles
  11. He’ll Make Me Happy – The Muppets
  12. Play the Game – Queen
  13. As Long as the Grass Shall Grow – Johnny Cash
  14. Rocket Man – Pickin’ On Series
  15. Everything I Do, I Do It for You – A New Found Glory
  16. Never Met a Girl Like You Before – Flogging Molly
  17. The Luckiest – Ben Folds

Do you see what he did there? Clever, right?

Well, immediately upon seeing the hidden message, I was crying. And I turned to him and said, “Is that a proposal?” to which he responded, finally, for the first time, “Yeah, it is.”

He got off the bench and on one knee, and he pulled out the ring box and opened it, and I covered my mouth with my hands and tried to see him through the tears. And he said, “Will you marry me?” And I nodded, mouth still covered, and said through my tears of absolute joy, “Absolutely.” Then I had him put the ring on my finger, and we kissed a lot and called or texted everybody with the news.

And then we went out to dinner.

A man has to work up a lot of nerve to ask a girl to marry him, but now that it’s done, and I’ve said yes, Will proposes to me regularly. It’s sort of a carry-over joke from those couple of weeks right before he popped the question. We’ll be hanging out, and he’ll say that he loves me more than anything, and I’ll say that if he loves me so much, he should marry me. He’ll say, “Yeah, I totally should,” and I’ll say, “Is that a proposal?” Then he’ll get a really sweet, serious look on his face, look me in the eyes, put his arms around me and say, “Beth Parent, I love you more than anything in the world. Will you marry me?” And y’all, I cry every time. Every. Stinkin’. Time. Without fail.

We know it’s disgustingly sweet, and we’re ok with that. We hope that we’re always this way, and even though we know that life will get hard and we won’t always like each other, I believe that our disgustingly sweet foundation will remain. That’s just who we are – friends first and always, completely in love.