The joy of simply sitting

Coffee


Surprise! I’m back (a little early!). I just can’t stay away. We had a great time in Niagara-on-the-Lake with my husband’s parents and enjoyed seeing Niagara Falls cloaked in a cool, gray mist. The weather was beautiful over the weekend, but we actually got snow outside Buffalo on Tuesday.

No matter. We toured around, ate too much, shared Easter candy and enjoyed hanging out. Like all vacations, it was over too quickly — but there’s something comforting, even joyful, about returning to routines.

My current routine? Reading! I finished Katharine Grant’s Sedition (bawdy, titillating and fun) and have made great strides with Frances Mayes’ Under Magnolia. I’ve really hit my groove again and can credit long waits at the airport for some of that, of course; it’s easy to get absorbed in a book with an hour or more to do nothing but sit and read (or people-watch, but that’s another story).

Speaking of sitting, I’ve gotten much better at it. Not in a lazy sense, exactly . . . although, well, that’s some of it, I suppose. I mean the whole be-here-now, live-in-the-moment stuff at which I was once so horrible. Case in point? I worried about disconnecting for two days while we were in Canada without the pricey international phone plan, but you know what I felt as I flipped my iPhone off for 48 hours?

Relief.

Sweet, sweet relief.

Since January, I’ve really gotten used to checking technology less and enjoying life more. When I’m out to eat or visiting with friends, my phone stays in my purse. I don’t look at it; I don’t check it. Unless I’m snapping a picture or something, I try not to touch it at all.

As we got breakfast before our Saturday flight, I looked over at a family of five — with three kids under age 12, I’d say — all glued to a device. Parents on iPads, kids on phones or other gadgets. No one was speaking; no one was engaged at all, unless it was with a screen. I don’t like to be judgmental, but it rubbed me wrong.

Turning my phone off — and then turning it back on once we’d crossed the border Monday — was actually . . . exciting. Novel. Fun. I’d handed out emergency numbers for our hotel to my family before we left, so I knew I wasn’t completely off the grid should, you know, a crisis erupt. But for all intents and purposes, I was roaming. Roaming free.

It stung a bit not to Instagram all our meals, as I’m wont to do, but I got over it. And hey! I can still share them . . . even if it’s not in “real time.”

Real time was spent with Spence and our family — at high tea, in tiny shops, over homemade Reuben casserole, along the shores of Lake Ontario.

Who could complain?


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On the edge

American Falls and bridge


For someone so afraid of heights, you wouldn’t take me for a crazy waterfall fanatic.

But something about cascading water — plummeting, falling, twirling, twisting — always holds me captive. And of all the cataracts I’ve had the pleasure of seeing? Well, Niagara Falls stands alone. (Until I see the Devil’s Throat, anyway.)

My first visit was in 2004 on a family trip with my sister and parents; we hit Buffalo, Toronto and surrounding areas one muggy week in July. I had my first “legal” beer at a bar on the Canadian side of the falls, my dad teaching me how to tip the bartender as I tried not to gag on the light-colored brew. (Pretty sure it was Labatt Blue. Kind of a thing up north.)

My husband grew up in New York south of the famous sight, so they’re a wee bit “old hat” to him. On my first-ever trip to meet his family, we detoured from Buffalo to see Niagara — my second visit ever, and my first on the American side. I was captivated, especially when we donned ponchos to see American Falls from below. We got soaked; we smiled and laughed; I felt far away and happy.


Niagara 2010

American Falls from below


When I think of Niagara, I think of looking over the precipice with Spencer. Wind in our eyes and our hair; mist gathering around my shoulders. I remember our romance and how exciting it was to visit when everything was bright and bold and Technicolor. We were with the kind, wonderful woman who has become my mother-in-law, and the very dear friend who would someday serve as the best man at our wedding. The sun was shining, the roar was pounding in my ears . . . and I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so happy.

Because of the company, of course.

And because of the giant, exhilarating waterfalls.


Niagara II


When I stand at the edge of Niagara, I have that free-falling, free-floating feeling — like my feet have gone out from under me. My toes tingle. My stomach flips. It’s like I’ve been dropped into a barrel and that barrel is ricocheting toward the edge. Like I can’t be righted, as though I’ve lost my balance; everything is topsy-turvy and uncontrollable.

It’s a strange sensation, an odd stomach-gripping feeling; it’s like I really do need to grip the railing and hold on.

Just a little like love, perhaps.


Niagara I


Though I’m many years out of school, it’s spring break!
And I’m breaking to enjoy time up north with our family.
I’ll see you back here on April 21! Happy Easter, friends.


Counting my blessings

Give Thanks


Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving!

