Pretty thing of the day: French flowers

{Photos from Style Me Pretty}

Even though it's a pumpkin spice kind of day here in the Midwest, I have to share these gorgeous fresh flowers. I always say that if I had lots of disposable income (after paying off debt and helping others, of course) I would have a florist style fresh arrangements for my home. It is a girly, shameful love I have for flowers, greenery, weeds. Sigh. Aren't those leaves lovely?!


Monday Moment: "Hello, my name is ..."

Today's moment is a totally personal one, and it relates to my recent post about changing my name.

Though not all women agree (see the comments about aforementioned post), I'm so happy to have Patrick's name; it makes me feel proud and a little giddy. But I still feel a little odd when I sign a check or introduce myself in a meeting.

I've been saying, "Hello, I'm Sarah." Or "I'm Sarah A., I just got married and I'm not used to saying that yet."

It's as if I needed to make an excuse for my name or stick my maiden name in between for good measure (which I actually do on my business cards and e-mail signature just because it makes me feel more normal). I kind of shrugged off this uneasiness, thinking that it takes some time to grow into anything new.

This Monday Moment happened today, when I left a message for a coworker. I said it without hesitating. I just said it, and then I hung up. And then I thought, happily, "Huh. Yes, that's me."


Real life: Chewy McChewington

For a laugh: this is real life Saturday. We leave the dog with his pillow and blanket (yes, he has his own) for about 2 hours, and come home to this guilty guy. Busted! And he looks up with those eyes like, "What? Who did that?!" Love it.


Wedding graduate!

I'm guest blogging today about what made our wedding creative and sane on A Practical Wedding! We were so blessed to have such a beautiful day, and I feel honored to be highlighted. Now, go read! And be sure to leave comments for me or for Meg.

Oh happy day

You'll see a new link on the right to the New York Times Happy Days blog. To me, the blog's reason for being is so awesome: "Happy Days is a discussion about the search for contentment in its many forms — economic, emotional, physical, spiritual — and the stories of those striving to come to terms with the lives they lead."

So often, instead of being content, I spend lots of time thinking about other people's lives and analyzing my own. Too much. Most of us do.

The most recent Happy Days entry is by Tim Krieder. It's unmarried take on marriage and a reflection on the very human condition of comparing one's self to others -- "the married and the single, the childless and parents, careerists and the stay-at-home." It is particularly poignant, equally hilarious, and scarily true.

Tomorrow's Friday. So here's to a "Happy Day," and here's hoping you find contentment in it.


Fighting & farting: the truth

Real people argue. Real people fart. Real people burn breakfast. I'm firmly resolved that these three items could populate a new chapter in the book of marriage preparation.

This Sunday, I woke up with a grumbly tummy and a hungry husband who was convinced that there was simply nothing to eat in our cabinets.

After an argument over the fact that "nothing to eat" is all relative (i.e. "We have plenty of food to make breakfast. Just because we don't have snack-y food doesn't mean we have NOTHING to eat!"), I set out to make waffles. We were short on pancake mix, so I tried to halve the recipe and came out with oily goo. Apparently 1/4 cup of oil is not half of 1/3 cup. I never said I was good at math. We had no milk. No homemade pancakes or waffles. Batter in the trash can.

No milk = no cereal. No bread = no toast. Damn.

So, with the only two eggs we had left, I decided to make a cheese omelet for the very hungry hubby. Um. Have you ever burned eggs? I did. I'll tell you that browned eggs stink. They smell like rotten stink. Omelet in the trash can. Oy vey.

I was distraught, mostly because there was some truth to the statement "we have nothing to eat" and partly because I absolutely destroyed breakfast. I failed at breakfast and felt like a failure of a wife. Hence, the defensive argument we then had about the frequency and cost of grocery shopping in our household. Hence, the inevitable tears and loud sighs that ensued. Hence the making up (well, at least there is an up side).

Here's the truth they might not tell you in marriage counseling: your partner is more than your best friend. If all you want is a best friend, do not say, "I do." A husband isn't the same as a girlfriend or good friend (you need those, too.) You don't get a bracelet or best friend pin for being a good wife. Marriage is not just about romance and fun (but it should try to be!)

