Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Farewell to 2014!

As the hours wind down, it's time to say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015.

Chris and I continued our tradition of seeing a NYE movie: Unbroken. I highly recommend both the book and the movie. And now we are back on the couch, ready to watch the ball drop. Our favorite relaxed holiday.

This year. Wow. So many things. So many AMAZING things:

  • We got married. Drop the Mic.

I mean, right?! Nothing will top that.

But I suppose I'd also like to celebrate:  
  • We had the opportunity to see new parts of the world. London, Paris, Dublin, Belfast, Galway - every stop was more to experience. And now I'm hungry to see more of the world.
  • Plus I wracked up a whole lot of US travel miles, both for work and for fun, including stops in Champaign, IL, New Orleans for a FREE trip with Rachel, getting to see my amazing friends Shiloh and Lucy tie the knot in Texas, and a holiday trip to Connecticut to close out the year.
  • A few great concerts, including DMB at Summerfest. 
  • I submitted my dissertation proposal draft to my professor. Finally. I still need to do my oral exams and then I can start my research, but for me, actually putting my work forward for review is a big step. 

There is a quote from Nora Zeale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God that says "There are years that ask questions and years that answer." I used to have a theory about odd years and even years. That even years brought greater challenge, and odd brought greater celebration. That has proven less true for me lately. Now I am leaning more towards believing that every year has the potential to be great. And those with less celebratory moments just may be filled with more opportunities to learn and grow.

We will just have to see what 2015 brings.

Happy New Year y'all. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Holiday/Winter Goals

Our 2014 Christmas Tree!
Fall has come and gone. It's officially December. Which I consider not yet Winter, but Holiday season! (although the snow we keep getting might argue otherwise)

I set some summer goals to help me focus on what was important and to not let the summer months fly by. Knowing that this time of year can be really overwhelming, I thought I would set some for the holidays as well.

Eat: More fruits and veggies. This is hard during the time when I just want comfort food and Christmas cookies. But I am on a mission to avoid the winter colds. And vitamins are key. Go vitamins!

Drink: Hot cocoa. Because yum. And not everything has to be a veggie.

Read: The books sitting on my shelves, both print and virtual. I seem to be hoarding books. And rather than getting a bunch of new ones, I am going to start with working my way through those I have downloaded or borrowed. I love getting some "fun" reading done over the holidays.

Watch: We watched all of the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends, on the Friday after Thanksgiving. One of our favorite traditions while putting up the Christmas tree. Which now means I am ready for all of the holiday classics. I'm a sucker for White Christmas, A Muppet Christmas Carol, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and It's a Wonderful Life. We've already watched Love Actually, another Christmas favorite. I also love watching the Harry Potter movies this time of year.

Wear: My gorgeous Aran knit sweater that I got on our honeymoon in Ireland. Sweater weather is the best.

Make: A few new Christmas decorations. I try not to go overboard with the holiday craft projects (ehem, Pinterest), but there are a few that I'd like to add this year.

Buy: All. The. Things. Just kidding. Trying to NOT buy all of the things right now. Just some special gifts for the loved ones. And maybe a thing for me here and there.

Bake: Klejner. It's almost time for our family cookie weekend, one of my favorite annual traditions.

Send: Christmas cards! I won't be hand-making them this year, since we just ordered one with some of our wedding photos. I love both sending and receiving Christmas cards.

Start: Some winter deep cleaning. A messy house around the Holidays is never fun.

Finish: My dissertation proposal edits. Chugging right along.

Find: Some new exercise options for winter.

Stop: Staying up past my bedtime. I need more sleep. This weather makes me a bit groggy. I need all of the energy I can get.

Go: To all of the fun holiday events! Okay, maybe not all of them. But Milwaukee has some wonderful holiday celebrations, like Christmas in the Ward and the Miller Holiday Lights tour. I love celebrating.

Visit: My grandma. She's recovering from a spill on the ice from this pre-Thanksgiving snow we got. When I saw her in the hospital last week, she proudly proclaimed that she made it to 84 before breaking a bone. Not bad. I hope to be so lucky.

Focus: On Joy. It's going to be my 2015 word. Why not get 13 months out of it?

Happy December y'all!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lazy Days

No one is lazier than this one. Who apparently brought her bear to nap time.
Oh hey.

I don't know what it is, but it has just been a lazy summer.

For the first time in a very long time, our summer has involved very few plans. No major trips (since the big one is still ahead), and really, only a few weekends where we had made plans in advance or had somewhere we had to be. It's been awesome. I have greatly enjoyed being able to sleep in on a Saturday, get up when I get up, and decide in the moment, "What do I want to do today?"

Some days were productive days. Trips to the farmer's market. Cleaning the whole apartment. Plus the all important honeymoon planning!

