27.2.12

Enjoy Project | How Us People Got Engaged

"life is so constructed, that the event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation."
charlotte bronte
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This is a once in a lifetime post that is understandably hard to know where to begin.  Last week I began the story of "us" on this blog, fully expecting I had plenty of time to build up to this post I'm typing right now.  I had no idea I'd be engaged the very next day.  By "no idea" I mean zero minus nothing subtracted by absence take away nihility and then get rid of oblivion and that is how little of an idea I had that this would be happening.  I'm not sure how much detail I should include in here, but my heart and head and knee-caps are still quivering and I have lot to say ;)  Feel free to skip down and look at all the perfect pictures (taken by Lydia Jane.)  If you'd like to hear this the whole goozy-girly way, snuggle up ;)

Friday: I had spent a full week at the hospital with my sick Mama Bear in Florida.  We had found out the previous week that she has cancer, so I flew down to take care of her in the hospital.  I bought a one-way ticket and wasn't sure when I'd be heading back to Maryland (where I live).  On Wednesday Caleb and I finally firmed up plans for him to come visit for the weekend.  He told me he couldn't miss any work, so he would need to take a late flight to Florida on Friday, and be home at a decent hour on Sunday.  In the hospital mom and I booked his flights.  Our plan for the weekend (actually, correction MY plan for the weekend... MY idea for the weekend... MY suggestion for the weekend... MY dream for the weekend...) was to go to DisneyWorld with my whole family and Caleb, the-never-been-to-Disney-ed.  You have to understand something about Disney Parks and my family: my grandparents, California natives, went to Disneyland opening week.  My mother was born a few years later and she grew up at the park, as did her three siblings.  As they grew older and married and had their own families, Disney was always the dream vacation location.  I will still never forget my first trip to Disneyland (a Christmas present for us kids).  My aunts and uncles and parents saved up to take big Disney trips together, with coordinating outfits for the album pages.  My aunt used to have a Disney room and her e-mail addresses over the years are always Disney related.  As a child watching and hearing your parents and adults in your life so excited about Disney, and literally like giddy little children in the park, well, it's completely contagious and particularly happy.  When I was nine my parents moved from the Washington DC area back to the Southern California area.  We got season passes to Disneyland and though we only lived in San Diego for 15 months, we went to Disneyland nearly 20 times.  We quickly found ourselves back in Maryland, but my parents moved to Florida about 18 months ago.  Without hesitation they bought season passes to Disneyworld.  My cousin met her now-husband at Disneyland and also got engaged at Disneyland.  AND my favorite movie (not Disney movie, movie) is Cinderella.  I love Cinderella's castle and character and mice friends ("GusGus! GusGus! NooOoo. Lucifey not funny.  Lucifey meaaaaan.")  I can quote all the lines, sing all the songs and I still laugh at the witty lines.  I love Cinderella.  I love Disney.  I only have happy, sing-song, smiling-parents, excited hearts, beautiful memories at Disney Parks.

So, for me to want to bring Caleb to Disneyworld with my whole family, especially the little children and especiallyespecially my mom, is a huge deal to me.  Not to mention facing this new season of mom being sick, I really was begging everyone to make this trip work.  Mom said she felt well enough to go, and half the kids were planning on going with friends that weekend anyway.  But somehow, come Friday, everyone had backed out... including my mom.  My dad insisted my little sisters not miss their soccer tournament.  My brother had to work.  Mom was much more tired than she thought she'd be.  My other sister needed to drive soccer carpools.  It just wasn't working anymore.  I didn't want to go without them.  My mom pleaded with me to go.  "It would make me so happy.  You've had a long week.  Go with Caleb and enjoy it.  Take lots of pictures and come back and tell me all about it."  I wasn't convinced.  I told her I'd talk to Caleb and see what he thought.  When we chatted on the phone about it he was equally reluctant to go.  "Man, I would almost rather just stay home with your mom and spend time with her than go without her!"  But somehow my parents swayed me and I said I would ONLY go if it was absolutely what my mom wanted.  

