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.

Why I don’t miss wedding planning

Given I devoted all of 2013 to planning, participating in or recovering from my sister’s wedding and my own, I was a little worried I’d find myself totally adrift in the new year. The post-wedding blues, if you will.

I’m not the type of person who likes to sit too long. I think and worry too much — or start over-analyzing, getting anxious. It’s not good. Much of my adult life has been devoted to trying to achieve that elusive sense of “balance,” in fact; I want to be busy without using that go go go spirit as a crutch or an excuse, but still slow down enough to enjoy the simple things in life. (We know they’re really the big things).

A work in progress.

But as our November wedding drew to a close and gave way to a fresh, crisp new year, I don’t find myself waxing philosophical about my spreadsheets or vendor checklists or time wiled away on The Knot. I’ve channeled my creative energy into work and new pursuits, looking for ways to stretch as a writer and a person. Wedding planning proved I could find more hours in the day, and I’ve gotten much better about using my time better for work and play.

And then there’s the whole house-buying thing happening this spring. That’s certainly going to chew up some time.

But for as much as I loved our wedding and (much of) the process leading up to it, I often think back on last year with a feeling of pure relief. We did it, you know? It’s done. It was emotional, stressful, turbulent. I left my childhood home for the first time; I stood at my little sister’s side on her own wedding day; we dealt with illness and death, uncertainty and major upheaval.

For someone who is typically wedged in her tight little shell (very Cancer the crab of me, I’ll note), I sure did some growing.

I don’t miss wedding planning because it was a series of decisions — ones that felt so big and serious and important and really all-consuming at the time, though I realize in hindsight I should have backed down on some issues and simply not worried at all about others. For someone weighed down by the prospect of making the “wrong” choice at any given time (I’m a perfectionist, what can I say?), that was very difficult for me.

And the help! Asking for help was so hard. I don’t miss wedding planning because I usually prefer to just handle things myself . . . out of fear of, you know, inconveniencing anyone. Even my now-husband. Accepting that others wanted to help me with wedding-related tasks was really tough. I just felt like I was bothering them or, worse, was an “overzealous” bride oversharing everything online. The result? I didn’t always invite others into what was really a very happy time.

Mostly, I don’t miss wedding planning because the pressure is now off. The pressure of handling logistics for 150+ people; the pressure of preparing to move; the pressure of knowing these major events were on the horizon and I was supposed to be having the time of my life when, in reality, I did have a great time planning everything with Spence — but it was complicated, too.

When I expressed anxiety over some aspect of the wedding (or just getting married in general), I feared the judgment of my relationship. I worried admitting to being scared of so many changes happening at once was akin to casting doubt on what I have with Spencer, which was the last thing I wanted to do.

So I held back.

Upon reflection, I could have opened up more to the people in my life. Worked on releasing some control. Though Spence more than proved himself to be the stable, compassionate and thoughtful support I really needed, I could have simply relaxed a little more.

But that’s life, I know. Hindsight being 20/20 and all that. How many people are stressed leading up to their weddings? (I’m guessing, um, many.) Nothing is perfect . . . we just do the best we can. And I still had a heck of a lot of fun as an engaged lady!

And the main reason I don’t miss wedding planning? Because I really love being married. Love spending so much time with my husband. I love being a team, deepening our bond, making big decisions together — all that mushy stuff. Our little routines and rituals; our shared TV watching and dinner-making. The little things like sharing (and perhaps squabbling over) chores and grocery shopping are still fun for me, and we’re getting into budgeting and prepping and striding into the murky waters of homeownership together.

The wedding was just the beautiful beginning.

All the great stuff comes after.

Photos by Birds of a Feather Photography

The magic of being out after dark


Spence and I went out last night — after working all day.

To Annapolis, a 50-minute cruise from home.

On a Wednesday.

To a loud, awesome concert.

It was . . . weird. Very fun. I felt young and old all at once, being out “past my bedtime” a good drive from home, sipping a cherry blossom lager that tasted like joy and smiling at my husband.

My husband. It still catches me sometimes . . . in a great way.