Some were made for exploring. We made it to German Fest, Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, the State Fair, and Bastille Days this year. Plus several trips to Summerfest, including to see Dave Matthews. My sister and I also got in a few trips to see our Grandma, who is still loving life in her 80s and killing me with her productivity. She does not slow down!

And still others were much more low key. I think I was averaging a book a week in June and July. A few, I read in one sitting. Plus, I watched all of Broadchurch, The Fall, True Detective, Top of the Lake, the final season of The Killing, and season two of Orange is the New Black. There was a lot of time spent on the couch. Except for the three times that we went to the movies this summer - I fell asleep in all three. Talk about an expensive nap.

It's been lovely. And just the refresher that I needed.

It's go time, folks. The students move in tomorrow, and this is about to get real.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Third Time is the Charm

This post contains affiliate links.

Last summer, I came across something pretty exciting. A service that shops for you. Yep, Stitch Fix.

You see, I don't really love shopping. While I used to love going to the mall in my younger years, now it feels like kind of a chore. The idea of sorting through racks is just not my thing. I'm much more likely to order clothes online.

So when I found Stitch Fix through the recommendation of a friend, I was eager to try it. For a $20 styling fee, you get 5 items sent to you - clothing or accessories. Based on the style profile that you complete on their site, the stylist does their best to find things that will flatter your body type and match your style. You decide what you want to keep, and then send the rest back. Plus your $20 is credited towards your purchase. Worth a shot.

My first fix was where I found this awesome top which I wore for my engagement photos. I loved it so much. While I got some other things that I didn't love as much, I was still excited to have one thing I was really excited about.

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
Loves it!

I gave the service another shot in December, right before going to a conference. My second Stitch Fix didn't have quite the same amount of success. I kept a magenta sleeveless top that I wear for work, but that wasn't a perfect match. I saw other friends and fellow bloggers finding these amazing outfits via their fixes, and didn't understand why my second one was so far off from my style. In fact, the service seems to have gotten so popular, that they have added staff to meet the demand. I was kind of bummed, and not sure if I was going to try again. 

But I decided to try again, with our upcoming honeymoon in mind. With the start of the school year, there is just no way that I am going to have time to go shopping for anything for our trip. And while I am trying to save money for adventures, my wardrobe could definitely go for a refresh with a new piece or two. The first thing that I did was to go back and edit my profile a bit, per the suggestions of other folks who said to be really specific. The more feedback that you give, the better your fixes become along the way. I asked for pieces that would be good for our honeymoon - layering pieces that wouldn't take up a ton of room in my suitcase, since we are just taking carry ons. I also updated my Pinterest board, and sent that to them too.

My box came last week, and I was pretty excited just upon opening it. There's just something about the way that they wrap the neatly folded clothes that makes it even more special. 

So, I'm going to share some shots of me trying on what I got. Let's not talk about the fact that my hair looks weird from taking clothes on and off, that the lighting is terrible and the shots are blurry, etc. Focus on the outfits. I'll include pictures of the little cards they sent so that you can see some other ways they suggest you style the pieces.

The first thing that I pulled out of the stack was this awesome green top. This color green is one of my favorites. And it was a soft flowy top that was super comfy. I liked the detailing on the sleeves and was just super excited about this one. Except for the price. I just didn't feel like it was worth the cost - almost $70. I knew it had to go back, especially as I looked closer at the seam and noticed that it had a bunch of loose strings. Nope, not today.

I ended up sending it back, although I was really sad to put it in the return bag. In another life, perhaps we will meet again. What I did keep from the outfit above...the awesome jeans that they sent me. Did I need a new pair of jeans? Nope! But when you get a pair of jeans that fit and don't give you a mom butt, you keep em! Love them!

I kind of wish that they sent me the cute striped tank in the picture too!

The next thing that I tried on was this cute white top that I so badly wanted to love. Also flowy and super comfy, it had cute detailing that really made me want to keep it. BUT, it was a size too big. Too long and too wide just doesn't work. However, right before I checked out and was going to send it back, I decided to contact their customer service. While they won't guarantee exchanges, they happened to have the top in a size smaller, and would send it my way. Awesome customer service. Woo! I love you white top!

Here is the card with the styling:

The next item that I tried on was a charcoal gray drape front cardigan. I don't have anything like this, so I was pretty excited about it. It also felt like a high quality piece that I could wear often. This picture doesn't really do it justice - it looks a little weird with the white top that is too big, but it is comfy and wonderful. It is a piece that would get a ton of use on our trip.  

This was another piece that I was debating whether or not to keep. While it is super high quality, the price was a little bit more than I wanted to spend on a cardigan. Or so I thought! Turns out, there was a typo on the price list that they enclosed in the package. When I went to check out and was planning to send it back, it was actually $16 cheaper. Score! So I kept it!