After about three hours of sleep Caleb and I loaded up and left for Orlando.  Let me re-phrase that: after three hours of sleep I loaded up and Caleb slept in. (I note this not to bash Caleb... I love when he gets to sleep in!  But I certainly did not expect him to sleep peacefully and well the night before he proposed.) Let me also add here one important note: I have always only wanted one thing when I got engaged, and that was to be completely surprised.  I didn't care if it was in public or private, with a big or small ring, with friends around or totally alone.  I just wanted to be caught off-guard.  Sweet.  

Caleb and I are now at Disney.  And I'm in full-out Disney mode.  I got my maps.  I got my schedule of events.  I'm large and in charge and woman hear me roar.  Coordinating fast passes, show times, our little cash budget, and pointing out all sweet little children in costumes was keeping me oh-so-busy.  Not to mention smiling from ear to ear.  I told Caleb half-way through the day that my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard.  We were having so much fun.  My mental countdown knew he was leaving in X hours and I couldn't bear the thought.  I was so happy being in such a cheery place and not in a hospital.  I was so happy that mom was home and resting well.  I was so happy that Caleb loved all the detailed buildings, charming employees, manicured landscaping, constant music, colorful atmosphere, and surreal mood as much as I did.  We ooo-ed and awww-ed about crown molding and scalloped foot-paths and coffee ice cream floats in the French Quarter.

As they day went on Caleb and I often stopped to scout out our ideal place to watch the fireworks.  He wanted to be on the side of the castle.  I insisted that we be in the center of the castle.  "Trust me!  It's the best view! You have to see this from the center!" then we'd skip over to Tom Sawyer's Island or The Haunted Mansion.  By dinnertime we found ourselves at Liberty Tree Tavern, my favorite restaurant in the park.  Mostly because of their green beans and gravy.  I LOVE THEIR GREEN BEANS SO MUCH.  Caleb also happens to love good green beans.  All day long I talked about the crisp, garlic-y green beans.  I googled the menu to make sure green beans were still on it.  I announced that I was going to order five plates of green beans.  I literally brought up green beans five or six times throughout the day.  Once we got to dinner I asked the waiter if the seasonal vegetable was green beans.  He said "Yes, they are."  I bopped in my seat and clasped my hands together.  Five minutes later Caleb looked up and noticed the food on the table next to us.  "WHat! They have green beans here?!" he exclaimed.  I must have given him "the" look we girls give.  "Caleb.  Are you seriously asking that?"  I wasn't actually annoyed, more shocked.  Has he really missed that much today?  How could he not remember me talking about that so often?  We continued on with our meal, Caleb made multiple trips to the bathroom, I even caught him on the phone in the hallway not in the bathroom, he didn't eat, he was acting weird and aloof.  All the signs everyone tells you about ;)  But I wasn't suspicious of anything.

