The story we’re painting together

Paint samples


Buying paint is such a grown-up thing to do.

And six months from being a married woman, I’m starting to feel like one.

I don’t know why it’s taken so long for us to slap some color on the walls. Spencer became a homeowner almost two years ago, and we were both pumped to decorate his space. It was a blank canvas — literally. White walls, beige carpet. Nothing but empty space to fill, fill, fill.

But the options were overwhelming. Since we could do anything with the kitchen and living room and hallways, the options were too much. And I have no real clue about interior design. For years I was actually afraid to really make any bold moves in the house, nervous about stepping on Spence’s toes as The Girlfriend who didn’t, you know, live there. How could I decide what he should have to look at when I was only there half the time? It didn’t seem fair.

That being said, that was all firmly in my head. Spencer never gave me anything but free reign to help design and decorate his home into a very “us” space — even before we were engaged. But now that we’re six months out from the wedding, I feel the earth shifting. I’m moving in soon. And we’re trying to get things organized before that happens.

In addition to redesigning the master closet to accommodate my avalanche of clothes and shoes and bags (that should be nice and scary), we’re finally sprucing things up. Hanging prints and photos. Dusting. Vacuuming the nooks and crannies. Going through old boxes. We went through the bedroom and closet on Sunday, getting rid of the detritus that tends to accumulate, and it felt so nice and productive. We opened the windows, got a trash bag and began sorting and throwing out and organizing.

I do like to be organized.

So that’s one little corner down. After procuring the Borders bookcases two years ago, our work around the living room came to a stop. We did quite a bit of reorganization after Christmas, moving decorations and ornaments to a hall closet, but haven’t done much of a purge since then.

Spence jokes I’m moving in one garbage bag at a time, and that’s not entirely untrue. I bring something with me every time I come over. Lately I’ve been sorting through my clothes at home, donating older items to charity and bagging up the out-of-season clothes to bring to Spencer’s. I’ve already moved several trash bags full of sweaters and hoodies, plus all of my work-out clothes (Lord knows I barely use them). I’ve also dragged all of my winter coats and jackets over and hung them with Spence’s in the hall closet.

Moving is weird. I still live at home. I never moved out, not even for college, and as a 27-year-old woman with a lifetime of memories in one childhood bedroom? Well, it’s strange. It’s hard. I’ve moved beyond fear at the idea of leaving to excitement at the prospect of sharing a home with my guy, but it’s still going to be odd to live full-time in another town.

Hmm.

But not going to dwell on that. Let’s talk about paint! After years of staring at white walls, Spence and I finally made a plunge last weekend. We decided the living room was in need of an accent wall — and since we were juuuuust getting started with this whole color thing, it seemed like the logical place to begin.

We motored over to check out paint at a home improvement store, the first time I’ve ever been excited to hang out in one, and grabbed swatches in varying hues. We finally narrowed our choices down to three and bought samples, which came in cute little containers. Our living room is mostly green, brown and taupe, so we were looking for something earthy but bold to complement the palette we have going on right now.

So we chose red, naturally!


Spencer painting


It sounds weird, I know, but stick with me. Though Spence and I may not have identical tastes in decor, we’re both suckers for red (our primary wedding color, in fact). We brought home samples in deep purple, an olive-toned brown and this unusual, bold red hue . . . and after Spence painted swatches on the wall, we agreed immediately that red was it.

Plus, as an added bonus? The red will totally complement our postcard pillows. Visiting Spence’s family in New York last summer, I stumbled upon fabric featuring vintage postcards in a quilting shop. I fell in love instantly, of course, but had no clue what I would do with said fabric. My lovely soon-to-be mother-in-law is a talented quilter and certainly no slouch with a sewing machine, so she kindly made pillows out of the fabric when she came to visit at Thanksgiving. I am in love with them. And they’re beige, green . . . and red!


Postcard pillows


Are we strange enough to match an accent wall to a collection of pillows? Maybe. But in all honesty, I just think the red looks really cool. We’ll officially convert the wall to red later this week, and I’m enjoying the little splash of color in the meantime.

You know, I was terrified when Spence first dipped his brush into the paint — afraid of the enormity of bright red on a white wall. It was so permanent. And scary. But once it was done, decided and begun, it was invigorating. It’s the second life of his home — our home. We’re ushering in a new chapter, scrawling the rest of the story . . . the one we’re writing together.

