Giving her away: one year later

One year ago, I was preparing to give my sister away.

And that’s truly how it felt: giving her away. Three years my junior, Katie has been my partner in crime since the day she was born. We lived under the same roof until the morning of her wedding, just a wall apart for 25 years, and the day she married — though joyous and much-anticipated — was undoubtedly bittersweet.

It’s hard to admit that. I love my brother-in-law and love him for my sister; it’s nothing like that. My fear was purely, purely selfish. I didn’t want to feel anything but happy for her on September 28, but I was so scared and sad for myself. Just weeks from my own wedding in November, the swiftness with which everything changed — a giant rug suddenly torn away — was like being shoved into an icy river. Sans clothing. In January.

But now, a year later, I can reflect on that weekend with happiness. With clarity. So many of the fears I had about us moving forward — that we wouldn’t remain close; that we wouldn’t see our parents often; that everything would be fractured, different — have not come to pass. As always, my imagination is worse than any reality could be . . . and though things have changed, of course, they are not bad.

They are good. Great, even.

I looked through Katie’s wedding photos last night, remembering all the anticipation and excitement and anxiety we experienced in swift tumult leading up to their union. As I walked the aisle as maid of honor, I remember clutching the best man’s arm because I was legitimately afraid I would fall over — because of my high heels, partially, but mostly because “I Won’t Give Up” was playing and everyone was there, watching, and it was really happening.

The moment we’d anticipated since we both got engaged — on the same day — was here.

It was surreal. That’s the best way I can describe the entire day: surreal.

But surreal can be beautiful, too.


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My sister got married. I’ve freaked out a little.

photo


As we wait anxiously for my sister’s professional wedding photos to come back, I thought I’d tease you with this little iPhone treat. I have others — even taken with real cameras! — but not many, honestly. Which is strange. And good.

I made a vow for Katie’s day: I would stay present, physically and emotionally. I would not be updating the events in real time on Facebook; I would not be tweeting or Instagramming (save the one above!) or checking email. For once in my life, I would live by my long motto: be here now.

And more than anything, I wouldn’t be taking pictures.

That last one was hardest. It was easy to tuck my phone away for the day — a reprieve, really. My little hiatus last week was restorative in many ways, and I definitely needed the time to break away from social media and its many distractions.

Saturday was a great day, but it was a hard day. It was hard to be with my emotions, to sit still and not shrink from them. To embrace them, actually. I cried a lot. Not because my sister was getting married, but because my sister was getting married. I love Eric, my new brother-in-law; I think the world of him, in fact. But this wedding was both a beginning and an ending.

It was emotional. And raw. At one point, a friend walked up to put her arm around me and said, “Are you okay? You seem really . . . sad.”

And then I was embarrassed. My carrying-on may have prompted family and friends to think I was devastated by my sister’s nuptials, which just wasn’t true — but it was too complicated to explain. In that moment, I couldn’t begin to articulate the swirl of feelings in my heart.

It was happiness. Of course.

But also sadness.

And fear.

And anxiety.

And joy.

And wonder.

And hope.

It was everything, really, and also nothing. As I stood on the steps with the other bridesmaids, waiting for my turn to walk down the aisle, I felt an odd zen that I was in the right place at the right moment . . . that there was nowhere else I could possibly be.

And then I panicked, thinking I wanted to run and retreat into the night. I wanted to turn the clock back a day, a week, a year or three. Maybe then my sister and I would be back home in our pajamas, back when we were freshly engaged and just beginning to plan our dual weddings. Or further, back when I was home late from work in college and Katie was waiting up for me. Or much further, back and back, back to when we were kids with an entire summer day to do nothing but play Uno and watch the Nickelodeon line-up and play Barbies.

But we were there together in our too-high heels, all grown up. Katie with her hands in Eric’s. Me white-knuckle clutching a bouquet, squinting in the sunshine.

And then it was over. He was kissing the bride.

It went so fast. It all went too fast.

I’ve been in a bit of a turmoil this week, honestly. An existential crisis, perhaps. I haven’t even been reading much. My own wedding is six weeks away and there is much to do, but I haven’t felt like plunging right back into the wedding cauldron. Spence and I have made inroads in lots of areas and life is still busy busy, busy as ever, but I feel a little detached from it all.

But I’ve started moving. I transported one whole shelf worth of books on Tuesday — the first step in a daunting process. Spence and I have those tall bookcases from Borders lining the living room walls, and the prospect of neatly and categorically organizing my novels filled me with a sense of hope and calm. My books made it feel homier, like a place where I belonged. I felt happier stacking my books in their new home than I have in days. Knowing each hardcover will have a place to nestle is soothing.