At 28, I often feel like the oldest young person I know. It’s not unusual to find me collapsed on the couch by 9:30 p.m., snoozing in a very unladylike fashion with a home show playing softly in the background. Back in college, I was a night owl constantly burning the midnight oil — because I had to. Commuting to school with a full course load and working part-time at the bookstore until far after dark, I got used to a rigorous schedule and running on fumes.

But things have changed. I’ve gotten more comfortable, perhaps a little lazier. I work full-time and “clock out” at 5 p.m., when we spend our evenings doing this and that. Without the chaos of year-long wedding planning times two, I find myself with so much free time now.

I love it, really. And it also makes early nighttime snoozes possible . . . but through this cold, cold winter, I’ve felt a little restless.

That’s why Wednesday night felt good — great, even. Live music. Good company. Chatting with strangers. Being out. After being encrusted with snow and ice for so long, even in the cold night air? It made me feel alive.

I remembered the early days when Spencer and I went to Annapolis just a month after we met, walking around the city for his birthday and still getting to know each other. He actually bought me a copy of Nicole Atkins’ album — the woman we saw perform last night — at a Borders that was still in business then. We listened to it the whole way home, the words pouring warm through our opened windows.

Four years later, I know all those songs by heart.

A day of love

Valentines heart

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

We’re all dug out from the snow and on the move here, and I’m hoping you all have a happy time celebrating the love you share with your significant others, family and friends. Preferably all of the above, right?

Spence is off today while I’m at the office, so I fully expect an epic culinary extravaganza when I get home — maybe with dark chocolate and a side of milk chocolate as an appetizer. That’s reasonable, I think. 😉

I felt this OMG PRESSURE earlier this week because it’s our first married Valentine’s, but honestly? I’m totally cool with just laying low and staying snuggled up at home, maybe with a movie or more Olympics coverage. I know we’re cooking in, so I will look forward to whatever surprise my chef-ly guy whips up!

Yes, I just said “chef-ly.” I don’t know.

Hugs to my lovely blog community today, too. I love and value our friendships, and I’m wishing you all a great day!

Books for the hopeful and the heartbroken

When I popped back on the dating scene after a series of ill-fated relationships, I was the ripe ol’ age of 24 — and felt every bit of that.

It’s ridiculous now, of course, to feel like an old maid when I was, um . . . in my mid-twenties. But when your friends are pairing off and that pressure of behind-ness weighs so heavily on your chest, I couldn’t help but feel disheveled and slightly broken.

Definitely in need of change.

Up until I joined a dating site in early 2010, I can’t say I’d ever really dated. My boyfriends had been coworkers or classmates, friends of friends or men introduced by family. I definitely never did the stereotypical hanging-at-a-bar thing, which should be a surprise to exactly no one.

So when I did decide to put myself out there, as it were, the question was where to put myself. Like any good spinster, I worried the world had passed me by — and had no idea where people actually went to meet others. Like any good denizen of the Internet, though, I quickly figured it out. The rest is history.

Many good bookworms rely on books for guidance through countless experiences — and I was no different. When faced with a new challenge, it wouldn’t be unusual to find me haunting the self-help section of Borders with a stack of tomes at my feet. From taking college courses to grieving a deceased pet, books have been my sources of inspiration, knowledge and comfort.

So I started reading. And whether you’re hopeful or heartbroken, there’s a book for you.

How to Survive the Loss of a LoveHow To Survive the Loss of a Love
by Peter McWilliams, Melba Colgrove
and Harold H. Bloomfield

When my first serious relationship ended, I was despondent in the way you can only be once: after that loss of your first love. My mom, ever the wise comforter, found this slim volume of poetry and practical advice I read cover to cover for months. Easily digestible in bits and bobs, How to Survive is accessible for all — whether a relationship has ended in distance, infidelity or death. In later years, I realized it’s also useful for getting through the loss of goals and dreams, too.

Geeks Guide to DatingThe Geek’s Guide to Dating
by Eric Smith

Though this cute, fun book didn’t exist when I was on the dating scene, Smith’s kind and funny guide to dating for the socially awkward is especially appropriate for gamers and sweetly bumbling guys . . . but has practical advice for anyone entering the dating scene. Its illustrations will be especially fun for those who were fed a steady diet of Nintendo games growing up.