Or painting together.


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The day we met

Spencer and me


Three years ago today, I met my future husband.

After joining an online dating site, I’d been out on a few dates — but hadn’t felt that connection with anyone. Everyone was nice, respectable . . . and just not the one. Spencer was my third date that week, and the one I was most looking forward to — mostly because I could tell, from our cheeky (though limited) online profiles, that he was someone with whom I could have a real conversation. Someone with shared interests. Someone who seemed kind, and funny, and interesting.

And he was really cute.

The date went well, needless to say. I remember babbling about it on Twitter immediately beforehand, then feeling shy to share how great he was after. We went on a dozen dates over the next few weeks, then made it “Facebook official” shortly thereafter. He joined my photography club, started hanging with my friends and family, and was simply knitted into the fabric of my life. I met his parents that summer; we took our first trip to New York in August. And that’s that.

It’s funny to be celebrating our “dating-aversary” this year — now that we’re engaged, I mean. It feels different. We have other anniversaries now, too: like the day we got engaged. And, come November, our wedding day. Here’s an interesting question: post-wedding or post-commitment, do you and your significant other still celebrate the day you met? Or when you made your relationship “official”? Do you remember the date?

All for research purposes.

For our second anniversary last March, we took a trip to historic Fredericksburg, Va., to see the sights, sip milkshakes and wander around in the damp spring air. This year will be decidedly more low-key and, with our new healthy eating, won’t include any awesome desserts like our last celebration. (Le sigh.)

But we do have our official engagement photo session scheduled for Saturday! So pumped. I found a new dress for the occasion, and I’ll let you in on a secret: I snagged it for a meager $6. It was marked $20, and even that seemed like a steal. But $6?! I could have screamed. I almost did. Or I may have . . . I don’t know. Kind of blacked out there for a second.

Bargains have that affect on me.


So I have a little (big) news for you!

Spencer and Megan get engaged
{Photos by E. Guy Stephens Photography}


Spencer and I met on a windy March day in 2010. We’d arranged to have coffee at a local cafe on a Sunday — a date I figured could go well (and lead to dinner), or poorly (and wrap up after just one drink).

I’d joined an online dating site two months before and had a few nice dates, but they’d all just been . . . well, um, nice. Though there was nothing wrong with any of them, I didn’t feel that spark. That connection. That camaraderie and mutual interest and excitement. No butterflies, if you’ll pardon the cliche — just a couple of nice excursions with nice men that ended with a shrug of the shoulders.

But then.

Spence walked in wearing a red T-shirt and green shorts — a wardrobe choice I’d come to understand is totally standard for my adorable, endearing scientist. After exchanging a few emails about photography, we set up our date for that weekend — and then I waited. On his dating profile were a variety of photos — some with long hair; some with short; one with a beard, and one without. After trading phone numbers, I sent him my first text message: “So should I expect you clean shaven, or with a beard?”

“Clean shaven,” he replied, joking, “I clean up pretty nice.”

He was right.

Our bond was immediate. We talked for hours that first day, leading from coffee to dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Our common interests filled every crevice of conversation. Though he grew up in Western New York and I’m a Maryland girl, we come from similar backgrounds and share many philosophies. We parted on March 21 with a hug and a promise to get in touch. He texted me before I’d even gotten home.

And I already knew.

It seems silly to say that, I’m sure — and I don’t know that I’ve ever believed in love at first sight. But from the first afternoon Spence walked into that cafe, pushing his curls out of his eyes and turning a mega-watt smile in my direction, I’ve been his and he’s been mine. After doing my share of dating, I felt confident I’d know when I found a good thing — a real thing. I never doubted our connection, never questioned our relationship. From the first “I love you” to today, right now, I’ve never wanted to be anywhere but at his side.

On Sunday, Spence and I drove into downtown Washington, D.C., to see the holiday display at the U.S. Botanic Garden. We had a date there in 2010, our first Christmas together, and have talked often about how much we like the greenhouse. It’s my favorite place in Washington: easy to find and explore; packed with gorgeous flowers and other greenery; a prime photo spot.

And on the very same bench where we’d taken this picture almost two years ago to the day, Spencer asked me to marry him.


Spencer and Megan get engaged


As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I said yes!!!!

