Wednesday, September 24, 2014

weekend camping trip

My family used to go camping all the time back when we were kids.
When we were all under the same roof/in the same country/same state, we'd load up the trunk with all the gear and head out into the great outdoors.

I remember "helping" dad put up the tent. I remember crisp Fall air and bundling up in fleeces and long johns, sipping hot coco in camp chairs. Hiking up to waterfalls or down to beaches where we'd hunt sharks' teeth. Dinner would be cooked on the grill or propane stove and dessert was always dad's famous peach cobbler made in a cast iron dutch oven over the fire. And in the evenings we'd all snuggle down in sleeping bags after our hair was checked for tics and then usually one of us would read out loud before we'd all fall asleep, nice a cozy like.

I have been telling T.J. how badly I want to go camping with him. I think it would be such a fun way for us to explore the west coast and I am definitely going to look into acquiring our own tent and dutch oven.

But in the meantime... I actually did get to go camping last weekend with my aunt, uncle and two cousins.  I met up with them Saturday morning on Assateague Island over in Berlin, Maryland. I had been here once before with my parents and distinctly remember there was a horrendous thunderstorm and dad had to dig a trench/moat around the tent so we wouldn't float away.

I had a bit of a calmer experience this visit. This sliver of an island is not too far from Ocean City and is home to actual wild horses. They roam freely across the bridges, into the marshes, weaving in and out of the camp sites, and running down the beach into the ocean to play.
We camped in the State park and were just feet from the ocean and even though it was cloudy and windy and overcast I somehow still found myself in the water. I was going to take full advantage of the last weekend in summer and the surplus of boogie boards. Basically I got to be a kid again. I ditched the "grown ups" and ran head first into the waves with my cousins.
Assateague has really unpredictable weather and soon the wind drove us into hot showers. Sweatshirts and leggings and layers were required for the evening. While we waited for the sun to set and for the grown ups to make us kids dinner my cousin taught me how to ripstick (like skateboarding but not). I sort of/kind of/not really got it eventually but not before taking a nice big wipe-out that my booty is still paying for.
With the sun setting we had hot dogs, brats, baked beans and iced tea around the picnic table. Then, in keeping with my "never grow up" attitude, me and the cousins and the other kids played a couple intense rounds of manhunt in the dark.

 Once we were sufficiently worn out we settled around the fire for s'mores. Before calling it a night, we grabbed nets and head lamps and ventured down to the beach to hunt (and the promptly release) ghost crabs.
Typically I prefer tent camping but it was super damp, and humid, and also pretty chilly, that I was thankful for the more solid camper for sleeping that night. The next day we were greeted with gourmet hand-dipped donuts from the Fractured Prune. Dunkin Donuts has nothing on these hot from the oven, melt in your mouth treats. I had the OC Sand which gets a honey glaze before it's tossed in cinnamon sugar.
After my donut I promptly headed back to the beach and then happily took a nap in the sand with one of my favorite sounds in the whole world, crashing waves, lulling me to sleep.  After my nap and a bit of lunch I said goodbye to the beach and my relatives and headed home. I am so glad I got to have a little getaway with this family of mine. I have loved living close by and having family in town to run to when I need a break, or a comfortable place to just be. Truly it's made my time in Maryland infinitely sweeter and I can't help but feel sad that I won't be able to see them whenever I want anymore. But I will definitely be taking advantage of every opportunity to spend time with them before I move and I know they'll make their way across the country to visit me on the West coast. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

A whole week in Washington.

I took a bit of a blogging break the past couple weeks. I was on the go and when I finally landed I had to play catch up on sleep and laundry first before I could catch up here.

After my roommate's wedding I kept on moving and flew out to Washington to see my fiance for an actual week! We've gotten accustomed to long weekend visits so it was such a nice treat to have 8 whole days together. It's crazy to think that in 103 days I will get to see him everyday (for the most part, except for when the hospital owns him overnight).

So anyway, T.J. picked me up from the airport and relief just washed over me, like it always does when I see him after being away. I'm just so relieved to see him standing in front of me, my real-life-in-person fiance, instead of just a voice on the other end of the phone. This was our longest period of separation and I always feel this tension building the longer we're apart. Usually one of our visits can sustain me for like a week or so. But then around week two I start to get moodier and I lose my patience more, until finally it's like I just want to shout "why am I doing anything instead of getting on a plane to see T.J.?!"
While I was out there I tried to soak in every minute. This was a different sort of visit since T.J. still had to work during the week, usually he's the one visiting me and getting left at home during the day. Since I didn't have a car, I kept myself busy around our house. I did some deep cleaning and got him caught up on laundry (while I got caught up on Pretty Little Liars... yes I'm basically a 14 year old girl, but it's so good!) And since Washington was enjoying beautiful weather again I went on walks and explored the neighborhood and the little town. I got to enjoy cooking for two instead of one. And we got to have dinner together when he got home in the evening.