The Rules for Online DatingThe Rules for Online Dating
by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider

First published in 2002, this version of the popular Rules books can be . . . well, a little eye-rolling at points. I’ll admit the feminist in me didn’t love the idea of playing coy or waiting for men to come to me online, but I did decide to follow many of the Rules successfully — and with success. Less a literal guide to communication and more guidelines for the smart woman looking for love online, most of its tips are probably still appropriate for 2014.

Dear Jane AustenDear Jane Austen:
A Heroine’s Guide to Life and Love

by Patrice Hannon

This slim volume channeling witty Austen isn’t going to break the bank on insight, but it is a diverting way to spend an afternoon. Filled with “letters” imploring Austen for her take on modern-day but universal problems with love, manners, appearances and more, it’s especially fun for Austen fans who will recognize the predicaments of her heroines in her responses. Like sitting down for crumpets with our favorite authoress, Dear Jane Austen is a good reminder that though we all may suffer some, we come through — no matter our era.

literary love

I’m participating in Literary Love this week — a celebration of all things lovely and bookish! Feel free to play along by checking out other links at Estella’s Revenge, Doing Dewey, Love At First Book and From Isi, and check out posts under #LiteraryLove14.

Book review: ‘The Wedding Bees’ by Sarah-Kate Lynch

The Wedding BeesShe goes where the bees take her.

But, you know, not in a crazy way. Just in a free-falling, go-with-the-flow, flutter-where-the-wind-takes-her way.

It’s been more than a decade since Sugar Wallace escaped Charleston with a broken heart and thirst for change. Traveling the country in a series of madcap moves with only a beloved beehive bequeathed to her by her grandpa, Sugar eventually finds herself in New York City — a location chosen by Elizabeth the Sixth, her queen.

On her first day, Sugar stumbles across a kindly out-of-work doorman she mistakes for a homeless person and the man over whom he has stumbled: Theo Fitzgerald. With his Scottish accent and loud printed shirts, Sugar has a hard time ignoring Theo — especially as an electric current passes between them. As Sugar settles into life in New York with a motley cast of shy, surly, well-meaning neighbors, she may decide running isn’t her only choice after all.

Sarah-Kate Lynch’s The Wedding Bees: A Novel of Honey, Love, and Manners is a delightful read from start to finish. Sugar is our lighter-than-air heroine who gives and gives of herself while expecting — and wanting — nothing in return, and it’s hard not to feel enchanted by her. From her meet-cute with Theo to her homegrown honey to her slowly-unraveling stories of another life in South Carolina, Lynch’s novel captured my attention and held me inside each delicious word.

In addition to the love story and Sugar’s tumultuous past, the strength of the novel stems from the well-sketched, interesting characters that populate Sugar’s world: Ruby, a sweet but hollow-eyed girl obsessed with love stories, always seeming to vanish before Sugar’s eyes; Nate, a talented and passionate chef relegated to slinging hash for a monster of a boss; and Lola, a single mother making ends meet in an unconventional way. And then there’s George, and Mr. McNally, and Mrs. Keschl.

They’re friends. And they come to be Sugar’s biggest supporters.

The Wedding Bees reads like a modern fairytale — and it’s easy to picture Sugar as a tall, beautiful, long-haired princess floating among the peasants. But she doesn’t act that way. Wholly grounded by the guilt of past decisions and unwilling to accept the love flowing right into her fingertips, our heroine is skeptical, worried, consumed — like a normal person would be, basically. Though most “normal” folks wouldn’t rely on a bee wandering a globe to determine their next move.

As you’d expect from a book with such a title, Sugar’s hive plays a pivotal role in the story. Once “saved” by them during a major turning point in her young life, the bees are bonded to Sugar in the same way she’s bonded to them. They need each other, play off each other; they’re a constant, a mainstay, and they want to see her happy. Though getting into the queen’s head requires a little suspension of disbelief, that’s not difficult to do.

Honestly, this story delighted me — and it was just the quick, fun but memorable read I love. With its touch of magical realism, fans of Sarah Addison Allen and contemporary fiction will find The Wedding Bees to be both a sweet and sustenance.

4 out of 5!

Pub: Jan. 28, 2014 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review