A feast day. A day of thankfulness. This year we’ll be trekking over to my parents’ house — an entire 20-minute drive away, God help us — with Spencer’s trademark crock-pot ham and the green bean casserole I’ll be whipping up in the morning. And by “whipping,” I mean blending together to bake with one eye open as soon as I’ve had my coffee. With the parade blaring behind me.

I’m also bringing some of the Southern Maryland stuffed ham I stuffed with friends on Saturday morning, then baked for seven hours (!) on Sunday and finally sliced last night. Lots of work . . . and lots of ham. We already consumed some for dinner last night and will be indulging again at lunch today, so — all ham, all the time.

I’m okay with it.

Tomorrow is our first married holiday. I can’t believe we’ve been married less than three weeks. Seriously — the wedding was not even three weeks ago. To be honest, it feels much longer . . . perhaps because the weather changed so abruptly right after, casting us into sudden winter. The golden leaves are long gone. I looked forward to autumn for so long, the season we’d be married, and then . . . fall was over.

It’s so dreary outside. But nice and toasty inside.

As we draw closer to the end of a lovely but completely life-changing year, I’m incredibly thankful for my family. It was a tough year rife with health issues for many loved ones, but I will always be grateful we could all celebrate two wedding days together this year. In addition to my nuclear family, I’m very grateful to have married into a wonderful group of people who have welcomed me with open arms! (Literally. The Johnsons pulled me onto the floor for “We Are Family” at the wedding.)

More than ever, I realize how incredibly blessed Spencer and I are to have such wonderful friends — people who helped us, guided us, inspired us and just genuinely were there on the journey to our wedding day and beyond. I made new friendships this year and strengthened old ones, and I fully understand now that no one is an island. We wouldn’t want to be.

I’m endlessly thankful for the opportunity to do what I love each day: scribble words. Small ones, big ones. True ones.

My new relationship with food is also something for which I’m incredibly grateful — and I’m proud to have finally started taking my health seriously in 2013. I’m closing this year so much happier than I started it, and I can’t believe how much I’ve changed . . . physically and mentally. I could never go back.

As always, I could my blessings and not my “troubles.”

Sending you all warmth and love this Thanksgiving! Get out there and celebrate. Preferably with pumpkin pie . . . or cupcakes.

Cupcakes work, too.


Stuffed ham

Cupcakes

Pumpkin pie


Life lately — and a little sanity break

Leaves


It’s probably a surprise to exactly no one that, five days from my sister’s wedding, I’m starting to freak out. Not because my baby sister is getting married (!), but because there is much to coordinate and figure out and settle. People to wrangle, decor to set up, logistics to configure. Jewelry to acquire. Speeches to finish. Family to hug and catch up with and, you know, an entire wedding to help coordinate.

Also, my baby sister is getting married. On Saturday.

I just. cannot.

They’ll be off to Hawaii shortly and I will begin the arduous task of packing up my childhood bedroom — for real this time — and moving my belongings to Spencer’s in mid-October. We’ve been getting things organized in prep for my move, and I’ve finally crossed from anxiety to wanting to just tackle that project. Though I’m only going 20 minutes away, the idea of moving most everything I own is daunting.

Daunting.

To say nothing of changing my addressand nameon everything associated with me. That should be fun!

So life lately: barely controlled chaos. Not to mention all the remaining details we must tackle for our own wedding happening in five weeks or so, but I actually feel calm about that. Weird, right? I mean, Spencer and I are in it together, we have a good team in place, most everything has been purchased and several vendors actually paid off . . . it could be much worse. I’m methodically going through my spreadsheets and lists, crossing things off as I go, and I feel less panicky than I’d expect.

But I’m sure that will come.

Some days I feel very overwhelmed. I can’t sleep. My stomach hurts. Other times I feel content, calm, relaxed. It’s a day-by-day, almost minute-by-minute flux . . . but I guess that’s how everyone feels before big occasions! Right now I’m focused on Katie and making her big day fantastic, and I know everything will come together beautifully despite some hiccups. All will be well.

As I’m wading into a pool of wedding and life madness, I’ve decided to take a wee little break from the blog. Though I’ve always written here because I enjoy it (and absolutely still do!), I feel guilty when I go days without posting . . . and I need to stem that guilt. I don’t like thinking I’m letting aspects of my life “slide” while I reorganize, regroup and adjust, but the truth is that I simply can’t keep up with everything right now.

To preserve the frayed edges of my sanity, I’m taking a vacation and will plan to return refreshed — probably in a week or two. I might not come back to posting five days a week at first, but we’ll see. I’ll write when I feel comfortable writing then retreat into a land of tulle, lace and moving boxes when I must.

Send your good thoughts! Your encouragement! Your wisdom! If you feel so inclined, send me a pumpkin spice latte! . . . Goodness knows I’m going to need all the caffeine I can get.

