And They Said It Wouldn’t Last

On August 19, my husband and I will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. We were married in 2000, when we were both rapidly approaching our mid-thirties. We had known each other for three years, having met through a mutual friend with whom I worked.

I was 33, and he was 34, and when we got married, I was living in Mobile, Alabama, and he was living in Charlotte, North Carolina. We had met in Mobile in 1997, but he had moved to Charlotte soon thereafter, so we had a long-distance relationship, and I had no plans of moving unless I was married. I’m sure I could have found a job in Charlotte, but at 33, I wasn’t willing to make a partial commitment to a man; I needed a full-on commitment if I were going to move.

So we were married on August 19 in the historic First Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka, Alabama. When we returned from our two-week Hawaiian honeymoon, we went to Mobile and loaded a truck with all my belongings and moved them to Charlotte. I had lived in different places, so moving was not a challenge for me. In fact, the longest I had ever lived anywhere at that point in my life was nine years…moving wasn’t a problem. Of course, my family was in Alabama, but I could visit whenever I wanted, and we talked every day.

Not gonna lie. The first year was challenging. Remember, we were 33 and 34. We had both been living alone for years, and I loved living alone….eating cereal for dinner in front of the TV; staying up as late as I wanted; being in charge of the remote control; not answering to anyone…you get the picture. We were two (and still are) two very different people. He likes to be home. I like to be on the go. In fact, home, for me, is just a place to change clothes. And I’m always planning my next trip. He’s quiet. I’m not. Seriously, he is very quiet and reserved. But we were married. Suddenly, I had to be more grown up. I had to cook and eat real meals at the table instead of sitting cross-legged on the floor. My husband liked to go to bed earlier than I did, and he always held the remote control. Life was different, and when I was down, he didn’t understand. What did I not like about leaving a one-bedroom apartment? Well…that little one bedroom apartment was my space, and after getting married, it seemed I rarely had my space. I’m sure there were people who could sense the tension and thought, “They’ll never make it.”

But one year in, I was accustomed to married life. In fact, one year in, and I was flat out enjoying it. We got a dog…an Airedale Terrier I wanted to name Fannie after a college friend, but the husband wouldn’t go for “Fannie.” We opted for Annie instead. She has been gone for several years now, but I still wish we had named her Fannie.  And then, 2.5 years after we married, we were expecting a baby. We found out in May 2003 it was a girl, and we were thrilled. She was born in October of 2003, and no one ever loved a baby more than we love that girl. But again, there was added stress. We were sleep deprived. We were exhausted (mostly me). But after the first few months, we started to get more sleep. We started to have more fun, and the stress of having a baby in the house subsided. We were a happy little family of three.

It hasn’t been all fun and games. In 2005, my husband’s beloved grandmother passed away, and all of us were heartbroken. She was kind and caring, and she was a force of nature. At the same time, my mother was driving from Mobile to Birmingham (4-5 hours) all the time, trying to get my grandmother settled in to assisted living, and my daddy was having undiagnosed health issues. In February 2006, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he died that same year…eight months after his official diagnosis. My heart was broken. While I had lost grandparents, I had never experienced a loss as terrible as that one. It was the hardest time of my life, at that point. I was truly devastated. My heart ached in a way I didn’t know it could.

After that, my husband had not one, but two brain surgeries, and we survived that. I say “we,” because it was hard on both of us. Physically and mentally, it was difficult for him. It was emotionally and mentally hard on me. He came back from surgery a different person, but we got through that too. You can read about it here. And then, I lost my mother in December 2017. It took the wind out of my sails. I slept for a month afterward. I had learned some coping skills after the losing my daddy, but it didn’t matter. Nothing could have prepared me for the loss of my mother. I can still get upset at any moment, and it has been 20 months since she passed.

But my husband helped. He understood. He knew that when I stayed in bed in January of 2018, I needed to be there. He looked out for me. He supported me. And then, one of my dearest friends died in June 2018 after battling cancer for 30 years. My husband supported me through that too.

We’ve had our share of heartaches, but we are a team, and we deal with them together. We have had our share of disagreements, but we’ve moved past them. Sometimes he thinks I’m absolutely insane, and vice versa. I’m not going to lie and say it has been easy. It hasn’t always been easy. I don’t always understand him, and he doesn’t always understand me, but we try.