I got a pretty good idea during that week of what the day-to-day out there will look like. I also got an idea of how much time to myself I might have and thus confirmed the need to find something to do out there. (I'm working on it.)

When we planned my visit we were happy to find that it overlapped with a little weekend getaway for the ortho residents. T.J. along with all the other residents and their families got off work early on Friday. We drove 4 hours across the mountains to Leavenworth and we listened to country music all the way there as we drove through more of our new and unexplored state. Sometimes I forget that we are 3,500 miles away from "home" and it just blows my mind when I think about where we are on the map.  

The older resident's wives organize the retreat and we had three lodges all next to each other tucked away in the mountains. It felt just like fall, crisp and fresh, and it was so pretty with hammocks to relax in, outdoor fire pits, and the sound of the river near by.
We spent most of the weekend hanging out with everyone and getting to know the other families. I took advantage of their experience and asked a bunch of questions about relocating, getting my military id, changing my name, and all that fun stuff. T.J. got also caught up on the sleep he doesn't get during the week and we headed down the mountain to explore the little touristy area. Leavenworth is a Bavarian town and apparently quite the fun spot for Octoberfest activities. It has tons of wineries and breweries and lots of places to enjoy brats with sauerkraut and big German pretzels. 
We stopped for a pint at Icicle Brewing Company before heading back to the cabins for dinner and s'mores. There I snapped the only picture with T.J. from my entire visit, and even more sad is there are zero of the two of us. Bad Shannon. 
It was a fun little getaway and we enjoyed seeing more of our new home outside of the army base and our neighborhood. We headed back to our house Sunday afternoon, grabbed burgers on the way home, and then spent the rest of the day reading on the couch (futon).
Even a whole week visit seemed to fly by much too quickly and I was more than a little bummed to be packing up and heading back East Monday morning. These longer visits are so much better than short weekends but they are so much harder to break away from. I got another glimpse of Mt. Rainier as I left behind Washington and I thanked my lucky stars that soon I will be flying back for good (well, for five years at least) and putting down roots here with my guy.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

ready.

Today is my sweet momma's birthday. This is going to be such a fun year for our family, full of change and big life events. She's basically the glue holding everyone close and making it all happen and making sure we don't spin off.  So be sure and pop by her blog and wish her a happy day! Man, wouldn't it be great if you could always be with the people you love on their birthdays?


So my mom wrote this post last week and I've been thinking about that word a lot.

"Ready."

Am I ready to get married? That's the big question everyone keeps asking me these days. Am I nervous, anxious, excited? Yes! Yes! Heck yes! Do I have any idea what I'm getting myself into? I guess not.

But can you ever really be ready?

Mom says not so much, and I tend to agree with her.
On most things I would say I agree with her.
Even though my voice has sometimes been known to get higher (and louder and more frantic) when we're "discussing" important life stuff on the phone together, I already know, in the end, I'll be agreeing with her.

She's made me ready. As ready as one can claim to be...which is probably not that ready. But still, if I'm ready at all she gets a great big chunk of the credit.
Because she taught me, trained me, prayed for me and for T.J., raised me up.
Because of my parents marriage, a living example of love and commitment to each other, to the family they made, to the vows they said, for better or worse.
Because of all that, I feel ready for this. Well... as ready as I'll ever be.

I can say without a doubt in my heart that I am ready to marry T.J. in the sense that I cannot flippin' wait! I am ready to kiss him at the alter and be under the same roof, in the same house, on the same side of the country. I am ready to do life together as a team. I am ready to make a home,  have adventures, and fall deeper in love with him.

I am ready to be his wife in the sense that I am done missing out on the day to day. The mundane, every day highs and lows, the laundry, the dishes, sharing meals and personal space, dancing in the kitchen, running errands and holding hands. I am ready for all that and for him to be all mine.

Am I ready for how marriage is going to change me, and push me, and move me to grow like everyone says it does? Am I ready for how it's going to reveal things about myself, about T.J., about God, that I couldn't see before?

Probably not as much as I like to think I am. And that's okay, because what would be the fun in that? Knowing what we're "in for" might make us more cautious or even fearful. It might spoil the surprises in store or take away from the joy and the fun of figuring it out as we go along.