And I will definitely still see you on Instagram. I’ll be the one (finally) eating — and documenting — her feelings.

xoxo


Accepting with pleasure

RSVPing


In today’s edition of things are becoming real: my sister’s wedding invitation arrived last week.

I shouldn’t have felt as simultaneously excited/nervous/teary-eyed/crazed as I did given that I personally helped create them. I mean, we spent hours designing and typing and printing and stamping (with a rubber stamp) and stamping (with postage stamps), so the arrival of that little blue envelope? Hardly a shock. I actually addressed my own invitation, for goodness’ sake.

But something crazy happened when I arrived at my soon-to-be home and found that piece of mail on the counter. I viewed it with fresh eyes, oohing over the details with Spencer before I untucked the RSVP card and dug around for a Sharpie. Writing our names on that card — Ms. Megan ABC and Mr. Spencer XYZ — felt very official. It’s one of the last times I’ll write our names separately.

And, you know, I was RSVPing. To my little sister’s wedding. Because she’s getting married — in three months.

Since we both got engaged last December, I think I’ve held myself together well. Three years apart, my sister and I have been close since the day she made her grand entrance into the world. We may have had our growing pains over the years, as all siblings do, but I fully expected myself to come unhinged at the thought of my sister tying the knot. Because we’re planning weddings simultaneously and both preparing to leave home for the first time, I feared my level of unhinged-ness would reach a critical point.

But it hasn’t. I’m okay. Better than okay, even — and really trying to embrace this transition.

Transition. I’m learning to both love and hate that word.

To have been a thin wall away from your sister, best friend and confidante for 24 years is a pretty amazing thing. Though I’ll admit to having my nervous/sad moments about our impending nuptials (and thus our separation), I’ve noticed a distinct change lately . . . and I can only describe it as hope. Though I’ve always been excited to marry Spence, don’t get me wrong, that joy was coupled with anxiety about all the other upcoming changes.

Changing households.
Changing my address.
Changing my name.

But less than six months from my big day, I’m trending far more toward excitement. I’m thinking less of what I’m “losing” and more of what I’m gaining. Just picturing Spence at the end of the aisle on our wedding day is enough to activate a wellspring of tears. I genuinely can’t wait.

And the tears at Katie’s wedding? Oh, they will fall. I will be as emotional as I’m ever likely to be, trying to muddle my way through some sort of maid of honor speech, and it will both be a beautiful and a hard thing.

But it will be more beautiful than hard, I know. In time, our families will form new traditions. Make new memories. Have new shared interests. I look forward to the new dimensions we’ll share as my sister and I enter the truly “adult” portions of our lives . . . though there will be tough days and great days in equal measure.

I do accept. With pleasure.


A very vintage wedding

Our wedding is going to be one pearl-studded, vintage-inspired day of science and literature and love.

And since weddings are, for the most part, a shining beacon of tradition, I’ve been going through vintage family photos. I started out curiously, just wanting to see how my mom, grandmothers and great-grandmothers dressed, but then a comment at A Practical Wedding got me thinking about how beautiful a display of our family wedding photos would be at the reception.

Great grandparentsI have my maternal great-grandparents’ photos from the 1930s (one set is pictured at right). I have my grandparents’ photos from the 1950s. I have my parents’ portrait from 1980 and, soon, my fiance’s parents’ photo from the 1970s. Seeing our families through the ages, making a pledge so important that we wouldn’t be here without it, has added extra weight to our day. Come November, we’ll be adding another branch on the family tree — and, in due course, welcoming children who will someday peer at our wedding photo.

The women in my family all dressed differently on their wedding days. I mean, check out Great Grandma’s rockin’ hat up there. My other great-grandmother wore a very long veil, while my mom and grandma chose shorter ones. My paternal grandmother looked radiant and sophisticated in a sleek ensemble; my maternal grandmother wore a poofy, lacy gown. Similar eras, different choices.

How do I want to look on my wedding day? I ask myself and daydream, staring at Etsy-generated favorites lists of jewelry and pouring through websites of shoes, hairstyles, makeup tips. With my vintage-inspired dress, I know I want the red lip/red shoe look. I want to look sophisticated, too, but still playful and fun. And I just want to feel . . . like me. Like me on my wedding day.

Can there be a more surreal experience?

Regardless of whether the women in my family chose short or long, lace or taffeta, there is, of course, a theme in each portrait: they’re beaming. Smiling with their lips and their eyes. And in the photo I have of my paternal grandparents, their beautiful tiered cake sits ready to be sliced on a table. Maw Maw is looking right at the camera while my grandfather, a man who sadly passed when I was young, is looking at her.

I could do with a photo like that, too.