But married life hasn’t been all about loss. It hasn’t been all been difficult. We love raising our daughter together. We love sitting out on the patio together in the evening…sipping Prosecco and listening to jazz music. We have enjoyed going to lots of concerts together. At night, before we go to sleep, we watch an episode of Chrisley Knows Best, The Young and The Restless, or CSI: Miami. He helps me plant the garden every year, and I tend it. We both love to watch college and NFL football, so fall is a busy time for us. And we try to go to all our daughter’s field hockey and lacrosse games. He brings me coffee in bed every morning, because he learned that I’m a lot happier if I wake up with caffeine. I go to bed earlier, because he likes to get to bed earlier than I do. We laugh a lot…at each other and with each other. We have fun together. We are thankful we wake up every day. We appreciate the life we have together.

Our daughter is about to start her sophomore year of high school, and in three short years, she will be heading off to college somewhere. We will enter a new phase of life, God willing. And we will have to adapt to more changes. Right now, we aren’t always on the same page for our plans for the empty nest years. But I’m sure we will find ways to compromise. We will find ways to make sure we both get to “live the dream.” He wants the Gulf Coast, and I want to travel to different cities. We will find a way to make it all happen, and we will have fun along the way….God willing.

Happy 19th Anniversary, Cary! And they said it wouldn’t last…

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A Weekend to Remember

Wow! I turned 52 on Memorial Day. While I have always loved my birthday, this one was extra special…and most memorable.

On Saturday, I flew to Los Angeles with a friend. She was my “plus one” for another friend’s wedding on Monday, because my husband needed to stay home to make sure our teenage daughter prepared for final exams at school.

We flew home Tuesday, but we still haven’t stopped talking about the wedding reception!  The bride is someone I met in LA a couple of years ago, and she is gorgeous on a regular day, but she was positively radiant on her wedding day, which also happened to be her birthday too! And I’m sure she will remember it for the rest of her life as well.

I remember when she got engaged. I remember she said these words to me, “I hope you’re ready for a big African wedding!” And honestly, I was flattered to be invited. She is a special lady who loves looking out for others and making other people happy. She is Nigerian, and her new husband is as well. Have you ever been to a Nigerian wedding? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. I can’t believe it took me 52 years to have that fabulous experience! There was so much to take in: the incredible handmade dresses of fine fabrics and beautiful colors; the culinary delights of the food; the African music we had never heard, but all the Nigerians knew every beat and every word; the exciting processions of both families and different groups associated with the bride and groom; the DJ who worked the crowd; the love of the families; the dancing! I could never write a description that would do it all justice, but I can say we met some lovely people and had an incredibly memorable experience. And I got to see my sweet friend get married. She and her new husband look so peacefully happy with each other.

Before the reception, I had wondered what food would be served. I was hoping I would get to have some Nigerian food, and I was not disappointed! For first course, we were offered an option of Peppered Goat Soup or Yam Porridge. I consulted with the bride’s cousin, who was seated next to me, and she steered us toward the Yam Porridge…spicy and mellow all in one bowl. It was fantastic, but I wanted to make sure I had room for the other courses, so I ate about 3/4 of the bowl. For the entree, we had a choice of five different things, and the cousin recommended the Fried Rice, Moi Moi, Assorted Meats and Plantains. I think Meg (my plus one) and I surprised the cousins by eating so well! The fried rice had a little kick to it, while the plantains added a little sweetness. And the meats…chicken and I think, goat ribs…incredible spices. We dined like queens!

If you ever watched The Wonder Years, you might remember the episode titled Birthday Boy, in which Paul (the main character’s best friend and neighbor) has his Bar Mitzvah on Kevin’s (the main character) birthday. I don’t remember everything about the episode, but I do remember Kevin was a little envious of Paul’s family traditions and history. Listening to Paul’s grandfather talk about his own Bar Mitzvah had Kevin wondering about his own family history…and I get it. Being at my friend’s big Nigerian wedding made me think of that episode of The Wonder Years. I found myself looking on in awe at how these lovely people had managed to hang on to Nigerian traditions in the United States. The people are American, but they remember their African heritage…and I loved every minute of it.

I will likely never have another experience like it. If it took me 52 years to be able to experience it once, it’s not likely I will get to do it again. But I will always remember it. I wish my daughter could have gone. I wish she could have experienced it. I learned a lot, and the bride’s cousins answered all my questions, even though it had to be difficult to hear me, since I can’t talk above a whisper with laryngitis. They were so kind and patient while I tried to ask my questions about details.

So yes, I had a happy birthday…it was fantastic. Most of all, I am grateful to my friend for inviting me to celebrate her new marriage with her…a happy birthday, indeed!

It’s Wedding Time!

