Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wedding Guest Dos and Don'ts

Unless you are living under a rock, you've been hearing about Chelsea Clinton's big day today!  (Poor girl, some of the most awkward, unflattering pictures of a person I've ever seen are ALL OVER the news today... Luckily, she's turned out just adorable!)  I admit, I'm soaking it all up.  I'm a sucker for a big wedding!

Anyways, as your resident professional wedding guest (wedding number 5 for the summer is next weekend), I thought I'd take this opportunity to share a few Wedding Guest Dos and Don'ts. (I guess I should clarify that these are just my personal opinions... But, I happen to think they are pretty legit.)

Ok...

Do:
- RSVP!!!  Please don't pretend that you can't operate email or a cell phone... This is one of the easiest and most helpful things you can do to help out a stressy bride, but it seems like people hardly ever do it on time, or at all.  (This goes for showers and parties too!)

- Send your gift through the mail either before or after the wedding.  This isn't a huge deal, but I do think it's nice.  As pretty as your package looks on the gift table at the reception, it's actually kind-of a nuissance.  Believe it or  not, most couples don't even look at their gifts until after the honeymoon, so the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and family of the bride are left lugging around big gifts after a late night of celebrating.  (This is especially important for couples who are getting married in a city other than the one they live in.  Major.Pain.)

- Get to know the families and make over the parents of the bride and groom. One of my favorite things about weddings is meeting the couple's families and friends from other walks of life.  I think this is such a special thing to be a part of.  Make an effort to meet some people that are close to the bride and groom (this is usually the intention behind awkward seating arrangements... just go with it).  AND, love on the mom and dad of the bride (especially).  I like to think the MOB is the 2nd most important girl there - be sure to tell her how nice she looks and hug the bride's daddy -- it's an emotional (and expensive) day for him too!

Don't:
- Wear white (or any shade in the white family) to a wedding.  I'm sort-of passionate about this one.  Recently, I have seen this more and more at weddings, and I just think it's inappropriate. There aren't many times a girl gets to wear a white dress other than her wedding... Please let her own that moment!  I'd also argue that you shouldn't wear white to the rehearsal or any wedding events... I'm sorry, I know you have a killer dress, just save it for a summer party! (I wear my cute white "getaway dress" from our wedding every June for our anniversary dinner.  Just an idea!)

- Occupy the bride and groom for more than five minutes.  I'm just going to say it: I think it's annoying when people try to carry on an indepth conversation with the couple during the reception.  Honestly, they love you - that's why you are there - you don't need to confirm it by seeing how much attention they will give you at the wedding.  This is not your day.  They have a lot of people to say hello to... Just give a quick hug, smile, and "you're beautiful."  That's perfect! (P.S. I'm guilty of this sometimes, I confess.)

- Change your RSVP. Umm... If you say you are coming - COME!  If you are invited with one guest, bring ONE GUEST - not your three kids, your sister, and her boyfriend too! I admit that I did some of this before I planned my own wedding, and I feel like I owe those poor brides a huge apology.  Most receptions are paid for PER PERSON about a week BEFORE the event.  Your sort-of close guy friend who is fun to dance with, but wasn't exactly invited, is probably not worth $65.00.  Think about it.

Happy Wedding Day Chelsea!  Hope your guests are on their best behavior!  :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Baby Talk

Ok... I know I left you hanging out to dry on the status of my "Baby Talk" on our road trip.  It wasn't intentional... I'm just still trying to figure out what's ok to share with the world, and what's better left private.  

I think the following photos sum-up our discussions and progress pretty accurately --

Trip Day 4:


Jeff was carrying the camera as we went our separate ways into the bathrooms at one stop.  When he came out, he was anxious (giddy almost) to show me this photo he had taken.  At first glance, I thought it was kind-of cute - "Weird, but I think he's trying to impress me that he's noticing baby stuff."  THEN, I looked again.  (Go ahead, look again.)  We, obviously, had a long way to go!

Disclaimer: This is all in good fun folks! Jeff would NEVER hurt a baby!

to
Trip Day 17:


Best Buds... Definitely moving in the right direction!
.....

What I can tell you right now is... We are NOT pregnant.  But, we ARE on the same page.  (Finally!)  It is a great place to be!  I have a real sense of peace and excitement about our future, but also some fears and some pressure to get myself in good shape (physically, mentally, spiritually, etc.) to have a baby.  I don't know exactly what that time frame will look like yet, but it's fun to talk about it and plan with my husband - he will make SUCH a good dad!!  In the meantime, if anything changes, you'll be the first to know (well, after our family and close friends in real life)! 
 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Twelve

Four years out of college, our lives look really different now.  Eight of us (soon to be nine) are married.  Three are teachers.  Four are in the medical profession. Three have husbands in seminary or full time ministry.  Two have babies. We live in seven different states, and twelve different cities. 