We’re both so, so excited — and it almost doesn’t feel real! Spence asked our friend and talented photographer Guy Stephens to meet us downtown to capture the moment and immediately after, making our first engagement shoot just a few minutes after he got down on one knee. Guy and his family were wonderful and the photos are priceless — especially because I was in such shock at the time, I don’t even remember Spencer putting the ring on my finger! We walked from the Botanic Garden to the Capitol, where we took photos by the Christmas tree and generally soaked up our first moments as a newly-engaged couple.

I’ve already gotten to call him my fiancé a few times, and it’s exciting and scary and awesome all at once. I mean, I’ll never have a “boyfriend” again.

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Thrilled. We are thrilled! I can’t stop smiling and had to come here and tell you all at once. After all the family and friend phone calls/texts were made, of course — and after I had a day to let the news marinate! But after that? Here. I’m all here. You know I wouldn’t leave you hanging after all we’ve been through together.

And I can’t wait to see what the future brings — as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.

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Spencer and Megan get engaged

Spencer and Megan get engaged


Water on the jealousy inferno


My first boyfriend just got engaged.

Before you start squirming about what a stalker I am, allow me to point out that:

A) He was my “boyfriend,” um, 12 years ago (gulp. I’m old);
B) I use that term loosely given we mostly held hands and chatted on AIM;
C) We stayed friends far beyond that two-month relationship; and
D) We’re Facebook friends. And all this stuff is on the Internet.

I’m not upset about R. getting engaged. Though I cried my 15-year-old eyes out when we broke up via AOL Instant Messenger, that was approximately 10 billion years ago. I’m now in love with a man who knows me — really knows me — and have a job I enjoy, a family who supports me. A roof over my head. A little change in my pocket. I’m happy.

What I am upset about? The fact that everyone I know is old enough to be engaged. Heck, that many people I know are not merely engaged but married and starting families and making real, honest-to-goodness adult decisions. My own boyfriend is a homeowner, for cryin’ out loud. We all have debt and are more concerned with the state of our health insurance than what we’re doing on a Saturday night.

Or maybe that’s just me. Those books aren’t going to read themselves, you know.

I’ve drafted a post similar to this one a hundred times but never hit “publish.” Probably because you can find variations of this “We’re all growing up!” consensus on most blogs written by 20-somethings, and I know I’m not adding anything new to the conversation. But I think there’s comfort in solidarity. In another person shouting into the void, “I’m with you. You’re not alone.”

No matter your age, we all experience growing pains.

Life is messy. It’s complicated. It’s tough not comparing yourself to others, wondering where and how you measure up. Are you ahead? Behind? Stuck somewhere in the middle?

It’s impossible to know. And does it really matter?

I don’t think so. And Facebook isn’t helping me decide.

Lest this dissolve into a “Facebook is evil” rant, I’ll curb myself by saying this: I’ve had to work hard in recent years to cultivate confidence that life is unfolding just as it should. “All things in time,” as they say. Scrolling endlessly through a newsfeed — comparing, contrasting — doesn’t bring me peace.

In three weeks, I’ll be 27. The years pass too quickly . . . and I’ve had a frightening sense of that since I was a child. There’s just so much I want to do. And see. And experience.

And I’m not a little kid anymore. Neither is anyone I know.

But jealousy isn’t a good look on me. If I start to get the “comparing” bug, I pour water on that out-of-control inferno immediately.

Most of the time, anyway. I am only human.


Book review: ‘The Singles’ by Meredith Goldstein

Bee Evans is determined that all who attend her lavish Annapolis wedding will have a great time — and that means allowing every guest to have a “plus one.” Former college friends, acquaintances and current best buddies are all encouraged to bring a date — but a few hold-outs are coming solo.

Irked by the trouble that causes her seating chart, Bee tries to artfully sprinkle “the singles” at various tables . . . and Hannah, Vicki, Rob, Joe and Nancy, all who have RSVP’ed minus a significant other, have quite the stories to tell.

Meredith Goldstein’s The Singles, a humorous and often dry look at love and its endless pursuit, is a quick read that anyone forced to attend a friend’s nuptials alone will appreciate. When it seems our friends are all coupling up, settling down and leaving us behind, Bee’s buddies band into an unlikely group to recall their college friendships, career misdirections and several other catastrophes along the way.