Your partner sees the worst, the most vulnerable, the non-public "you." He knows that you burn eggs and ruin pancake batter and squeeze zits and leave shoes askew all over the house. He's the person who knows what your farts smell like, because people fart. You argue tooth-and-nail, you fight and bicker. This is what people who know these things about each other do, for goodness sakes. This is part of the honor of being in it for the long haul.

But even knowing those intimacies, you share deep mutual appreciation. I mean, I appreciate and, well, love the little drool spot on Patrick's pillow when I make the bed. That is HIM. I love this person, not the idea of him or the fairytale of our "perfect" life together.

Hello, people. The truth is that fighting and farting and burnt eggs happen. These things do not make us failures at marriage, because that's what marriage is (better or worse). My husband may be pretty close to a best friend, but he's actually my Ultimate Extreme Friend.

There's another bonus to this truth: botched breakfasts sure make for a good laugh.


DIY: Wedding Wishes

Shortly after the wedding, I wrote about the wonderfully poignant and funny words of wisdom and well wishes we received in this jar. So, I thought I'd share actual photos of the DIY set-up of our "guest book" table, where our loved ones wrote notes and drew pictures to us on little green cards.
The table welcomed guests and the wish station was set up right next to the seating cards. A framed a sign, explaining what do do, said "Welcome! Please share a wish, memory, or bit of wisdom with the bride and groom."A fun jar of colored pencils and pens and hand-cut pieces of chartreuse card stock helped make the task fun for guests of all ages.

This idea certainly isn't something brand new. Couples are making the traditional guest book into all kinds of fancy things: trees with tags hanging from the branches, clotheslines, photo booths, etc. You get the idea. So, this is just one of those many options. And it was fun; I love that we now have these little tokens in an album to remind us of the emotions our guests felt that day (drunk and sober, wink, wink).


Another N.C. bride: Madly in love

Some eye candy for today: borrowed this sneak peek from Lauren & Adam's vineyard wedding reception, shot by Winston-Salem, N.C. photographer Sally Gupton and her second shooter Grant Blair. Sometimes wedding and engagement photos capture emotion, too. I think this one is a stunning illustration of the magical feeling inside a bride and groom on the wedding day. A constant, cliche feeling that my heart would simply burst with all the happiness is what I remember from our day.
{photo by Grant Blair }
Admittedly, I was emotional during Lauren's wedding because I was a bridesmaid. I love this girl. But it was also the first wedding after our own when, as a guest, I really understood the joy, happy disbelief, and elation of moments like this one, stolen for two people to share exclusively with one another even as hundreds of their closest ones witness it too.


Monday Moment: The best thing

So, like Will Farrel and his new bride in "Old School," the hubby and I had an oh-so-exciting Saturday at the Home Depot this weekend! Yes, new countertops are actually considered a date now. This can seem a bit depressing if one dwells on it.

Well, here's the "the best thing" about our trip. There we are, flanked by orange metal shelving and home-improvement gear, and our first-dance song comes pumping over the loudspeaker: "You Are the Best Thing" by Ray LaMontagne (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ3xTjvj9tw).

We stop. We look at each other. We smile, and we kind of transport back to the romantic dance floor of Laurel Hall. Giddy giggles and a kiss. Home Depot dates are awesome!


Sunny, sophisticated shower

On weekends, it's fun to day daydream, so I thought I'd share something cool that Style Me Pretty (a popular wedding blog) is doing for brides-to-be. StyleCircle is the blog's social network, and the inspiration board builder is so fun to play with. Using the blog's gallery and my own photos, I can dream up collages like this one, modeled after a black-and-yellow shower I threw a few years ago for a friend. Have fun daydreaming about brunch with girlfriends, mimosas, lollipops, and lemon drops! Happy weekend!


Bragging: North Carolina wedding by Shea

I’m partial to Miss Halliburton of Tennessee-based photography by shea because she is a dear friend of mine (and our own wedding photographer!). So, I can’t help but brag about the real wedding she shot that was posted on the N.C. wedding blog White Thread. Brooke & Cleve’s beautiful Southport, N.C., wedding is breathtaking and chic. I love the tiny “cobbler” jelly bean recipe favors and the whimsical balloons. And if I remember right … the bride is wearing Vera Wang. Lucky! Go see!

(A-maz-ing photo above, of course, by Shea Halliburton.)