The last thing that I pulled out of the package was a dress that I wasn't so sure about. It was a pretty bold pattern, which isn't necessarily my style. I tried it on, and I was right. Not my style. And also not a good fit. I'll spare you the photo, as it was at least a size too small on the bottom. Cute on someone - just not me.

As a whole, this was a much more positive experience. I didn't anticipate keeping 3 out of 5 things. Allison, the Stitch Fix stylist, definitely did a good job of matching my style and my requests. All of the items were definitely stuff that could be worn throughout our trip and would roll up easily into a suitcase, leaving plenty of room for souvenirs!

While I can't afford to do Stitch Fix every month, I will definitely continue to use the service for different occasions. I think it could be for you too, if:

  • You don't have a ton of time, or a ton of interest in shopping.
  • You are still figuring out what your personal style is, and could use some help finding direction.
  • You enjoy the element of surprise.
  • You are willing to give it a shot, knowing that you are going to likely send some stuff back.
Looking around the web, they have a huge array of options - folks aren't all getting the same thing. If you want a whole box of maxi dresses, or one entirely of accessories, they'll do it.

Want to check it out for yourself? Here is a link to their site. When you sign up, I get a $25 credit. Which is always a lovely gift for future Fixes. : )
Do you get Stitch Fix? Anything good lately? 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Travel for Two

As we have been planning for our belated honeymoon, it hit me. This is the first big trip that Chris and I are taking together. 

We have traveled together before. That's not new. We drove to Iowa last summer for a reunion with my graduate school friends. We have headed out east together for the last several years to visit Chris' family. We have gone to the Rose Bowl and Florida with my family. And Chris joined me for a conference last year for some time in Orlando. 

But this time is different. This is us, planning an entire trip on our own. Over two weeks of adventures across three countries. Planes, trains, ferries and buses. Exchanging currencies. Determining what we both need in terms of structure and flexibility in our journey. Deciding when to get the advanced tickets and when to wait and make a game-time decision about what we want to do. Spending lots and lots of time trying to weigh advice from all of the interwebs. I am really enjoying our time spent researching the trip together, but wow, it can be overwhelming!

I'm finding that vacation planning can tell you a lot about your relationship. It provides insight into what each person individually values and what they need to feel fulfilled in a trip (and to stay sane). There is a need to be explicit in your expectations, and to not assume that the other person feels the same. To compromise, and make sure.

For example, Must Sees. We both have different things that we really want to do. And we can't do all of them. As we were talking about what day trips that we want to squeeze into the London leg of our trip, we were weighing our priorities of the Warner Brothers Studios to see the Harry Potter sets, a day trip through the Chunnel to Paris, and a bus tour to Stonehenge/Windsor Castle/Oxford. Sidenote: Channel + tunnel = Chunnel. Best thing ever! I'm a nerd. For both of us, Harry Potter was a given, because Harry Potter. Tickets booked. It's happening. But it was looking like it would make sense to choose between either Paris or Stonehenge versus trying to squeeze in both. For me, I'd choose Paris because I don't know when I will get there in the future. Chris also wants to go to Paris, but he worries that he'd feel some sense of regret, getting all the way to the UK and not making Stonehenge happen. Time to discuss. Is there a way that we can both be happy? 

Then there is the question of "How" we want to see different places. Are we bus trip people? Do we want a guided tour for things, or would we prefer to explore on our own? My aunt recommended that we do a biking tour of Paris, as a way to fit in a lot of sites in one day. Is that our style? Because this is our first kind of adventure, we are sort of guessing. We both agreed we weren't ready for a driving trip, so we are mixing in some self-guided destinations via public transportation, and selecting some guided day trips for the one's that seem a bit more complicated. If we go into this open minded, we can figure out what we'd prefer for next time.

Then there is the question of "What do I need on this trip to keep me from going crazy?" For me, I am pretty open to exploring lots of different things, as long as I am fed. Hangry is a thing. You can ask Chris - he's aware. He does not require specific meal times like I do. But he has learned that to avoid me getting crabby, food is important. Naps are also important.

To summarize: Naps. Food. Harry Potter. I'm excited.

How have you prioritized trip planning with a partner, friend, or family member? Any tips?    

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Our Ceremony

All of the tears. Captured by Lisa Mathewson Photography

As much as I loved some of the other details of our wedding reception, it is the ceremony that continues to stick with me. It was the best part of the wedding. Because it is what made it a wedding, and not just a fun family party.

Throughout the evening, family and friends commented that the day was very "us." They could see Chris and I in all of the smaller parts. For me, this was most true for our ceremony.

As we grappled with what we wanted our ceremony to be, we decided on a few key things:

1. It would be heartfelt and thoughtful, while not being super traditional.
2. We would walk in and out together, without a processional.
3. We wanted something more than just the readings and vows. (As to the what, that took some additional pondering).