We left dinner and I changed plans: instead of riding a ride and then going to find a spot for the parade, lets just go to main street and get a really, really good spot:
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I marched across the street and informed Caleb that this center view of the castle, off the curb, next to a garden (away from people) would be the best view of the fireworks.  Aren't I a helpful little fiance'-to-be?! He loved it.  And though he had planned to do something a little different (in grass, not in a gated PERECT flower garden) he didn't want to give anything away so he let us stay there.
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We had over an hour to kill before the parade (at 9:00, followed by the lights show at 10:00, followed by the fireworks display at 10:30).  I talked and asked him why he wasn't listening to me ;) and talked some more and tried to stay warm and wondered why he was looking all around and talked and asked him if the mints he was pulling out of his pocket was really a ring. I'm a lot to handle.
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The parade finally started.  I asked Caleb all kinds of questions.  He gave me one-word answers.  I told funny jokes and he really didn't laugh.  I assumed he was tired.
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And we arrive at the fireworks portion of the evening.  I can hear Caleb's heart beating violently.  I think nothing of it.  Instead I went into a huge rant about firework preferences.  "Caleb!  What is your favorite kind of firework? My favorite fireworks are the gold shimmery ones that look like willow trees!  Not the ones with lots of little lines that shoot out but the soft drippy ones.  Like THAT one! It's sooOOOooo pretty!  What's your favorite kind?" He doesn't answer, instead he's looking over his shoulder again.  "Caleb.  It's an important thing to know about your boyfriend.  What is your favorite kind of fireworks?" He managed an answer: "The big ones."  I scrunch my face and start to question is answer "The big o--..." but as I started talking he scooped my up and set me over the fence, right inside the flower garden.  "MY PURSE!" He told me not to worry about my purse.  And that is the last thing I clearly remember for the following five minutes.
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Once I realized I was leaving my purse behind I knew what was happening.  I lost it.  Full on ugly bawling.  Quivering second-chin and smooshed-nose and sputtering, goat-like sounds.  He got down on one knee.  He said a few things.  I don't remember any of it.
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I started to fall over and crumple.  He held me up.
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He asked me three times to be his wife.  I had no words.  I didn't forget to say yes.  I couldn't say yes.  I felt like I was about to fainting and fly and turn into a vapor.  I've never experience so much physical reaction to a single thing.  Every part of me was firing off and going ballistic.  I didn't know how to even begin to reign in the emotion.  It would be like try to hold off a tornado with a spoon.
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A "yes" tumbled out eventually.
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Apparently the fireworks continued on, dozens and dozens of people cheered and whistled and clapped and photographed us, Lydia (who secretly flew in to photograph this!) snapped away.  I didn't hear or see any of it.  
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I did cry a lot, however.
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And I finally "came to" as the finale started to fire away.  The first thing I said was "This means I'm going to be Kristen Morris!" - two words I had never said side-by-side, out loud.  I literally felt my knees knocking together.  The fireworks were nothing compared to my insides.  He did it.  He surprised me at at Disney, in front of Cinderella's castle.  I'm still undone.
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I didn't look at the ring until well after the fireworks stopped.  It's just utterly gorgeous.  The most beautiful, glamorous, lovely, special, perfect ring.  He spent months making that ring happen.  Five months.  He worked so hard on it.  He spent so many hours and nights.  As much as I love that ring, I love how ardently he attended to that ring.  The jeweler who finally made his dream come to life told Caleb that in 52 years of business he'd never seen a man put so much care into the ring being perfect.  I stand by it: no one on earth loves as excessively and fully as Caleb does.  I don't know how he gets to be mine.  
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I'm so glad I stopped crying at some point ;)  Because I was so happy.  I literally had no idea it was possible to be this full of joy.  
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The ring just got better and better the more I checked it out ;)
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Some sweet whistlers-and-clappers just had to see my peach sapphire goodness ;)  And they are officially the first people I got to show-off my ring to!
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I adore that man.  "Can one die of happiness?"  
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I'm ever-impressed with Caleb and his detailed, quiet, patient, specific, happy, fearless, dreaming love.  I love him.  I love him so much.  I love that he's so different from what I imagined for myself.  I love that he is an excessively talented musician and you'd never ever hear that or believe that by talking to him.  I love that he packed up his pick-up truck and moved across the country to date me, that he wasn't afraid.  I love that he sings "Tale Old as Time" constantly.  I love that he brings scripture to bear, for the Word of the Lord is living and true.  I love that he plays with me. Oh, we have so much fun playing together!  We love to play.  I love that he doesn't make excuses for himself, he doesn't put any burden on me, but always comes along side me to help carry the weight or he removes it all-together, I love that he brings my glasses of ice water at night.  I love that he loves children and that they love him.  I love that he can't wait to be a father.  I love that he talks about building his daughter's a dollhouse.  I love that he always is up for anything; he's so flexible and easy-going and selfless.  I love that he's a perfectionist and has to have things done a certain way.  I love that he falls asleep anywhere (just like me... It's a big family thing, I think.)  I love love love love his accent and jawline.  I love that he's humble, happy and loves a good challenge.  I love that his hands are calloused, his biceps are hard, his eyes tear easily and that his smile is constant.  I love his country upbringing, his family and his vigor.  I love him.  I love that he schemed and planned and played it cool and worked so hard on this proposal.  I love how well he had to know me in order to pull it off.  Cowboy, you far exceeded my expectations.  
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"I hold myself supremely blest - blest beyond what language can express.  I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be at once free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character - perfect concord is the result.” (Charlotte Bronte)