And when something comes along that we're not ready for, I know that advice, encouragement, words of wisdom, or a reality check from the folks, are just a phone call away

From mom and dad to mother and father of the bride.
From daughter to soon to be wife.
From friend, to fiance, to soon to be husband.
I guess we're ready.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Roommate's Wedding

I got to watch my sweet roommate tie the knot this weekend and it could not have been more special. Truly it all came together so perfectly and I loved seeing her look more beautiful and more happy than ever. I've been to my fair share of weddings and I've been a bridesmaid before but I definitely noticed the tears coming more quickly at this one, which is saying something because I always cry at weddings.

It's just that it was so much more evident to me at this wedding that everything is changing. That we're crossing this line I didn't see was there before. Into marriage, into our own roommate-less homes we'll share with a boy, into years that are farther away from college and closer to grown up land.

Don't get me wrong, the tears were all happy this weekend. I loved anxiously walking down the aisle and seeing her beaming groom at the other end. I loved sitting in the first pew and catching the bride's eye or looking over at our other roommate sitting next to me and just feeling so amazingly lost for words that I have been blessed to do life with them.  I loved smiling for photos and smiling harder while her dad shared the sweetest toast. I loved dancing and staying in high heels from 12 in the afternoon to 12 in morning.
This wedding was also like a little sneak peak of what I can expect for mine and T.J.'s big day and I didn't think it was possible but my excitement ratcheted up to a whole 'nother level. I just can't wait to have all the people who know and love us best in the world all in one place at the same time.
Seriously, since the day my parent's dropped me off at college it has been a revolving door of one fantastic roommate after another. How did I get so lucky? And now I just can't wait for them to stand up with me in just a couple more months. I am so happy for the newlyweds and also slightly jealous as they are now on their way to Hawaii...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My dress came in!

Last week I got the call. My wedding gown had arrived at the store!
I scheduled the first appointment I could to try it on and it worked out perfectly for my mom to come in to town for this day as well! We also included my Mema and it was so special to have both of them there to see me in my dress.

We arrived at the bridal salon and mom and Mema took their seats out in front of the mirror while I was escorted into a dressing room. And there she was, hanging in front of me in all her ivory perfection.  I was a little nervous to see it again. I was worried I wouldn't love it as much as I remembered. This was mostly because we had ordered it in a different color than what I had tried on and I was anxious it wouldn't be quite as lovely (and I seriously couldn't find a single picture of it online in the ivory color to compare). But oh no! It was even more dreamy in the right color.

The assistant helped me slip the dress over my head (and stuffed a pillow in the back to make it snug since even the smallest size I was able to order is still too big) and it just felt right. My dress, the one I fell in love with several months ago. It's so me and it's just so darn pretty and I never want to wear anything else. I was a little misty-eyed and overwhelmed seeing it on my body and knowing that in just a few more months I'd be wearing it as I marry T.J.

Oh, how I can't wait for him to see it!! 

But first, I got to show my mom and Mema. I excitedly lifted up the skirt (it needs a hem) and headed out into the main salon area. And I got just the reaction I wanted! We ooh and ahhed and happily snapped pictures (which you're not allowed to do until you actually own the gown) and we face-timed my sister so she could see it since she was there when we first found it. Then we popped on a veil and I died and fell in love all over again. 

Sorry to blog about the dress without sharing a picture of the dress, but if you couldn't tell from my goofy grin, I'm actually wearing it in the top left picture. That's all you get for now though...
I'll leave you with these pictures of three happy generations of women at the bridal store. We celebrated the end of our fun evening with dinner out and then called it a night.  Now I just have to wait for my first fitting to wear it again. If every day involved wearing a wedding dress, I would be an endlessly happy girl. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

labor day comings and goings.

I drove a couple hours across Maryland and over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to spend the lovely long weekend with my parents and some family over on the Eastern Shore. We enjoyed sunshine-y days and a breeze off the water. Lots of sun and sunscreen. We celebrated my dad's birthday with cupcakes in one of his happy places, on a boat on the water.  We discussed possible father-daughter dance songs (still haven't nailed one down yet) and reminisced about our days and summers spent on our own boat, learning to ski, napping in the sun, anchored in a quite cove.