Our Officiant

Our friend Beau graciously agreed to officiate our wedding. And I think it was really special that it was him, because he was there when we first met at a professional development event, and later reconnected at a conference. Beau has officiated a number of other weddings, including some of our other friends. Plus, I think he both looked the part, but also did an amazing job of leading us through the whole thing.

Our Ring Warming Ceremony

This. I am so glad we did this.

If you haven't heard of a ring warming ceremony before, know that I had never seen one in person before we found it online. As we planned our ceremony, we didn't want to do a unity candle or a sand ceremony. Something about pouring sand in the same venue where our guests would be eating just sounded like an accident waiting to happen. I'm clumsy. As we explored other options, I read quite a bit about Celtic handfasting, before deciding that while we both have Irish roots, it wasn't something we felt confident about pulling off, and we didn't want to screw up something that holds a sacred place within a culture.

After reading a few things about a ring warming ceremony (here and here), it just felt like the right fit for us. It was a way to involve all of our family and friends in our ceremony, rather than feeling like they were just "spectators," which I really liked. And I truly believe that things carry energy in them, and having our loved ones inject our wedding bands with their love and positive energy seemed pretty awesome.

Many of the different sites that we read talked about the challenges of timing for this, so we put it at the beginning of the ceremony, in case the rings took awhile to get through all of our guests. We were a bit nervous about it, as specially as we talked it through with the wedding party in our Skype wedding rehearsal (side note: best idea ever) and worried that there might be awkward standing in silence. Also, sweaty, gross rings. But then we just decided to let it happen. Two of our friends, Aileen and Lucy, served as "ring bears," making sure that the ring was passed through all of our guests and returned safely to the front.

As we watched our rings pass through our family and friends hands, it just felt really intimate and special. And I had to hold back tears, as my grandmother was the last one to hold the rings and bring them back to the groomsmen.

Our Readings

We looked at a couple of different readings, and ultimately decided on "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in/my heart)" by e.e. cummings, which was beautifully read by Katie, one of my best friends from college. I first heard the poem during the wedding scene in "In Her Shoes," and way back then thought it was the perfect wedding reading.

Our second reading was "He'll Make Me Happy" by Jeff Moss. Also known as Miss Piggy and Kermit's wedding song. We're Muppets people. Call us cheesy, if you will. But the lyrics are actually pretty special, and our friend Ann did an awesome job reading it without it sounding corny at all. She did refrain from doing Kermit and Piggy voices, which was probably a good choice.

Our Vows

We had discussed writing our own vows. Not for us. We are much more likely to share our feelings and thoughts with each other privately, than to do so in front of folks, even if they are our loved ones. I don't think either of us would have gotten through them and actually been able to say the words - I had a hard enough time repeating back what Beau said first.

After much searching and finding things that we didn't want to say...("honor and obey" was out for sure), we found these online (slightly modified), and thought they fit us:

(Chris), I choose you to be my partner
Loving what I know of you
And trusting what I do not yet know
I look forward to the opportunity to grow alongside you
Getting to know the person you will become
And falling in love with you a little more every day
I promise to love and cherish you
To laugh with you and grieve with you
To be truthful and honest with you
And to bravely face together whatever life may bring us

It felt a bit ironic that a few months before the wedding, we watched one of the last How I Met Your Mother episodes where Barney was struggling to write his vows. He points out that Marshall and Lily had already broken all of their vows. They make the decision to update them, and continue updating them later on. Because life changes. And there are no perfect vows.

While our vows may not be perfect for our entire lives together, I don't know if that is a reasonable goal to be striving for. I think, instead, as we made the commitment to entering into this formal partnership together, albeit a legally binding one, we both agreed to do the best that we can. To try. And to understand that there will be many points along our journey together where stuff will get real and we will deal with it. And more than one time where we will have to face an obstacle that we never saw coming. In that regard, they are the best vows that they could be, for us.

What I Remember Most
  • So initially my event-planning brain was on, and I couldn't get past the fact that we were standing really far off center from the ribbon backdrop. I was totally preoccupied. Did it really matter? No. Did it bug me? Absolutely. Once the ring ceremony started, I made everyone move. I own that this is sort of crazy, but that's just who I am.
  • Chris couldn't look at me because he was too worried he'd lose it. He spent most of the ceremony looking down at the ceremony script in Beau's hands. I watched him watching what Beau was reading. Such a handsome husband.
  • Vaguely knowing that other folks were there and that some were a bit teary, but having no idea that there were LOTS of tears. When I was told that a friend was genuinely sobbing, it was a total surprise.
  • Concentrating really hard on saying the right words.
  • Being SO happy and so excited when it was all official!
Seriously the best day.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Finer Details

I wanted to share some of the wedding projects, and how they turned out. I debated sharing my "How Tos" as I did them, but there was no way that I could do that along the way, as it just felt like too much. A number of them developed into love-hate relationships. I said "Why did I think this was a good idea?" many times. But now, I'm actually pretty proud of the ones that we focused on.