"You have done wonderful things, plans of old, faithful and sure."  God did this, and this is for Him.  Our joy is a morsel of our joy in Him, and mostly His joy in us.  Our Happy King delights in us and with us, and it is good to be His.  So so good.  Because He gives His children good gifts.  Gifts like falling in love and Caleb and DisneyWorld and grandparents and fireworks and Walt Disney and best friends and shiny stones and wonderful mama bears and marriage and green beans.


(Um. And I'm going to get married? And be a wife? Because I'm engaged... to be married... what other kind of engaged is there? HE'S GOING TO BE MY HUSBAND!)

26.2.12

Enjoy Project | Engaged

"Every atom of his flesh is as dear to me as my own: 
in pain and sickness it would still be dear. 
His mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, 
it would be my treasure still."
bronte
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ps. lydia jane
"I love the ground under his feet, and the air over his head,
and everything he touches and every word he says.
I love all his looks and all his actions 
and him entirely and all together."
bronte

I'm going to be his wife!

24.2.12

Enjoy Writing | Oh My My My | Part 1

i had a dream last night,
i dreamt that i was swimming
and the stars up above,
directionless and drifting
change of time - josh ritter
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On October 31, 2005, after a fun, flirty and busy night at a church harvest festival (we all know that church's don't celebrate Halloween!) I came home and rolled up into the corner of our couch. "I'll get up in a minute… Just a minute…" and I promptly fell sound asleep for the night. I fell asleep and dreamed the most memorable and emotional dream I've dreamt thus far. The dream was a delicate and heart-throbbing story about myself and a tall boy named Brian. In my real life I did not know this "Brian" I was dreaming of, he was a fictional character in my head, a combination of my imagination and David Beckham. Brian was tall, tan, slow-moving and kind, simple and precious, quiet and a little shy, fiercely loyal and undeniably smitten with me. The dream had this blurry, water color, sun-in-your-eyes, water splashing, nighttime shadows quality. I'd see flashes of Brian, I'd hear conversations we were having, I'd watch the two of us walking side-by-side and then we'd vanish, I'd see "through my eyes" until purple light blurred my sight and I'd also observe myself from afar - and this all occurred in no concrete setting, just rolling, abstract dream gloss. Sounds echoed as my relationship with Brian spun through my dream. "I do like you, Brian. I really do. I just… don't want to hurt you. Or I don't want you to think I ever led you on." "I know you aren't leading me on," he'd offer, as casually as one might order a milkshake. "I mean, if… If it…if this didn't… if maybe we weren't right for each other in the end?" "Well, that's the risk I took, the risk with a prize far sweeter than penalty bitter." "I'm so confused, though. I don't know where I'm at, or how I'm feeling. And I know you like me a whole lot. And I'm scared." "Take your time," Brian, at this point, was looking right at me and smiling, "Don't worry. You really can take your time. I know you'll come around. I just know it. I'll race you to the car!" The dream continued "through my eyes" and I remember just looking at him, wondering how he could be so calm. I was unnaturally fearful (at least I assumed this was not a natural part of dating) and I was a quivery, unsure wreck. How could he just sit there, gentle and unworried, steady and handsome? I had no concept of time as my doubts and his reassurances continued. Was this a big long conversation? Did this happen over several days? Several months? I did not know.