It's a far cry from spanning two houses at the same college and seeing each other (at least) every Wednesday night for "Bible Study." Sometimes, I really grieve for the days when we knew every last detail about each other's lives.  Sometimes, e-mail and phone calls just don't cut it.  I HATE that I don't really know their boyfriends, or husbands, or new best friends. Change is hard for me.

We're different.  Our friendships are different.  

BUT, some things stay the same.   

I still laugh harder with these girls than with anyone else.

I still feel like myself with them, no matter how much time has passed between visits.

We still stay up too late and eat too much junk food when we are together.

We still are way too load and act awkward in big social settings... And, sometimes, we still get banished to "private" rooms.

We still give a jewelry box to the newest bride,

and pass down a Clemson garter we've all worn and signed.

(FYI: Two of the twelve couldn't make it this weekend... Nikki & Julie, you were missed!)

We still dance like ridiculous fools to "Livin' on a Prayer" at every wedding. (Even if "we" are pregnant & supposed to be "taking it easy.")

We still do things like cut off our bridesmaid's dresses because we're hot and it's constricting "our moves."

We still giggle and embarrass each other over new boyfriends, "the wedding night" etc.

And, no matter how different our lives look now, we still know each other's hearts... And, really, that's what matters...

So, we learn from each other's different worlds.  We cry when they are ugly, and we celebrate when they are beautiful!

We cling to our time together, and suck all the marrow out of it.

We know not everyone gets to have friendships like these in life, so we treasure our memories and thank our God for these blessings.


And, we let things change (just a little bit), because we know the important stuff will last. :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

What I've Learned (Trip Re-Cap)

We are HOME!!!  I honestly can hardly believe that our trip has come and gone... It seems like we have been talking about and planning it for YEARS!  Jeff and I are SO thankful to have had this opportunity, but... home feels mighty good right now! 

I can't urge you enough to TAKE A TRIP LIKE THIS!!!  We know, trust me, that it was a once in a lifetime experience to see places and things that many people go their whole lives without seeing.  We saw God's beauty at it's VERY finest, ate good food, met fun people, had excellent time together in the car and late at night by the campfire, visited close friends, etc. etc. etc.  :) 

Today, I proudly cross off the first item on my 30 Before 30 List:

#9. Drive Across the United States

Woohoo!!! (I also visited two more of my 11 college girlfriends at their homes - #14)

As a form of re-cap, here are some Things I've Learned:

1. No matter how organized you are, your car will be a disaster.  (I NEVER thought I'd be the person with her car stacked so high with junk that you can't see out the back window.  I was.)

2. There is, in South Dakota, a palace made of corn.
3. My husband is happiest when climbing to some dangerous location.  (I am not.)
4. Mount Rushmore is a FREE attraction, but they charge you $16.00 to park.  (You cannot see it from your car.)

5. Despite the fact that it is an all American landmark, people will still look at you funny if you arrive there dressed in patriotic "costumes."  (They will also ask you to take lots of pictures because they assume you work there.)
6. Food does not stay all that fresh floating in cold water.  You will spend a lot of time and money on ice.

7. Coffee is your BEST FRIEND.
8. Buffalo are VERY dangerous creatures.
9. Even National Parks have hospitals.
10. Bears enjoy the smell and taste of toothpaste, deodorant, and body lotion.

11. Geyers stink.  Literally.
12. Bison are not afraid of cars.
13. Yellowstone gets VERY cold at night - even in July.

14. Audio books are WONDERFUL! (We listened to The Lost Symbol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Associate)

15. Camping can be quite luxurious.

16. The Canadian border is SERIOUS.  (My favorite question - "How do you two know each other?")

17. There CAN be snow on the ground when it is 80 degrees.
18. Animals always have the right-of-way.
19. Gas gets significantly more expensive as you head West.  (The most we paid was about $3.70/gallon in Montana... At home, it is $2.20.)