So here we go...

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
Our invitations were one of my favorite early projects. We ordered them through replybydesignstudio, and made arrangements through Chris' dad to print them at his company. They were simple and elegant. With the awesome help of my friend Claudia, we added the baker's twine and the gold glitter envelope liners, made from glitter wrapping paper from Paper Source. 

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography

Our table ceterpieces were fairly simple. My amazing aunt made black and white "summer stripe" table squares and runners, which were featured throughout our event. Seamstress extraordinaire! We then used gold chargers as a base for the flowers, which were in an assortment of mason jars wrapped in baker's twine as well. I was all about the baker's twine, and using it wherever it made sense. I will tell you about how I ended up with $40 worth of the stuff some other time...

We did simple table numbers in black Ikea frames, which had different quotes on them. 

And one of my favorite, but more tedious details, were the votives. I added loose gold glitter with a bit of glue tape to the rims of the votive holders. Messy. Lesson learned: should have sealed the stuff. Just one of the many reasons that I continue to find glitter in the cats fur. 

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
One of our main goals for the wedding was to feature Milwaukee. Many of our friends and family were coming from out of town, and we wanted them to fall in love with the city that we call home. Because, of course, we want them to come back! That was why we chose Milwaukee Public Market as the perfect downtown wedding venue. The venue has such an amazing vibe, just by itself, and the staff did an amazing job of transforming the second floor area into a beautiful wedding space. Through the culinary magic of their different vendors, we were also able to feature foods that said Wisconsin, like brat bites, cheese, and mini cream puffs. Plus they showcased an awesome assortment of Wisconsin beers. It was seriously the best venue ever, and the only one that we looked at. Serious plug: If you are looking to get married in Milwaukee and want a fun venue, you must chat with Ellen and the other staff at the Milwaukee Public Market. 

We also thought it would be a fun twist to utilize the Milwaukee handkerchief from HANMade Milwaukee, as our "guest book." One of my favorite moments on the day after the wedding was looking at all of the places that folks had signed. While many put their names around the border, others picked out locations on the map that may have been special to them. I can't wait to frame it and hang it up in our house! 

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
We also wanted folks to have the opportunity to leave us a longer message, or advice as we start our first year of marriage. I found a cute little blue ceramic market basket at Anthropologie, that looked just like one you might put strawberries in. I thought it was an awesome fit for the location, and can't wait to figure out how to use it at home.

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography

Glitter was ever present throughout our wedding. In fact, long before we got married, I nicknamed our wedding, "Project Glitter Bomb." One of the sparkling touches was on the banners that we featured throughout the venue. Using a modified version of this tutorial from A Practical Wedding, I utilized a party banner kit from Party City to make banners that said "Mr" and "Mrs," "Always," and "Treat Yo Self," for the dessert table of course. I traced each of the letters with more of the glitter wrapping paper, and then adhered them to the different colored letters. They were on of my favorite things to see come to life in the beautiful space.

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
Ahh, the ribbon backdrop. No project became a bigger pain in the butt over the course of making it. And in hindsight, I would have loved to add some additional width to the thing. But it did look pretty nice for our ceremony.

A few other little things made the day special:
  • Bathroom baskets with all of the essentials for our guests. You know, tide pens, mints, bobby pins, etc.
  • Black and white striped "L-O-V-E" letters. Not my best painting, but they turned out okay and made good photo props.
  • Our fun and simple cake topper, that graced the little 9 inch cake that we purchased from Whole Foods. I think this was actually one of the first things that we bought.  
I am happy to provide tutorials on any of the crafty things if you are looking to do something similar. Just let me know which ones.
So there you go! : )

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Goals

Summer is coveted time when you work in higher education.

Before you ask, no, I do not have summers off. But, throughout the end of the spring semester, I crave summer. It is a different pace. It is time to focus on planning ahead for the upcoming academic year, versus feeling like everything is getting done "just in time" or that I am constantly trying to catch up. It also feels like there is actually time to get out and enjoy summer, as I have less evening and weekend commitments. So we try to cram in as much fun as we can, and most of it in June and July. Once August 1 hits, something just shifts, and it feels like summer is over. That last month feels frantic as I try to get everything done before the students come back.