We had pretty much perfect weather, it actually felt like summer every day compared with the pretty mild temps we had the rest of the season.  And we only got rained on once.  A quick stormy summer shower, blew in and and out on Sunday night. It was one of those great big proper storms with sideways rain and spiderwebbing lightning in the sky.  And in it's wake we had clear blue skies and a sticky humid labor day. We enjoyed a few more hours in the sun by the marina pool and soaked in one of the last days of summer all together.
And now we have a short week and mine will be even shorter since I'm leaving work early on Thursday and taking off Friday.  This weekend I get stand up next to my roommate as she becomes a Mrs, actually I think we'll be sitting down since it's a Catholic mass, but either way I'm so excited. Lots to do before then though and I feel like I won't be able to sit still until I'm sitting in the church pew while they exchange vows. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

winter wedding worries

I'm not really worried about the wedding.
Every time I start to venture into worry-land I just remember that on the actual day I'm probably not going to care one iota about anything except that guy I'm marrying.

Even still...It's Monday, and there are still lots of lists with a few things on them that cause me to sweat just a bit.

Chasing sunlight.  Really it shouldn't have come as a big surprise that the sun sets earlier in the winter. But when I was drooling over my photographers dreamy, natural light-soaked portfolio it didn't really cross my mind. And then I started to get a little nervous when I first spoke with our photographer and he mentioned this may be an issue. He suggested a first look, which was something I did not want to do (and something T.J. had never even heard of before, and we both think it's weird, to each their own though), or he recommended starting the ceremony earlier to allow for more daylight afterwards.

We had originally planned to start our ceremony at 4 but since sunset is at 5:30 on January 3rd (meaning it's on the horizon at that time, so really it would already be quite low at 5 pm) we decided to change our ceremony start time to 3:30 pm instead. Now we will plan to take as many photos beforehand: all the ones with me and my bridesmaids, and T.J. with his groomsmen, and us individually with our families. Then once the ceremony ends we will take a few larger group shots this time with both T.J. and I, and then send the wedding party and family on without us to the cocktail hour while T.J. and I have some time to ourselves to take our just the two of us photographs.  I feel really good about this plan and our photographer did such a great job calming my fears and reassuring me that T.J. and I would not have to take our portraits in the winter darkness. (And at the very least we won't be squinting.)

I'm going to freeze. January, you tricky month you. I've accepted that it's going to be cold on our wedding day (although with South Carolina you never know...) and so I'm on the hunt for some perfect winter wedding wrap (try saying that three times fast).  I'm not too sure if I'm the glamorous fur-wearing bride type, but regardless I need to be sure my bridesmaids and I have something to snuggle up in when we're outside snapping pics. But I also don't want all my photos outside to have the top part of my dress covered up-it's too pretty for that, I can't wait for you to see it. So I'm also counting on being so keyed up on adrenaline and love that I won't even feel the cold.
{1 | 2 | 3}

No one is going to be able to get there. A part of me thinks it would be fantastically beautiful if it snowed on our wedding day. But it absolutely better not snow any day leading up to the big day specifically the day that the groom is supposed to fly in from the other side of the country! Chances of snow in South Carolina are always slim, and I hear Washington is more of a "rain all the time" type of place so I'm not too concerned about his end, but we do have quite a few guests coming down from the north and I would hate for people to miss out on account of rotten weather.

We won't be able to get our license and thus won't be able to get married at all.
So this one is a doozy and causes me the most stress. T.J. will not be flying into South Carolina until the Thursday before our wedding. This happens to be January 1st, New Year's Day, which means the court system is closed. South Carolina requires both parties to appear together in order to apply for a marriage license (makes sense). Then there is a 24 hour waiting period before you can actually pick it up. I called to see what they typically do in tricky situations like mine because I couldn't find any information online. The first person I talked to told me no exceptions, I can change my wedding date or get married in a different state, the law's the law.  I proceeded to hyperventilate and then burst into tears.

I collected myself, prepared some fighting words and called back. I spoke quite sternly (read: my voice was no doubt shaking and I'm sure she could tell I was on the verge of another breakdown) to a different person and was hesitantly told that T.J. needs to get a notarized letter from his commanding officer, which I will bring, by myself, along with a copy of his military id, his driver's license and proof of his social. Plus the actual application and all my own id's to the court house in advance (I'll probably try to go in November). This will then start the 24 hour waiting period and then T.J. and I can appear together on Friday before the judge to approve and collect our licenses. Okay so reading that back to myself makes me uneasy. What if something goes wrong. I am going to call them back and take names and get something in writing if I can because... yeah still hyperventilating. Might have to get my dad to call and take care of this...

So. I'm putting these worries out there. I'm praying over them and letting them go and it's all going to work out, I just know it. But are there any "winter/military/fiance is a resident/close to a major holiday" brides out there with some advice, or anything else that needs to be added to this list?