20. The Pacific Ocean is COLD.
21. You WILL visit a lot of public restrooms.  Your standards will decrease drastically.

22. Fazoli's combo meals (which are pure carbohydrates) come with a slice of pizza.  Odd?

23. You CAN go significantly further than 3,000 miles WITHOUT an oil change.
24. An eighteen hour drive IS a day-trip.

25. It is FINE to leave all your things in the car for a few days after you return so that you can enjoy a clean house.  Because, no matter how much you cleaned before you left OR how many times your mom and dad touched up the house while you were gone, it WILL be a DISASTER when you return.
26. Eight thousand miles and nineteen states later, nothing feels better than your dog and your own sofa! :)

Thanks for following our trip!

Believe it or not, I'm off again now!  I will be in Valdosta, GA this weekend for my friend Jenni's wedding!  As much as I'm not dying to get back in the car... This will be some much-needed girl time with my very closest friends!  Jeff, I'm sure, will enjoy some time to himself at home! Haha. See you Monday!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hospitality

(Our greeting at Liz & Ian's in Salt Lake City)

They call it "Southern Hospitality," but as a self-declared expert on the U-S-A after my road trip, I am here to declare that hospitality exists ALL over this great country! :) 

Along our travels, Jeff & I saw such beautiful examples of people opening their homes to care for us, that I simply couldn't resist sharing some of them with you all.  It's nice to know that even in our facebook-obsessed/ don't-leave-your-doors-unlocked/ trust-no-one society, old fashioned hospitality still exists! 

Here's some proof:

On the very first night of our trip, my Aunt Mary Kay and Uncle John hosted us in Chicago.  They gathered the whole family for a big dinner, then showed us to our room with chocolates and an anniversary card on the pillows.

Sarah and Andrew, in Seattle, have only been married three months.  For the last two weeks, Sarah's mom has been staying in the guest room to be close by for the birth of their newest niece.  SHE moved out for two nights so that'd we'd have a place to stay... Then, Sarah & Andrew made us feel right at home with a guided tour of their city, a spot to do laundry, fresh coffee and "to-go" cups, and a home-cooked meal.  :)  We left on Thursday morning, and Sarah's mom (this time, with her dad too) would be returning that evening for the long weekend.  Whew.

In Portland, Laura simply turned over the keys to her INCREDIBLE downtown apartment.  Since it had only one bedroom, she found a sitter for her new puppy and spent the night herself a friend's down the street so that we would be totally comfortable.  We made ourselves at home and fell asleep with the entire city skyline just outside our window.  An awesome way to experience Portland!

Upon our late arrival in Salt Lake City on Friday, Liz & Ian had waited up for us (despite being the tired parents on an 18 month old) and had a home-cooked meal waiting.  In the morning, they cleared the way for us to do LOADS of laundry and cleared their whole schedule to hang out with us!  Ian even shared his Father's Day gift of gummy bears - a personal fave of mine!

Lea and Jon, in Littleton, also had dinner waiting when we arrived.  Lea even learned how to use the grill just for us!  They made us feel right at home and - I have to confess - Jon entertained Jeff with board games so that Lea and I could have our much coveted "girl time."  The truly incredible thing about them was that in addition to having a friend LIVE in their guest room all summer, they are also alternating weeks of having a family of SIX stay in their three bedroom house.  We came on one of their rare "off-nights," and Lea and Jon didn't even flinch!

Finally, in Kansas City, Judy and Tom welcomed us into their home with warm hugs and a HUGE dinner.  We had never even met before --- they are the parents of a good friend of ours at home -- but, wow!  There is something about parents that just knows how to love young people!  After our bellies were perfectly stuffed, Tom prayed for our safe travels in the morning and Judy stayed up late making pasta-salad, chicken salad, and muffins to pack an ENTIRE COOLER for our preceding 18 hour day.  Then, at 5:30AM, as we headed out the door, they met us with hot coffee and an overflow of food --- we literally could have eaten the entire trip home and STILL not finished it all.  :)

And, after all this, all I had to thank them with was this measley jar of Apple Butter - a little taste of Roanoke! Haha!

Either way, we were BLESSED by these friends and their hospitality!  Jeff and I talked often about how we want to be a couple known for welcoming people into our house and making them feel at home!

... SO often, when I think about having people over, I worry about all the details like having a super-clean house, a fancy meal, a million things planned to keep them busy, etc. etc. etc.  BUT, we were reminded once again on this trip, that the essence of hospitality is simply LOVING people and inviting them into your REAL life. (Don't get me wrong, all of these houses were BEAUTIFUL and meals were FANTASTIC, but it was clear that wasn't what our time together was about!)

I know this post is long, but I want to end with this quote from one of my favorite books - Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains.  She PERFECTLY describes the kind of hospitality I hope to grasp one day soon as I learn about loving people and using my home to bless others!