In less than two weeks, my friend, Meg, and I are going to a wedding in California together. A friend of mine is getting married. My husband needs to stay home with our daughter while she studies for final exams, so I asked Meg to be my “plus one.” We are excited. The bride will be beautiful, of course, because she is beautiful.

But before the fun begins, Meg and I have been searching for the perfect dresses to wear. It’s a formal event, so we need floor-length dresses. I didn’t say we need “gowns,” because that sounds way too dramatic for me. When I think of a “gown,” I think of a giant, billowy dress with beading all over it. I’m not doing that, and Meg’s not either. Also, we don’t want to look like the “mother-of-the-bride.” We are simply doing floor-length. But we need transitional dresses, because the wedding is early afternoon, and the reception is late afternoon into the evening. Maybe some people will go back to their hotels or homes and change between the service and the reception, but Meg and I won’t have time. Therefore, our dresses need to be OK for the early service and the later reception. Whew!

I found two dresses that will work for me.

Here’s what I have learned from this process: it’s hard to find a floor-length dress you like, but it is especially difficult to find one that will go from day to evening, but you can find them! Here are some suggestions:

  • If you’re short like me (5’2″), you might be able to find some beautiful midi-length dresses that will work as floor-length on you, and you might not have to get them altered. The two dresses I think will work are both supposed to be midi-length for “normal” people, but on me, it’s floor-length!
  • Check local boutiques. Sometimes, they offer a better selection than the big box stores, because they are more specialized. Sales associates are likely to be able to pull some dresses that might work for you.
  • Department stores are good places to look, too, though, and often have in-house alterations departments that can do it all. You can check these websites online: Belk.com, Neimanmarcus.com, Nordstrom.com, Bloomingdales.com, and there are some great discount sites like Nordstromrack.com, Lastcall.com, and Saksoff5th.com. If you have a Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off 5th, or Last Call store in your area, you might find a great designer dress at a rock bottom price. I have found two in Saks Off 5th in the past.
  • Another great resource? Ebay! If you know which brands usually work for you, it can be easy to find something on Ebay. For example, I know how Diane Von Furstenberg fits me, so I can feel pretty safe about ordering DVF on Ebay, even though I can’t try it on and sometimes can’t return it. However, I am very careful about how much I will pay for items on Ebay. And here’s another secret: I’ve purchased lots of things on Ebay before wearing them for an event…and then I resell them after I am done with them!
  • Rent the Runway is an online site that offers designer dresses for rent, so you pay a fraction of the cost to wear it for an event and then return it! I have friends who use it regularly and swear by it. You can see the website here.
  • Years ago, when I lived in Mobile, I rented a dress from a local place for a Mardi Gras ball. Everything worked out great, so I recommended it to all my friends then. It has been 20 years since, so I don’t remember the name of the place, or I would recommend it now. But in Charlotte, we have a dress-rental shop called Dressed. I haven’t been there, but you can see their website here.
  • Amazon Prime now offers a service called Prime Wardrobe. You can order some of their clothing items through the program, and they will send them for you to try on. If you like them, you keep them, and they charge your credit card. If you don’t like them, you have seven days to return them free of charge! I’ve used it several times and love it! If you’re a Prime member, it’s included with your membership!

So do not fret if you need the perfect dress for an occasion. You will find something, even it if seems like an impossible task. Try some of the options listed above. If you’re looking to keep costs down, check out local boutique sales or even thrift stores. Try some of the discount designer sites, or check out the rental sites and stores. I’ve dug deep to help you find options, and I’m saving all this information for my future needs. With wedding season quickly approaching, you might find this information helpful.

I will post pics of us at the wedding on Memorial Day, which is also the brides birthday…and mine too!

 

 

 

 

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Shutterfly Engagement Party Ideas

Planning an engagement party this spring? Shutterfly can make it easier.

Before you plan the party, think about the effort that goes into planning the actual wedding. Then, take a deep breath and thank the Lord the engagement party is easier to plan! Unfortunately, though, we can’t just twinkle our noses or flip our ponytails and make a party happen…it takes thought, time, and planning.

There are lots of details, but one thing’s for sure…millenials love photo opportunities. With the invention of the smart phone, everyone takes photos of everything, and parties are special photo opportunities. They want them to be cute. They want them to be fun. And they want their pictures to be perfectly shareable…with their own hashtag, no less. Shutterfly can help.

In 2003, when I had a baby, I discovered Shutterfly.com was the perfect place to store and print my photos and photo gifts, and I haven’t stopped using them since. Shutterfly was great for my baby pictures, but recently, someone told me about something else they offer: printable engagement photo prop ideas and photo shoot tips. With this, the site offers lots of fun props and lots of fun ideas, as well, to turn your engagement party into the perfect photo op for friends and family. The printable props they offer come in a variety of styles, from vintage to fun to rustic…even fairytale style!