I like knowing there’s a place for everything . . . and everything in its place. Including myself.

Even if I’m not sure exactly where that will be.

Even if life seems to move faster than I can process sometimes.

I will get there. I will have a place . . . with Spencer, and with my family, and with my career. I will have a place.

Even better, I will make a place.

Our place. Together.


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


Sister bridal shower blow-out

Sisters


Have you ever attended a double bridal shower? If not, you totally should. It’s basically as fun and exciting and overwhelming as you’d imagine, plus chock-full of desserts and other sugary goodness! Though I doubt too many other people would be crazy enough to attempt something on this scale, we rocked it. Everything went beautifully.

I may have mentioned it, oh, 120 times, but my sister and I are both brides-to-be. Because our weddings are only six weeks apart, we thought it would be too much to ask our mutual friends and family to attend two showers in a very short time period. Also, my separate shower would have had to been planned for the time immediately before or after Katie’s wedding and, well, that was a recipe for chaos.

Two of our aunts organized and spearheaded this four-hour bonanza — and they were incredible. My aunt Jacki could go into event planning because she’s just. that. good. I’m not posting photos of them because I’m not entirely sure they’d be comfortable being on The Internetz, but trust me when I say that both ladies were fantastic (and are just all-around great people).

About 55 women attended on a rainy Saturday and I was truly delighted to see all of them. Though I get nervous in crowds and generally dislike being the center of attention, I knew I’d have to put aside my anxieties to focus on enjoying the day. And I did! Having so many of my favorite people in the same room at the same time was nothing short of awesome, and I was blown away by everyone’s kindness and generosity. Katie and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer event.

Also, I’m so excited that many of my good friends now know each other! And everyone knows Spencer. He arrived towards the end and was around to see some of the exciting cookware unveiled (like Le Creuset casserole and stock pot. Wahoo!). Having never attended a bridal shower, of course, I could see he was a little overwhelmed and unsure of the whole thing . . . but he got into the spirit!

And that’s enough yakking. It’s Wednesday — and that means photos, right? Eh, well, I guess I have a few. Here I am with my mom (left) and future mom-in-law — plus opening some gifts and generally doing what a Meg does best: eating cake and participating in all sorts of sugar-fueled socializing.


With Mom and Alex

Flower centerpieces

Le Creuset

With our quilt

Cake by Grandma

Cutting the cake

Electric knife

Family laughing

Napkins


Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.


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.


Book review: ‘The Good Daughter’ by Jane Porter

The Good DaughterIn a follow-up to her first Brennan Sisters novel, Jane Porter offers us the next chapter in the dynamic Brennan family’s story — focusing on Kit, a Catholic school English teacher and confidante to all. Single after ending a long, empty relationship and approaching middle age, Kit gives to everyone — her sick mother; her passionate but needy sisters; her students — without reserving any warmth for herself.

After a girls’ weekend at the family’s beach house results in a chance meeting with Jude Knight, a handsome, motorcycle-riding bad boy, Kit steps dangerously into the path of Delilah, a troubled young student in need of help. Wanting to follow her heart but afraid of where it might lead her, Kit tries to be everything for everybody — but needs to learn how to be there for herself.

Jane Porter’s The Good Daughter struck a chord with me, mostly because my life churns around a cycle of guilt. I believe this is, to some extent, just part of being a woman . . . because, you know, we really feel things. Sometimes I feel too many things. And this book? Didn’t help me turn my brain off.

Let’s start with the good, shall we? Porter has a true knack for creating big, boisterous and lovable characters who endear themselves to readers immediately. After finishing The Good Woman last fall, I really looked forward to reconnecting with the Brennans — even with inevitable tragedy on the horizon. Though complicated (which family isn’t?), their love and devotion for one another is obvious. I initially thought this story would center on Tommy and his wife, following their struggle to start a family, and was a little disappointed it was about Kit.

There.

I said it.

Because Kit is . . . I don’t know. She blends in; she plays it safe. This is the whole point of this story, I know: Kit morphing from modest school teacher to impulsive, lively woman. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t recall much about Kit from the first book — and that was pretty telling. The other sisters? The woman with a husband playing baseball in Florida, the twin volunteering in Africa? I remember them. But Kit? She just seemed so . . . school-marmish.