“We think in terms of entertaining as a woman's chance to demonstrate her skill and the quality of her home, when actually entertaining has little to do with real hospitality. Entertaining says, "I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking." Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, "This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am His servant, and I use it as He desires." Hospitality does not try to impress, but to serve.

Entertaining always puts things before people. "As soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my place settings complete, my housework done - then I will start having people in." Hospitality, however, puts people before things. "We have no furniture; we'll eat on the floor." "The decorating may never get done. Please come just the same."

Because we are afraid to allow people to see us as we really are, we welcome the false ideal of entertaining. To perpetuate the illusion we must pretend we love housework, we never put our hair in rollers, our children are so well disciplined that they always pick up their toys. We must hint broadly that we manage our busy lives without difficulty. Working hard to keep people from recognizing our weak points, we also prevent them from loving us in our weakness.

Entertaining subtly declares, "This is mine -- these rooms, these adornments. These are an expression of my personality. It is an extension of who and what I am. Look, please and admire." Hospitality whispers, "What is mine is yours."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Utah

I'm a little behind on updates of our trip... Today, is actually the final day (a LONG one albeit) of driving... This time tomorrow, we'll be cuddled up with Addy in our own bed sleeping off today's 17 hours in the car.  Ahh, I can hardly wait!

I promise I've still got lots of thoughts and updates up my sleeve, but I wanted to share some photos of our weekend in Salt Lake City first...

In December of 2006, Jeff and I flew to Salt Lake City to celebrate his recent graduation from Virginia Tech, visit my good friend Liz & her fiance Ian, and ski for the first time out west.  On our second day there, he proposed at the highest peak at Deer Valley ski resort.  (The rest, as they say, is history.)

Three and half years later, Jeff & I are married (obviously), and Liz & Ian are married with an 18 month old ADORABLE little boy.  I'm constantly amazed at how time flies!


...When we first began planning for our trip, we knew SLC was a destination we didn't want to miss.  As the site of our engagement, Deer Valley is a special spot for us that we wanted to re-vist (Luckily, a lift was open that took us to our exact proposal spot - so fun!) Plus, I love Liz just a little and will take ANY excuse to hang out with a baby. :)

Here are a few pictures from our time in Utah:


Later, on Saturday, we went to Silver Lake with Liz, Ian, & Quinn... AND, we saw a moose there!  (This was especially awesome because it was the ONE animal on our "list" that we didn't see in Yellowstone or Glacier... Score!)

Yes, I am obsessed with this picture.  Melts my heart!


(Of course, if you want to see more of our photos, you can view our album here.)

It was a PERFECT weekend!  Thanks Liz & Ian!  :) 

Oh, and, please don't forget to let me know if you want to participate in my book club... I'm going to start reading the book today --- since I have a few hours to spare!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Club

Several months back, I started a book club for girlfriends from all walks of my life... It's been a blast because a.) I like to read and - for the record - talk, and b.) It's really fun to get a bunch of great girls together with hardly anything in common except that I love them AND they read the same book.  If you aren't in a book club already, join one!  Or, even better, start one! :)

But, while you're waiting, I thought I'd personally invite you to my next meeting...

On Friday, August 20th at 7PM, we'll be discussing the book The Art of Racing in the Rain at my house! (Summary below.)  If you live in the Roanoke area and would like to come - please e-mail me for more details.  Otherwise, READ THE BOOk & then, meet me here on Friday 8/20... I will post some discussion topics about the book and a space for you to link up with your responses and review.  An online book club of sorts. Will you play?


Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life...as only a dog could tell it.


I think this book is going to be perfect for animal lovers like me - sad, but heart-warming!!  (And, a nice tribute to my girl Gracie too.) And, just for fun, I've invited all my real-life book clubbers to bring their pups to club too - so fun!  If nothing else, you can look forward to photos from that zoo of a Book Club!

August 20th at 7PM
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Hope you can make it!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Guest Post... Weight Loss Woes & WooHoos!

If you've read my blog for any time, you know that WEIGHT is a major issue for me!  (I don't even want to imagine what will be going on with my weight by the time we get to this point in my trip...)  Luckily, I'm not alone...

To break up some of "travel posts," I've invited some great gals to "Guest Post" on my blog.  Today, you get to journey with Kristen from Happily Ever After on her road to lose some L-Bs.  Enjoy!
.....
Hello fellow bloggers! I'm Kristen, I'm living the life of a wife, mother, and student. I absolutely love my life and my family and use my blog to reach out to others and also to document the happenings of my life! You're welcome to follow along! Today, I'm talking about the nearly seven months I've spent working on losing some weight... Here's my past:

High school days I weighed around 145 and constantly thought that I was the largest person on the planet. (Oh by the way I'm 5'7".) Through my senior year, I figured out how to lose weight and I graduated weighing 112. I know right? Gross.... Looking back on pictures now I can see how grossly skinny I was, but back then I thought I was fantastic.... People were constantly commenting on how skinny I was looking and I LOVED it!