Last summer flew by at warp speed. We did a lot of fun things, but there were so many other things I would have loved to make happen that I just didn't get to. I think it was all of those baseball games and races. Because we aren't really traveling at all this summer and don't have too many major set things on the calendar, I have tried to set some summer goals, to make sure that I am making the most of it. Here they are for 2014:

Go regularly to the farmer's market. It is my favorite part of summer. And the best way that I can ensure that I am eating healthy and cutting costs on my grocery budget during the summer. So far I have gotten some delicious stuff: bread, honey, cheese curds, asparagus, strawberries, snap peas, lettuce, kale, spinach, and mushrooms. I can't wait to see what else the vendors will have as the summer goes on.

Actually cook. During the school year, it is easy to get out of the habit of meal planning and cooking and just choose to go out to eat instead. We really got out of the habit of cooking during the weeks before and after our wedding, and I honestly kind of miss it. Although I would love to spend every evening dining outdoors on a restaurant patio, I want to take advantage of the extra time that I have to try some new recipes and plan out our meals. Good old habit building. Grilling outside and utilizing our crock pot are actually better options for us during the summer, as we don't have air conditioning and will do anything we can to avoid making the house hotter.

Run. It's been a really long time. And I actually haven't scheduled out any races for this summer - mainly to save money, but also because I've been lazy. I need to get my new pair of running shoes, and get back out on the road. I miss the personal time that it provides.

Read. Summer is when I do the most leisure reading. And I have a long list of books waiting to be picked up. I love turning off the tv and reading instead. I just finished reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and can't put down The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling). I made a goal to read 52 books this year (one a week). I've only finished 11 and it's been 26 weeks. It's time to catch up!

Plan our honeymoon. I am so glad that we made the decision not to honeymoon right after the wedding. We would have been exhausted, and I probably would have been miserable, thanks to that good old summer cold that showed up during the week after our wedding. I think that having the time set aside to plan now also has been a good transition post-wedding. It gives us something to look forward to, and I'm not experiencing those post-wedding blues that some folks have.

Organize. Since we had folks around during the week before and after the wedding, we did our best to clean the house a bit. This sometimes (often) meant shoving things out of sight, which has left some of our closets and storage spaces in sore shape. Yikes. I would love to go through and organize them while we have the time to do it, so that no one gets an injury from opening a closet door. Not necessarily the most fun summer task, but one that will clear a bit of physical and mental clutter. I know the crap is in there, and it's staring me down. It has to go!

Checking out free/cheap stuff. In our effort to save for our honeymoon, we have been looking for all of the different fun, free things to do around Milwaukee this summer. There are a number of outdoor concerts, movies, and other cool stuff that we just haven't checked out yet. It is easy to stop paying attention to our fun budget during the summer because we want to do all of the festivals and stuff. My hope is that if we make a game out of finding the free stuff, it will continue to be fun. So far, we have been to a free Symphony concert in the park, the Jelly Belly Factory tour, the Criterion Classic cycling race that went through our neighborhood, and Summerfest, of course. I'm hoping to make it to Shakespeare in the Park this weekend, as it ends on Sunday.

It's so hard to believe that July is next month. It is just starting to feel like summer, and we only have 9 weekends left before the students move in!

Do you set summer goals? What are they?

Thursday, June 26, 2014


First dance, captured by Lisa Mathewson Photography
It is hard to believe it, but Chris and I have already been married for one month. A special, tiny anniversary that we celebrated yesterday by seeing Ray Lamontagne at Summerfest.

I had been intending to write a blog post about our wedding weekend a bit sooner, but was simultaneously hit by an intense summer cold while trying to relax and take a break from doing All. The. Things. My first week back at work was a total blur. I've been in catch up mode ever since. And trying to do all of the fun summer things, so it doesn't feel like this one got away.
But I didn't want to get too far away from the wedding, because there were so many amazing memories from that weekend that I worry will get lost. The fact that it was beautiful, relaxed, fun, and perfectly us.

I started to write a post, that then felt like a novel. Too much. Too too much. You would have stopped reading, three paragraphs in. So instead we will break this up. Make it a bit more digestable. Consider it Kirstin and Chris' wedding, in small plates. Starting with the favorites.

Some of my favorite things about our wedding:

  • The most beautiful weather. I think JerBear called that one in for us. 
  • We hosted our cocktail hour before the ceremony. Call us untraditional, but I think it was the best decision ever. I was so much calmer going into the ceremony, and okay with all eyes being on us, because we had already greeted folks. I got past the stage fright, for the most part. We didn't want folks to think that we weren't taking the ceremony seriously (I wrote the thing over and over many times, trust me), but we wanted the vibe to feel a bit less stuffy and more us. It worked. 
  • Our ring warming ceremony was absolutely beautiful. We weren't really sure exactly how the timing was going to work out, or if it would just drag on. But it turned out lovely, when we just let it happen. Plus we had to awesome "ring bears" (HIMYM shout out!) 
  • I really loved all of our ceremony, as we actually heard and said it. As I had pulled the pieces of it together in the months before the wedding, I spent a lot of time thinking about what words and what vows would "fit" us. And then, in the early morning hours of that day, I was tossing and turning, and realized that I had taken out a critical part of the thing that I needed to add back in. The one legal part that you have to say. Nothing like last minute editing. In the moments of the ceremony, I felt each of those words though. And they were just right. 
  • The food was awesome. We didn't really get to eat any of it that night (in fact, the first thing I really ate that night was a piece of pizza a friend gave me at a bar afterwards), but everyone seemed to enjoy that we skipped the traditional plated chicken or steak, and instead went with a taco bar, pulled pork sliders, assorted apps and a mini-dessert bar. Food was one thing we cared a lot about and we wanted stuff folks would enjoy eating. Not the typical banquet meal.
  • In lieu of favors, we made donations to the Humane Society and American Cancer Society. We invited friends and family to join us in the donation (instead of clinking glasses, we'd kiss for that), and we doubled what we were able to donate. It felt so meaningful when we made the donations. Seriously the best moment. 
  • We also donated all of our flowers after the wedding to Petals for Patients, an organization that shares them with hospice patients. We loved our flowers, which were beautiful and exactly what we wanted, but we also knew that we didn't need to take them home. Not only was it helpful to us in our planning, but also a meaningful way to pay it forward.
  • We listened to the most amazing, heartfelt speeches/toasts from our friends and family. It was truly a room filled with love. There were many, many tears. I cried a lot.
  • Our first dance to "Oh" by Dave Matthews. Specifically the Live from Las Vegas, Dave and Tim version, for those of you who know our love of Dave Matthews. While it felt totally weird to have folks watching us dance, and I think we were both glad that we picked a shorter song, it was the perfectly sweet moment. 

We were pretty selective about where we put the most time, money, and energy. Some things were important to us, others were not. I am glad that we were thoughtful about our ceremony and reception, with a focus on our guests. I loved the entire feel of the event because you could see all of us throughout. I loved our decorations and some of the smaller touches about our day. I am also really glad that I didn't spend time doing favors, escort cards, or programs. We just didn't need them.

I am also really glad that we kept our wedding small and intimate. We aimed for 75-100, and ended up with just under 80 guests. Any couple planning a wedding will tell you that the guest list is the hardest part. And it was. There were so many people I wanted to be there, but we knew that a 300-person wedding would have scared the crap out of us. Neither of us are fans of being the center of attention. We also knew that there were friends and family we would really want to be there, that wouldn't be able to make the trip. And they were definitely missed, but there in spirit. 

Since the wedding, folks regularly ask, "How does it feel to be married?" My typical answer is "Mostly the same. But isn't that kind of how it should be?" In many ways, our day-to-day lives haven't changed. The adjustments, at least within the first month, have been:

  • Lots of name change paperwork. Holy wow. Also, hoping my new driver's license arrive, because it feels silly using a paper one...
  • Getting used to saying my new last name or saying "my husband" without giggling. Sometimes caused by others giggling or freaking out when they hear me say either.
  • Getting used to signing my new last name. Looks like third grade cursive classes all over again.
  • Focusing in on making some of those bigger plans together. The grown up things. Like financial decisions. Those things that make me feel old.
We are now past the wedding stuff, and on to the marriage stuff. And that's the part I was most excited for. As beautiful of a day as it was, it was just a day. And now is the part where we try our best to live our vows every day, and to figure this thing out was we go. 

Not long after our wedding, I was looking at a web site that posted the following from Anne Morrow Lindburgh's "Gift from the Sea". I sent it to myself and put in the subject "Remember this," because it strikes me that this is what being married is really all about:

“When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.
The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits - islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.”


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April: Finding Calm (Part One)

A few things have happened in April that have really stuck with me. In the midst of the To Do lists and the wedding planning, it has also been a month of major personal reflection. As the month wraps up, I thought it was worth putting some of my reflections out into the world.

First, I had the opportunity to live stream a talk from Brene Brown that was given at a professional conference that many of my colleagues had the opportunity to attend. I have been a huge Brene Brown fan for some time.

I saw her TED Talks at some point in the last year or so, and I devoured one of her books, Daring Greatly, this past December. I read it so fast, I think I highlighted (or e-highlighted, rather) almost every sentence. It was one of those reads where you find yourself saying out loud, "Yes. Yes. THIS. Yes." Awkward, as I read a good chunk of it in the airport. I'm reading one of her other books, The Gifts of Imperfection, now, and trying to take this one a bit slower. One chapter at a time.

During her talk to my colleagues, it was much the same. I wanted to write down every single word that she said. I doubt I was alone. I think many of us who work with students are sort of obsessed with her. You could hear the cheers in the crowd as she spoke about being excited to speak at the conference because we are "her people." It's totally true. We love her. We get her. She gets us.