When I started the book, I was initially nervous that Goldstein’s debut would suffer from the dreaded Too Many Characters-itis. I mean, on the surface, it seems like it completely would. We’re talking a real motley crew of people here, folks, and that listing above doesn’t include many other peripheral characters or Phil, Nancy’s son, who actually winds up attending the wedding in her stead. That’s a ton of people.

It’s a testament to Goldstein, then, that I could actively recall every person in this book without referring to any notes. I can recall their colorful back stories, too, and the circumstances that brought them to Annapolis, Md., to see Bee marry Matt, her nondescript husband. Strangely, though, the couple exchanging vows are the ones I felt I knew the least. The groom is nothing more than a prop. And that’s fine; I mean, I get it. The book is really about friendship and the links between the singles, not the happy couple. Still.

Casting director Hannah was probably my favorite character. If anyone out there watches the fabulously hilarious and underrated “Happy Endings” on ABC, she completely reminded me of Penny. She’s that friend who just can’t get her act together and has too many quirks to mention, yet you can’t help but love her — and want to protect her. She arrives at Bee’s wedding frightened of seeing her ex-boyfriend, the one who just about broke her; he’s coming with his new girlfriend, of course, leaving Hannah/Penny to stave off her anxiety in a way that makes her unintentionally crazy. While I really felt for her and hoped she would abandon the Crazy Train, I couldn’t help but be amused. Who hasn’t faced an ex with a sense of dread and excitement?

Being a Maryland girl myself, the Annapolis setting piqued my interest. References to the Naval Academy, local bed and breakfasts and Maryland’s famous seafood made my local heart jump for joy. I definitely got a feel for the coastal, breezy wedding Bee was going for, and liked that Maryland featured so prominently in the book. It seems like much of what I read favors the bright lights of Manhattan or glitzy London, so reading about our capital was great for this crab lover.

Fast-paced and fun, The Singles takes place over the course of one weekend. Everyone arrives with a hefty amount of emotional baggage, and most carry a sense of uncertainty about where life will take them next. I like that the novel didn’t offer easy answers, and things weren’t sealed and clean by the end. Goldstein didn’t pair off her bumbling characters, having each magically find love or redemption. What was messy did, for the most part, stay messy.

Still, there was a hopeful chord struck by the end that I really appreciated — and I think fans of women’s fiction and novels on friendship, love and starting over will appreciate The Singles. It’s a light, quick read that resonated with me, and readers who enjoy short character studies and vignettes will appreciate Goldstein’s storytelling and attention to detail.


3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0452298059 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review


A (new) movie script ending

I have a lot of break-up songs on my iPod.

I was once a Broken-Hearted Girl, a moniker I wore like a badge of honor. I’ve always felt things deeply. When I was younger and less disciplined, this could result in epic arguments with boyfriends. Those fights would dissolve into ugly break-ups on the phone, in parking lots, outside of restaurants. Everywhere, really.

It’s funny to think about who I was then versus who I am now. Like all teens and early 20-somethings, I had no idea what I was looking for in a mate. My requirements, especially in the beginning, were slim: was he cute? And did he like me? If both were true, I would gladly chat with you on AOL Instant Messenger (oh, the days!) or accept a short-but-sweet phone call while my dad surveyed the scene from the next room. I wasn’t in my first “real” relationship until I was 17, which sounds young now — but trust that it felt old as dirt when I was a teen, obsessed with the fact that “everyone had a boyfriend” but me.

Over the years, my romantic entanglements were messy. There were the military men, including the Marine that broke my heart for the first time. (That sucked. But it was also seven years ago.) The boys who thought they were men — but really weren’t. The bad kissers. The dudes who couldn’t get their stuff together. The ones who were nice but just too nice — brotherly nice. And some fit several of those descriptions.

For a while, it felt like I was destined to wade through life without finding someone who actually meant something to me. After that first heartbreak, I felt resigned to just let the chips fall as they may. I didn’t really try. I was complacent at work, complacent in my friendships; I was too hung up on the past to move into the future. After ending an almost three-year relationship with a so wrong-for-me guy (who married someone else the following year), my one attempt at meeting someone organically was an epic disaster. I confused meeting a short guy with a larger-than-life ego as some sort of “kismet,” totally embarrassed myself by trying to force something that had no business being forced and then just felt . . . defeated. And awful.

Then I met Spencer.