DIY results: Flowergirl basket and pomander

Wanted to share the day-of outcome of the basket and pomander I made for our flower attendants. They carried them around all day, and the end result was beautiful!

We saved money by decorating these items by hand. The ingredients are simple: a glue gun, foam ball, basket, 2- or 3-inch wide navy silk ribbon, craft moss (in sheets), one package of pearl-stud floral pins and one package floral clips (two-prong pins), and natural-looking silk floral accents. The total cost for all of this was only around $20, which is what the florists quoted me per item had they created them.

I am pretty sure that the small berry twigs really made these two items. They added the sweet, whimsical feel I was seeking. And the wreath and hairpiece my mom made for the girls really tied everything together.


The big name change: Miss to Mrs.

Who is that girl? That's the question that comes to mind every time I'm introduced or introduce myself with my new last name. I don't think this is denial. It's just hard to go through 26 years of life with a name and suddenly "be" a new name. 

Although I consider myself rather liberal and progressive on many counts, taking my husband's name seemed like the thing I should do. I was so thrilled to see my new name on my business cards at work. 

So, why did I feel like I was betraying the progress of women in the U.S. as I signed my name away at the Social Security Office? Why did I actually, for real, cry a few tears in the SS office's parking lot that spring day. Why did I feel a little resentment as I typed up those "Due to my recent marriage, please change the name on this account" letters? 

I remember Googling for the topic, trying to find other women juggling the same dilemma: to hypenate or not to hyphenate, to make my maiden name my middle name or not, to go by my new name at work or not, etc. 

While there were no forums talking about the difficult decision, I did find several name-change service sites. Now, some of these  I think are kind of silly. The process of writing letters and calling banks and such is, definitely, annoying, but I didn't need to pay a service to tell me to send a letter. If you do, go for it. The one that was most helpful for me was newlastname.org.

I think the name-change thing is an example of how it can be a little confusing to be entering womanhood these days. I've really debated with my brain on being a woman and what that means. I won't blame the "media" or "society" for this confusion and I won't whine that the plethora of choices feel like a burden. Women before us worked hard to make these choices available. 

Name changing has been happening for ages. It's the nature of a family tree. It's a symbolic change that makes it hard to be isolated from your spouse and makes life easier for your kids. But I think women should talk more about how this change makes us feel and how we coped with it. And maybe instead of presenting 25 versions of colored fondant-covered cakes, wedding magazines and blogs should be more candid about this complicated decision, too? 

What do you think?  


9/11: A reflection on wedding vows

We've all seen wedding vows exchanged: letters of commitment read aloud, the traditional, repeat-after-me "I take you ..." Still, vows are really abstract promises until you're hearing your own voice say the words. 

Adam and Lauren (whose wedding I just witnessed) committed their vows to memory instead of repeating after a clergyman or justice. I loved the wording they chose ... "to be your loving and faithful (wife/husband) in plenty and want ..." The idea of these two extremes, which can both happen in the span of a week or even over the course of one day, is the blessing and great risk of a marriage. 

Sept. 11 is a day when we all spend at least a little time considering those that we love and those who lost loved ones in 2001 and in the years since. 

Today, I am also considering the realities of my vows. You see, when entering a lifelong union sealed "until we are parted by death," there is no person who assumes that a lifetime will be shortened by disaster or disease. 

Leading up to our wedding, I remember a heightened sense of fear that something could happen to Patrick. The reality is that this is something of which we can all be afraid. 

Something horrible, indeed, may happen. All of the spouses of 9/11 victims know this fact. And even if that "something" is a natural decline, as was the case for Patrick's grandmother this summer, watching a husband grieve for a wife is sad and painful. In those eyes, there is a question of how to ever go on. It is impossible to fathom that kind of loss. 

But there is another reality, and in that reality is the fact that living fuels the deepest relationships. Sharing life -- in plenty and want -- sustains the vows we take. When something happens, we can cling to each moment we vowed to live together. 


Snoring, snuggling, recovering

I had to take just a minute to write this post. Ozzie, our 75 lb. lab, is sprawled on the carpet next to me, snoozing and snoring up a storm. That makes me a happy lady. 

This pup spent this summer (8+ weeks of it) surviving a broken leg, and just a few days ago, the pin that slowed him down to help him heal was removed.  