And this book — her story, the titular “good daughter” — didn’t do much to change that. Though Jude posed a passing interest for me, he felt too much like a caricature — and the endless descriptions of his rugged appearance and rough-around-the-edges demeanor felt obvious. I liked him, but he was kind of . . . cardboard. He never felt real.

Blended into Kit’s story is the sad, sad saga of Delilah, the daughter of a meek mother and abusive stepfather. The scenes in which her jerk-face stepdad appeared made me physically uncomfortable, and I often found myself skimming those paragraphs because they were just really sad. Overall? That’s how this book made me feel: bummed. Super bummed. And I didn’t expect that, given how sucked into a story about infidelity I was with Porter’s first installment.

And yet.

Porter obviously has skills, and her writing kept me engaged. But the story itself? I found it much harder to get any enjoyment from the Brennans’ latest struggles, and Kit wasn’t as compelling a lead as Meg. I feel bad, like I’m further contributing to Kit’s marginalization here . . . but I just didn’t like it nearly as much. After finishing the story, I felt a little relieved to put it in my rearview mirror.


3 out of 5!

ISBN: 0425253422 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review


Dresses and budgets and bookings

Dress shopping


The dress shopping has begun.

For my sister, anyway! I don’t know what my exact hang-up is, but I’m nervous about heading into a salon. Perhaps because I generally hate trying on clothes and only do it under duress (like if I’m shopping far from home with no option to return ill-fitting items). I also feel like the dress is such a big decision that I’d rather handle 2,456 of the vendor bookings and other little things before I wrap my head around making that huge choice.

Plus, I’m having a hard time finding styles I like. Though I haven’t been picky about too many things, the one aspect of the wedding I have visualized from the start was Spencer in a gray tux with a red tie and yours truly in a tea-length, lacy vintage-inspired dress. With red shoes. And red lipstick. And a birdcage veil.

It’s my requirement. My vision. The one thing that could possibly shove me into Bridezilla territory.

And my local options? Well, they’re limited. A popular chain store is the only place within a reasonable distance with prices I can actually afford, so I’ve been funneling my energy into perusing their inventory and not even considering dresses available elsewhere. But I don’t want strapless, don’t want a billowy ballgown. I detest rhinestones and sparkles, and I am — for all intents and purposes — a pretty simple lady.

I want something classic, elegant and unique. With lace. That’s tea-length.

Of course, I could show you photos from our big day in November where I am frolicking in a bedazzled ballgown, covered in glitter and wearing a tiara . . . because I’ve watched enough bridal reality shows to know that you just don’t know until you actually try these dresses on. I could slip into some satin confection and think, Hot darn, this is the one! It’s unlikely, you know, but I won’t stubbornly rule it out.

But as a bride on a budget (who isn’t?), I have to be careful — and thrifty — with my choice. I want what I want, of course, but I’ll decide I want something else if we’re stretching well into the four-figure area.

As anyone who has been subjected to wedding planning for five minutes can tell you, costs can quickly spiral out of control. Our initial budget was laughably tiny as soon as I began doing some research; I’ve never done so much math in my life. Every calculation was sending me closer and closer to a panic attack, but those initial days of anxiety — and uncertainty — have faded.

We have:

• booked the venue
• booked the caterer
• booked the photographer
• booked the videographer
• booked the DJ
• booked the pianist for the ceremony
• sent save-the-dates

So what’s next?

Oh . . . everything.


Dresses


All kidding aside, I think we’re doing well! It’s only February — and though the fall will be here in the drop of a leaf, I’m not feeling as crazed as I did a month ago. With my sister on track for her September nuptials, I’m tracing her footsteps to keep track of everything we need to decide — and when.

The baker is next. And Spence and I are totally saving our Weight Watchers points for that.

So yes: my sister and the wedding dress shopping. After a few hours and a half dozen styles, we had a winner! Though it was emotional being there as she transformed into “a bride,” I didn’t freak out as much as I expected. Partially because my family was there and I didn’t want to set off a chain reaction . . . but mostly because, as the months progress, I’m feeling more and more at peace with the fact that we’re both taking this huge step together.

My sister is my best friend. Though it’s sometimes hard for me to articulate, I feel a sense of both tremendous excitement and impending loss at the prospect of both of us tying the knot just five weeks apart.

But excitement usually wins out. And every day, I choose joy. And I know that, no matter what, my family will always be my family — just with two bonus gentlemen!

Plus, Spencer — my soul mate; my handsome, thoughtful guy — is working on the shelving for our combined shoe closet/workshop/clothes storage space as I type. No rhinestones necessary.