{Top, April 2010, weeks after we met; October 2011}


I like talking about him — because I love him. As today is Valentine’s Day, I’ve been thinking about the paths that brought me to this moment. All the “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you” sort of times, you know? I get annoyed with all the empty cliches about “I found the man I love when I finally stopped looking!” because, you know, I was looking. I was very actively looking. I was on a dating site, for cryin’ out loud; when I finally woke up to the fact that I’m totally type-A and wasn’t cool with just waiting for a partner to drop into my lap, I was really committed to the search.

Still, Spencer made the “first move,” if you will, out there in cyberspace; I kept all our early email exchanges. We wrote back and forth just a few times before agreeing to meet for coffee on a Sunday afternoon. When I close my eyes, I can see him walking into the cafe with his long, unruly curls and easy smile. He was my third (and final) date in a week — a beacon I hadn’t known I’d been searching for.

From that initial meeting, we’ve been inseparable. I don’t have any doubts — about him; about us. There have been no teary fights. No arguments that lasted long into the night, and no fiery parking-lot break-ups. No accusations, and no broken trust.

I stopped listening to my iPod a few months back, sick of my endless streams of sad, sappy break-up tunes. I tired of the melancholy riffs of Death Cab for Cutie, though “A Movie Script Ending” was once a favorite song. They were all a complete carry-over from those broken-hearted days, and I longed to start fresh.

Except for the odd-ball moment, I don’t think about the past anymore.

And I think I’ll get my “movie script ending” after all.


Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!


And know that you are everything


Back in high school, music was a necessary and palpable force in my life. My friends and I lived and died by the bands we loved and blasted — ‘NSYNC, Hanson, Britney Spears, Dashboard Confessional — until we could sing their tunes in our sleep. Those songs are the soundtrack of my adolescence, permeating every scene and memory.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve scurried away from music. No longer spending hours each day walking around campus with my iPod and disinterested in playing anything at my desk, I don’t listen to much that’s new — or anything at all — these days. In my car I skip the radio and put in an audiobook. And I just don’t have many other listening opportunities beyond that.

So Spencer and I haven’t had “a song.” Some quintessential tune that makes me think of him with stars in my eyes, a ballad gives voice to our relationship. With R., my first boyfriend, there was “All My Life” (by K-Ci and JoJo — don’t hate). M. and I had Hoobastank’s “The Reason” (which is sort of a sad song, really, now that I’m thinking about it), and with P. it was “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. There were plenty of other tunes sprinkled in there, too, like The Fray’s “Look After You” — a song I can’t hear without thinking of J. and an ill-fated dance at his brother’s wedding.

But Spence and I? We don’t have any memories inextricably tied up in music. We both like Nicole Atkins, his favorite singer, but she doesn’t have a song that makes me feel swoony. Nothing else comes to mind. Our relationship has been without a theme song.

Until now.

I learned years ago that the Goo Goo Dolls were from Buffalo, N.Y., just north of my boyfriend’s hometown. I can’t say I’ve always been a huge fan, but tunes like “Slide” and “Iris” were definitely around during my formative years. It’s great they’re still playing music and making new stuff — like “All That You Are.”

It’s The One. Our Song.

Walking out of the mall recently, I was loaded down with bags and hurrying back to the office. It’s that time of year again — Christmas shopping season — and no one emerges from all this unscathed. I just wanted to throw my stuff in the car and get to work, where a thousand projects waited in my inbox.

That’s when I heard it.

In my limited radio-listening world, I must have heard “All That You Are” at some point — or maybe it was just that I instantly recognized Johnny Rzeznick’s trademark vocals. Whatever it was, the opening bars of the song had me literally pausing in the middle of a street. The song was still playing clear and strong outside a department store, flooding the parking lot with its haunting melody. I put my bags in the front seat and stood, listening. I was by myself but didn’t feel alone.

Because the band is from Spencer’s home state (and almost city); because I love the words and the sentiment; because I know we enter each relationship a little bit battered but hopeful that we’re going to find something real, something lasting, with another person —

And because I fell in love again —

And because I know what it’s like to be loved in return —

I formally nominate the Goo Goo Dolls’ “All That You Are” for the prized title of the Official Anthem of Megan and Spencer.

I really hope it gets approved.


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Do you and your significant other have A Song? How did you choose it — or did it choose you?