Even though the accident served as the last in a series of traumatic events in our newly married life, and even though we cringe at each vet bill, coaching a helpless dog through a traumatic and fragile injury was almost a gift to Patrick and me. 

Focusing on Ozzie helped us get outside of our own grief, worry, wedding letdown, etc. Even when tensions or exhaustion were high, we could talk about how he was doing. We would have to focus on helping him down stairs or be patient covering his cast with socks or plastic bags to protect it. No, it wasn't very fun. But as he came out of his pain, so did we. 

I'm pretty sure this cycle of care resurfaces in many forms as couples grow old together. Just when you think you can't stand one another -- there is a jolt awakening you to love and accountability to another being. 

Just like Oz, we're playing again. We're laughing and singing and planning again. And we, too, snore more peacefully now that we know healing happens a little more slowly than people imagine it might. 


The nice thing about a husband ...

The nice thing about a husband is knowing that when you've had one of those days and you're mad and frustrated (both so unladylike!) and you're breaking out in an ugly cry, he's the person just listening and watching you with concern. He's the person who will still climb into bed with you after a few hours of ranting and raving about silly work stuff or silly girl stuff or just plain silly stuff. 

There are lots of nice things about a husband. But this week, so far, this is the nice thing for which I am very grateful. 


Monday Moment: Maids of honor

We're back from North Carolina today, recovering after the new Mr. & Mrs. Eberle's beautiful wedding. (Definitely a post coming up this week about the event!). Like me, Lauren had her two little sisters stand as maids of honor. 

You could tell the job meant a lot to Erin and Haley -- they were so worried the whole weekend about doing things just right. Their joy for Lauren was palpable. Yet, you could sense an undertone of loss at knowing a new chapter of life was beginning for their family. This is one emotion you don't necessarily expect on a wedding day. 

On the nine-hour ride home, I thought about my sisters. Especially Emma, who is closest to me in age. On my wedding morning, after the dress was zipped, I stood to study my figure in a long mirror. Mom, Emma, and Anna watched and smiled. Then Emma erupted into tears. 

"I don't want you to get married!" she said. We hugged and I told her: nothing about how much we care for each other will change because I am a wife. 

Later in the evening, in her toast, she made us laugh and then surprised me with something so poignant. She read from a letter I wrote to her when she left for college. The letter was about taking risks and making hard choices, about really living life but remaining authentic to your true person. And, the letter reminded its reader of the safety net of family that will always be around. 

Aside from the fact that she saved that letter for so many years (she's now 25), I was moved. I was so touched that along with the greatest joy a person can feel she, too, felt a hint of fear for me at the unknown of married life. That kind of empathy is something that, perhaps, only a sibling can experience. 

Thanks, Emma, for your honesty and your empathy. 


Happy wedding Lauren & Adam!

This weekend, I'm in Winston-Salem, N.C., to stand up for one of my favorite people at her wedding. Adam and Lauren are two amazing individuals who make up an airtight couple. Saturday night we'll be toasting them at a gorgeous winery. Congratulations on the beginning of this amazing adventure!


The week before

This week, I've been reflecting on how I felt the week before our wedding. It's something no one can convice you of when you're planning, and you don't read about it in wedding magazines or blogs. 

The final week of April, my body and brain seemed to just slide into the checklist of last-minute stuff. I was walking in this euphoric state for five days. You feel centered, like you could hug every person you see, and like you're holding this awesome secret from the general public. I remember checking out at CVS or something and thinking to myself, "should I tell this checkout lady that I'm getting married in two days!?" 

The feeling is one that I heard best described by Lauren (she should know -- she's getting married this Saturday!). She called it "wedding Zen." Looking back, I think it's very much like the week after getting engaged, when I-can't-believe-this pretty much permeates your life. What an amazing time! 

So, happy wedding-Zen, Miss Lauren. Enjoy your last two days of engagement. I'll see you tomorrow morning! 


Monday Moment: Happy eyes

The hard copies of our photos arrived on Saturday, and we spent Sunday evening sifting through a few packages (there are many!). We got to this picture, taken of us after we were showered with rose petals and literally JUST married. Patrick said:

"This one might be my favorite. I love your eyes in this one."

Yes, those are some happy eyes.

P.S. Forgive this Tuesday-morning "Monday Moment." :)