You can see their printable engagement party photo props here.

 

And Shutterfly is great for even more for the engagement party. You’re going to need invitations. The bride and groom will send you the names and addresses of friends and family, but you’ll need to pick an invitation, have it printed, and send it out. Shutterfly offers lots of ideas for that, as well. They offer a wide array of engagement party invitations, some that include photos, but some that don’t, as well, making it easy for you to choose what you want and order them online.

You might even find some personalized party favors for your guests on the site. Shutterfly offers party favors starting at $5.00 for a personalized bottle opener…could be popular with the young couple’s friends!

But one of my favorite things offered by Shutterfly is their page dedicated to Ideas and Inspirations, which is dedicated to helping the consumer with party planning, decorating ideas, and more. You can see that page here. It even offers a wedding hashtag generator! Just enter the bride and groom’s names, and Shutterfly will generate hundreds of hashtag ideas for the wedding! That’s important to millennial when they share all their photos on social media. It’s pretty awesome! See the wedding hashtag generator here.

So, while it can be daunting to start preparing for and planning an engagement party, Shutterfly can make it a little easier. I’ll be using the site for any parties I plan…starting with a spring brunch at my home next month. I’m absolutely amazed at the ideas they offer.

Happy planning!

 

 

 

 

 

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February Celebrations

February. Yes, Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day both fall in February, but for me, some very important anniversaries fall in February.

My parents were married on February 18, 1961, so today is their  58th anniversary. Of course, we lost Daddy 12 years ago, and we lost Mother in December of 2017. But every year, on this day, I think of my parents. All their wedding photos are in Alabama, so I don’t have access to them right now to share.

Every year on their anniversary, they would do something together…even if they just ordered in and had some wine. Sometimes they went out to dinner, and sometimes they went out of town, but every year, my mother would tell me about their wedding day.

In 1961, Mother was a nurse and finished her shift at Baptist Hospital in Birmingham the night before they married. As soon as they were married, she would be moving to Florida, where Daddy lived. The head nurse, who was an older unmarried lady (referred to as a spinster back then), asked her as she was leaving, “Do you feel like you can’t live without him?” Mother replied, “Oh, I can live without him. I just don’t want to live without him.” Who knew that was foreshadowing for her life 45 years later? After Daddy died, Mother lost a lot of her get-up-and-go. She seemed as if she didn’t want to go on. I never would have believed it if someone had told me that would happen, but it happened. She just didn’t enjoy life without him as much as she had enjoyed it with him.

So the day after finishing that hospital shift, she and Daddy married at my maternal grandparents’ home. Mother was quite practical…no big shindig for her. Her Aunt Ola helped her with the arrangements, including a beautiful cake, and Mother and Daddy left for New Orleans right away…their honeymoon. Mother got a job at a hospital in Florida, and the rest is history.

Two years ago, just two days before my parents’ anniversary, my brother married the girl he took to his high school prom. They celebrated their second anniversary two days ago.

Their wedding was nothing fancy…a civil ceremony. I could hear the joy in my mother’s voice when she called me to tell me my brother had gotten married. She was thrilled.

Both of them had been married before. He was 48, and she was 47 when they married. My brother had been divorced for two years. They didn’t rush into anything. They didn’t live together before they were married. In fact, they live together part-time now, and it works.

Our family has known his “bride” since the mid-80s. Her granddaddy was our family doctor and put stitches in my knee when I was 11 and diagnosed me with mono when I was 17. My daddy adored her back in the day, and he would laugh and laugh if he could spend time with them now. The bride has a quirky sense of humor, making her perfect for dealing with my brother’s crazy sense of humor. They laugh with each other…a lot. They take care of each other, and they help each other. They enjoy traveling together, and lucky for me, they’ll travel with us too.

My brother has two grown boys, twins who turned 21 in December. His bride has three boys, ranging in age from 15 to 22. They all get along, and my daughter is thrilled that she is the only girl in the bunch! She loves telling people all five of her first cousins are boys, and that she is the youngest. She adores them all.

So, February is a big month for us. I had a glass of champagne Saturday to celebrate my brother and sis-in-law’s anniversary, and I’ll have a glass tonight to celebrate my parents’ anniversary.

If my mother hadn’t decided in 1961 that she didn’t want to live without Daddy, my brother and I wouldn’t be here.

 

***Next entry: Squash…***