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Much like the closing of one movie scene to the entrance of another, the chatter quieted and the "screen" went black. The next scene transitioned to a bright and sunny land! There were cheery tall green trees all around, and water thumping in the background. A small red and white boat was tied to a wooden dock and it bumbled up and down in the easy movement of the lake. Or shore. Or riverside. Or whatever it was we were near. Brian was walking ahead of me, in a white shirt, and we were walking through the woods, following a path that led us down to the water. I could draw you the picture right now. Brian and I to the right, tall trees to the left and front, small window of water and sunshine greeting us in dead center, about 100 feet ahead of us. This was the first scene in my dream that was concrete, a real place that could be in our everyday world. Though I'd never personally visited this place before, it was finally a real place! No more hypnotic sludge!

And then it happened. That marvelous, mysterious, enchanting, famous it. I just knew. I knew. I knew. I didn't not know. I was clear. I was sure. I knew. I loved him. I loved him! I knew "where I was at." I knew "how I felt."  I knew. The mind that had tangled together the bow on his gift finally opened the box! "Ah-ha! This is what he's been talking about! He's known along!" The heart that was analytical and concerned had stormed out of her cubicle, un-knotted her bun, and was now running barefooted out the glass swirly-doors to a world of opportunity. "This is why he waited! This freedom and confidence and desire is what everyone has been talking about!" The person that was too afraid to feast for fear of never eating again, was too afraid to play because I might have to go inside at the end of the night, was too afraid to knit together what might have to be torn apart was now passionately fearless. I loved him.

As I dreamt on, I marveled at what had come over me at the peak of that path in the woods. My arms had become more like my waving hair, and the hairs on my neck had turned into outstretched arms, and my eyes finally took the place of my heart as I could now see, and my heart substituted with my stomach, because my stomach had a sleepover with my toes (and the tip of my nose). It rained inside me. It rained and rained on down. When the drops hit the bottom of me, they splashed back up into giant, warm waves. I felt like a jungle and a painting and circus and a queen. Loving him sent me to Mercury, with a pit stop to a lazy Sunday afternoon nap in a Georgia porch swing. Simultaneously still and wild, here and there, dizzy and yet finally thinking straight. I knew I had fallen for him long before this moment. I knew he had become "the one" through his patience, his reassurance, his confidence, his persuit. He had done nothing in that moment in the trees, just before the waterside, to win my affection (he was simply walking ahead of me, stepping over a log) but somehow it all came crashing down on me in such an overwhelming, instant and surprising manner.

Then I woke up. I immediately knew I had been dreaming. I slammed my eyelids shut and repeated my thoughts to myself over and over again. "Go back to sleep! GO baaack to sleep. You were only awake for a second. I know I love him. I didn't even get to say goodbye!" It didn't work. I lay there on the red and green plaid couch, feelings still alive and well in my body, tears tracing my eyes. You may think I'm being a touch melodramatic in my description. You might have that "Gross! I'm eating! This is not toothache sweet: it's cavity sweet. You're just a cheesy romantic with no concept of the real world" feeling. I tell you the truth: This dream was every bit as overpowering, emotional and sensational as I've described, probably more, in fact. I cried that November 1 morning because I missed Brian. I felt like someone had died. My insides throbbed. It was one of the strangest and rarest experiences of my life, and I was just 16. It remains one of the oddest and most thrilling moments I can remember. It was eerie and truly too emotional for what it was.

I wrote the dream down and I noted that I was certain I would have a "moment" with that sort of clarity whenever I met the one for me. I had a gut feeling that I would have a specific time I would say "Yes, this is when I knew I loved him." Over the years I made mention of the dream to only a select few people. My ears always perked when I met a "Brian" - in a bridal party, at Starbucks, at a church meeting. But for the most part I didn't think of the dream in my daily life. But when it came to mind it was always as vivid and clear as the moment I dreamt it… (to be continued)

23.2.12

Enjoy Pinterest | Pearls

"a girl should be two things: classy and fabulous."

coco chanel

I have a little confession to make about pearls, the renown "classy" jewel.  I think it's a little matronly or a little cheap. Ah! I said it.  While I do love pearls, it seems like I often see a cheap ad with a girl in an awful dress with BRIGHT white "pearls" (probably bought from a local Claire's or something) or I see Grandma in the grocery story with a lovely string of pearls and it's precious... but... not... exactly... modern? That's the point I'm trying to make: pearls are classy, pearls are lovely, but I don't find them modern.