Through the years, I put some weight back on and eventually evened out around 135. THEN, one of the best things happened to me, I gave birth to my first son Logan, who is now 6 years old. With the help of the stress brought on by a nasty divorce, I managed to lose all of my baby weight.

Moving on, 6 years later, to the birth of my second son Riley. This time, I topped my pregnancy at 170 pounds! I know, yowza! It is now 21 months later and I weight 173. Wow, did I seriously just admit that on the wide open web?!

Here's what's even better, errr.... worse.... Just six months ago I weighed 184! Slowly but surely, I am struggling to lose this weight. I blame a lot of my gain on stress - I know some people say you'll lose weight under stress but I think that's just bologna! So... we all agree now, STRESS!, the birth control pill I was on - side note, don't use Seasonique! - , and of course probably the biggest issue is pure laziness. I love my food, I love drinking beer on a hot summer night, and I absolutely love sitting on my couch!

So, starting in June, I got back on the wagon and I'm planning on dropping this weight. Since May, I have run/participated in two 5k's, I attempt to no longer drink alcohol during the week, and I don't eat after dinner. I'm constantly looking for people to talk icky diet stuff with or to gain extra encouragement from people who are in the same shoes (or elastic waist pants) that I am in. Ok Ok I know, that was really lame!

So, what are YOUR 2010 goals? And how are you doing on accomplishing them? Me? Well, I've got another 38 pounds to go!
...
Thanks Kristen!! Girl, I hear ya!  Keep us updated on your progress...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pacific Northwest (Lots of Photos!)

Well, today marks a turning point in our trip... From this point forward, we are officially heading home!

We've already travelled over 5,000 miles; and we've seen everything from grizzlies and bighorns to live music and fish markets.  :) It is hard to believe that one week from today, I will be in Georgia with my girlfriends celebrating Jenni's wedding weekend, and Jeff will be back at work.  Wow, time flies! 

Luckily, there are still  3,000 (ish) miles  between us and the real world. Plus, our return trip is nicely broken up with visits with some of my best friends in Utah & Colorado... So, the fun isn't over quite yet!

BUT, first, a photo recap of our whirlwind tour of the Pacific Northwest, which - by the way - we LOVED! 

Monday night in Seattle with Jeff's college roommate Andrew (who works for Microsoft) and his new bride Sarah:

"Crab Feast" (and clam chowder) on the Seattle wharf...
A visit to the infamous Fremont Troll...
And a photo-op at Kerry Park overlooking the whole city, including Seattle's landmark Space Needle.

Tuesday, we left bright & early to cross the border & check-out Vancouver:

Which included a stop at Canada Place to watch the cruise ships come in and the water planes take off...
The 2010 Olympic Cauldron...
The Sea Walk among amazing yachts...
Stanley Park...
and, English Bay Beach.

Then, on Wednesday, we crossed back into the states for one more night with Andrew & Sarah & a delicious home-cooked dinner.  :)


And, finally, Thursday we made a quick stop at Portage Bay Cafe (incredible), the Seattle Public Market, & the original Starbucks before heading south on I-5:

A must-see for me ever since "Real World: Seattle."  What can I say?

On our way into Portland, we stopped off at Cannon Beach to put our toes in the Pacific Ocean.

It was VERY cold...
But also, VERY beautiful!

And, to end our time in the Pacific Northwest, we had - what we consider - a "night with the locals" in Portland.  First, enjoying a beer & live "mountain music" at McMenamins Kennedy School (a 1915 elementary school that has been converted into a brewery, movie-theater, and show venue), and taco's at Por Que No Mississippi?!  The perfect ending to our tour!


Beautiful mountains, perfect weather, great food, fun cities, and friendly people... We loved everything about Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. Our only regret? That we didn't have more time in any one place. Oh well, that just gives us an excuse to come back!!

As usual, if you still want to see more of our photos you can check them out here, OR, just tune back in later for details and photos of the last leg of Chap-Manifest Destiny 2010! :)



(P.S. We just finished Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol on cd... For 17 hours Jeff and I have actually looked FORWARD to being in the car and have hardly spoken a word to each other... So good!)


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