Early in her speech she was talking about having a future college student and how she felt a bit better about her child attending because of our roles. As she pointed out "most people only know what you do in crisis." It's true. I love that she knows what we do beyond that, and values it. And that affirmation felt very important.

So many things she said about vulnerability, and compassion, and loving yourself, and joy have stuck with me:
  • "'I don't give a shit' is the safest way to go."
  • "If courage is your value, you're going to get your butt kicked."
  • "We are brave and afraid in the same moment every day."
  • "The minute you stop caring what people think, you lose the opportunity to connect."
  • "Joy is our best barometer for measuring our vulnerability."
  • "We share stories with those who have earned the right to hear them."
She said some really thought provoking things about our work with students too. And how to help students understand the difference between belonging versus fitting in. To encourage them to be authentic, and understand that they should be seeking moments, memories, and shared experiences. That felt like the perfect tagline for Student Involvement, and what we are all about. Most memorably, she said we need to help students understand this: "What's worth doing even if I fail?"

I am still processing and reflecting on what I have read and what I heard from Brene. Attempting to soak it in, and to practice some self-forgiveness and self-love. To experience joy without rehearsing tragedy (I totally do that). And to let go of some of the things I use to measure my self worth and focus on being enough.

If you haven't checked out her work, I definitely recommend it. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

40 Days

Holy Wow, y'all. We are just 40 days out from We Do!

I am learning that there is always something to be done. Well, really three main things:

1. Spending money.
2. Making decisions.
3. Making stuff.

Confession: I know I said I wasn't into all that wedding stuff. Turns out, I like some of it. Well, really just the last one. The crafting part is totally my thing. The first two not so much. I'm terrible at making decisions. And spending money makes my stomach churn. Although it is fun to get packages on a daily basis. Fairly certain our mail carriers are having "fun" finding ways to hide the packages.

But I am proving to be a champ at:
  • Covering things in glitter - envelopes, signs, candle holders (the carpet...accidentally the cats, woops).
  • Wrapping things in baker's twine.
  • Assembling marquee signs with paper mache, spray paint and globe lights.
  • Assessing risk and determining that homemade marquee lights, although a great Pinterest project, might be a fire hazard.
  • Purchasing every travel-sized toiletry possible at Target, in the event one of our guests might have need for a bobby pin, a mint, etc.  
Stuff is getting checked off of the list. My dress has been altered and is hanging safely at my mom's house. The groomsmen have some snazzy matching outfits. A wedding production plan is in progress - because when you work in Student Affairs, that is what you do. 

Marry, we will. Marquee sign or no marquee sign.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

72 Days

Oh hey. So I guess it's 2014, huh? And March. Yep, that happened.

I don't know where January and February went, but they sure flew by. I think all of my energy went to two things: feverishly watching the Olympics and trying to get over my second cold of 2014. I think it is a sign that I need to be in a warm weather climate. Because having one cold a month is simply unacceptable.

Oh, and wedding planning. That's happening.

Because, you see, we have less than 75 days to go. 72, in fact. Most common conversation right now is...

Someone: "I mean, you pretty much have all the big stuff done, right?"
Me: "Yeah, that doesn't really count any more."

Because while there are a number of things that we can't do yet, the planning has definitely picked up. And there are a number of little projects that we need to be doing now so that we don't get too far behind.

Some of our recent accomplishments include:
  • Picking out menswear. Not what I might call exciting, but I survived. And there will be some dapper dudes on May 25th. 
  • Ordering Chris' wedding band. I love what he picked out. Mine's next.
  • My first dress fitting! I'm thankful my dress doesn't need a ton of alterations. Just a little bit of hemming and a tighter strap. 
  • Completing our wedding registries. We decided that we don't need a lot of things, and focused on doing a honeymoon registry through Honeyfund. We do have smaller registries with Crate and Barrel and Kohl's too. But we are SO excited for our trip to London, Ireland and Wales, and appreciate our families and friends who want to share in the experience with us. 
  • Making a million appointments. It has been easier to schedule everything out. Each haircut between now and the wedding. A couple of massages to keep my stress down. Flowers. Food. All the things get their own appointment.
  • Spending monies. Let's be honest. That's a big piece of this whole part of the process. Swiping cards and writing checks. 
  • Planning our rehearsal dinner.
  • Assembling our invitations. This turned out to be one of my favorite projects because it was fun craft time with my friend Claudia. 
  • Buying stamps. Multiple times. Because I lost them. 
  • Setting up premarital counseling. For me, the marriage planning is just as much, if not more important than the wedding planning. More. Definitely more. 
  • Writing our ceremony and picking out readings.
As much as we have done, the To Do List just seems to get longer. And we keep chugging along. And we'll be married at the end, which is the important part. Right?! : )

Just 72 days...

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