So for PinThursday and in effort to give this jewel a chance, I did some searching for pretty, modern uses for the pearl!  Every girl needs a good pair of pearl earrings (I have some!) but I love this glam-edition of the pearl earring.  Gorgeous.
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from j. crew
Now HERE is a perfect example of a pearl being used in a modern setting.  Well done, J. Crew, well done as always.
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from j. crew
I can't find where these shoes are originally from (help?) but I would also consider these highly fashion-forward, feminine and modern. Love them.
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from capsitios

I'm not impressed with the chain and ribbon on this coin purse, but I love the different sized pearls!  I would not only use this, but I would brag about it if it were mine ;)
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I'm curious how this would lay on a normal girl (aka: not a model or mannequin!) but I think it's wonderfully creative and fun.  I'd love to find some coral pumps and extra black eye-liner to wear with this!
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from rachel gilbert

Black pearls, I'm convinced, are never ever matronly OR cheesy!  It's on my dream list to own one of these bad boys someday:
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from zales
For the record: I DO find real pearl necklaces stunning.  I do.  I just think I've seen it done wrong too many times that it makes me leery ;) It's like saying "I don't like strapless dresses." Well, I like some strapless dresses! On the right body! With the right fit! But man, a bad strapless dress? It's baaaad. I hope that makes sense!  Show me some of YOUR pearl-loves on the EnjoyProject board! Do it to it!

PINTHURSDAY RULES:
1] I created a group board called "Enjoy Project"... follow it!

2] Every Thursday I will blog about a particular topic (today, for example, is pencils.)



3] Leave a comment with your Pinterest name and I will add you as a contributor to the group board.  Also leave a link to your favorite/rad find for the theme.  (So leave a link to some awesome pencils - colored pencils, mechanical pencils, etsy pencils, skies the limit!)


4] Once you are added to the group, you can pin your find right to the page.  If you would like to contribute to the group, but do NOT want to be an official contributor, leave your Pinterest name and link and I'll post your find myself, with credit for the find to you.


5] We'll collect ideas together! Sitting all alone on your computer, scrolling through pages and pages, waiting for pins to fetch, is very isolated ;) This way we can interact together! And get to know one another.


6] Once a pin is in the group you can (obviously) re-pin to a different board if you'd like more organization for yourself.


7] Be kind, have fun and enjoy one another, please and thank yaaaa.
8] When pinning on this board, use the #enjoyproject hashtag! It will make it ever easier to find when we have more and more posts.
9] My goal is to have the board available to the current topic for one week.  So you have from Thursday-Wednesday to post pencils! Then Thursday-Wednesday to post _______. (I'm not giving away next weeks topic just yet ;) haha).
10] Enjoy yourself. And the ideas. And the other people. 




Alright! You ready? Go pin!


22.2.12

Enjoy Weddings | Josh + Samantha | Strong Mansion

“happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; 
it has no taste.” 
charlotte brontë
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Rain barged into Maryland last September.  Day in, day out, the rain sang on our rooftops and waltzed through our streets.  It was the wettest September I can recall.  September 17, however, was quite still.  Moody, but still.
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In an old house in Paris covered in vines, er, in Dickerson covered in moss, were twelve (or so) girls getting primped and glossed. (Well done?)
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The wedding festivities began at the front gate of Strong Mansion - lovely mossed initials of the bride and groom.

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Inside the stately chateau are the ever tasteful and clean rooms.  Room after room after room.  It doesn't matter how often I shoot at Strong Mansion, I never tire of the rooms.
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In a sparked minute, the stillness was gone as my sweet Samantha echoed from the doorway up to the third floor.  She is an animated, excitable, loud, dear little miss.
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As soon as she arrived their was a different feel to the muggy and quite grey day.  
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"AH! I have to write Josh's letter! Am I the worst bride in the world? Other people do this, right?" I laughed and nodded. "Ohhhhh-fshoooo! Hahaha! Ah! Okay! I need to focus!"  Samantha scribbled away.
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I can hear her saying that:
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After her letter was all finished and sealed with love, Pretty Miss eagerly donned her favorite dress. "I love my dress. It's my favorite dress.  Oh I can't wait to put it on!"
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As happy as Sam was to wear that gown, the next minutes only grew happier.  She read Joshua's letter for her.
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She high-fived and loved seeing her father.
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She fiddled and adorned, in all her animated goodness ;)
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Now, all that fun and happiness nearly overwhelmed Pretty Miss.  In a moment of a planner-girls heart sink, Samantha realized she forget to bring the video tutorial on tying her sash for the bridesmaids to follow.  Samantha is, again, very opposite of me in gifting (it's a trend.  I'm serious.) as she is extremely detailed-oriented, efficient, on the ball and planned.  After two or three attempts at tying the sash it wasn't working right, time was ticking down for the ceremony to start, "How could I forget to bring the video!", I stepped out of the room so that the constant clicking and extra body wouldn't raise the stress.  I peered back in to find Samantha taking deep breaths into the mirror repeating "It is oooookay! Alright! It is ooookay!" It made me laugh so much inside.  I love this big personality of a woman.  
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Within seconds she was back to her carefree, thrilled and riotous self. 
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With no time to spare we glided down the stunning wooden staircase and readied ourselves for the joyous ceremony.
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I've mentioned it time and again, but Strong Mansion's grounds will forever be my favorite.  Not only did I shoot my very first wedding here (which spoiled me!) but I also went on my first date with MisterMister here ;)  I don't think you are technically supposed to do that, but, hey, who isn't drawn to a man who sneaks you onto the grounds of your favorite mountainside mansion for a sunset picnic!  There is a whole funny story that goes along with that first date that includes Park Police and beef.  Maybe I'll tell it sometime ;) Also, my house-mates, Dre and Becca, had their wedding reception here!  It's just THE most special place!
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Samantha unshockingly had plans up her sleeve for the ceremony.  Strong Mansion does not have a center aisle because there is a beautiful lilly pond in the way ;)  Guests sit on either side of the pond.  Most brides I've seen have walked on the outskirts of the guests and made their way to the middle at the altar.  Wellllll, Samantha decided to have some wow-factor by coming behind the altar and emerging through the woods!  
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After some deep breaths and reassuring thoughts from her father, she was ready to become a wife.
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(Can you see up there ^ the ceremony site?  The groom and the pastor have their back to Samantha and her dad.  They are facing the lily pond and the mansion.  I hope you can visualize that haha!)
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When Samantha's musical que arrived, in typical wedding magic fashion, the sun burst out from the clouds.  Colorful guests rose, Joshua waited happily.
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Dad held his emotions together (just wait to see when he lost it, however.  Good luck not crying yourself!)
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Thanks to the beautiful lily pond I also can't shoot in the middle of an aisle like I'm used to.  It makes for a fun challenge - I hike through stone walls and mossy trees, and tip-toe along waterside, I pull out new lenses, it's great fun!
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Instead of having a unity candle or sand ceremony, Josh and Same had a tree-planting ceremony!  They poured dirt into a potted evergreen and the mothers watered it.  I love the originality!
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Mmmmmyea.
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After the ceremony (which, I know there weren't many pictures of BUT did you notice anything different about this post?  I decided to post only horizontal images! If I didn't shoot the image horizontal, I'm not posting it.  Sometimes you have to mix-it up with a wedding post!) the guests enjoyed a classy cocktail hour and reception.
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My favorite piece of advice:
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At every wedding the Strong Mansion staff sets up a table for the late Mr. and Mrs. Strong.  It's very honorable and ethereal at the same time and I love it.
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My favorite part of this photo? The little lady with her fairy wand and crown of flowers.  Adorable.
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It always seems appropriate to rave about the newlyweds during their portrait session.
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Joshua, in five words: Young at heart, sincere, loyal
Samantha in five words: Contagiously happy, goofy, organized, vivacious 
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They're constantly affirming each other: to each other's face, behind their backs, in their writing and e-mails and phone calls.  I use the word "constant" very carefully, but I do mean it.  In maybe 12-15 hours spent in person with them, and another dozens or so e-mails and phone calls, they literally don't go ten minutes without speaking highly of each other.  
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They are romantic.  Which, I need to pause here for a moment, and comment on.  "Romance" to every girl and guy is going to be different.  Some truly find an expensive dinner and roses deliciously romantic.  Others, however, would find that a complete waste and awfully cheesy.  Some would find a handmade card or gift dear and precious, while others might find it lame and half-hearted.  One thing I've learned is that outward, consistent, distracting (almost), blatant, and public displays of romance are met with strong opinions from those observing.  Folks either love it or HATE it.  "Ew. Get a room.  Are they seriously doing that here?" or "That is adorable, and true love.  How refreshing to see a couple unashamedly affectionate!"  Most people would expect and even desire to see affection and goofy touchiness and smirky giggles at a wedding.  We clink our glasses and jeer and want more! We just don't want it in normal life, please.  I'm proud to say of Samantha and Joshua: who they were on their wedding day, close, silly, smiley, "cheesy", alive, tender, attentive, together and smitten is who they are in real life.  And I love it. I love that they are unashamed of each other. 
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They make a scene wherever they go: they are truly a riot.  I saw a good ol' Pinterest pin that describes them well: "I'm probably going to fall in love with you if:
- you don't realize how good looking you are,
- you employ old fashioned terms of endearment,
- you do not bat an eye when I spontaneously launch into a different voice or accent in the middle of a sentence,
- you smell like something incredible from my childhood,
- you have enormous dreams,
- you distract me from my 'real' life,
- you know how to listen,
- you are self-deprecating but it comes across as funny, not uncomfortable,
- we can't stop laughing around each other
- and you fall in love with me a little."
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I love incredible them.  They are quite dreamy.
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We just flash-forwarded a bit, but remember how I warned about Dad "losing it"? Settle down with your pretzals and water bottle for this one (or am I the only one that has a "blog-reading" snack?)  It's toast time in the wonderful world of Josh and Sam's wedding day! Toasts are great, right? See? The bride and groom are happy and great.
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Samantha's dad take a minute to thank, honor and barely tease Josh.
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Everything is meaningful, everything is great.
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Dad teases a bit harder.
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Oh ha-ha-haa! Everything is silly, everything is great. 
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Josh and his new father-in-law give each other a masculine ol' slap on the back - they respect each other greatly.
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And now Dad has a few words to say about Samantha.  He starts to cry.  Ah! Quick! No! Don't cry! Daaaaaad! Samantha rushes to the rescue.
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Okay! Smiles! We're good.
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We're laughing.  We're not emotional! We're ready.
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Fantastic. Carry on!
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Oh wait, Dad. Don't lose it! Come back to us!
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Nevermind.
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Let it rain, let it pour. You're rolling in the deep.  And he hasn't even started sharing what he would like to.
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Hup-hup-hup-huuuup's, eye-dabbing guests, sniffles and sighs ensue.
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Maybe even some blubbering.
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Dad tried again.

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After fairly little progress (and some genuinely loving sentences) Dad and Samantha call it quits.
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Cheers!
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*clink* *clink* *clink* *clink*
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I adore this picture.
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To life, laughter and love...
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... cheers! Happy marriage, Josh and Samantha! I love you!