Unroyal Wedding Fever

In honor of the Royal Wedding today, I thought I would make today’s post all about weddings. But not at all about the Royal Wedding. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about Will and Kate. I have not watched a single special on them, I turn off the Today Show as soon as they go to live coverage in London, and I am honestly kind of resentful that Kate’s engagement ring is the same as the ring I wear on my right hand (only a little bit bigger). I don’t care about the Prince and soon-to-be Princess because they have no impact on my life.

However, weddings have come to take over my life in recent times. But those three weddings are the weddings of people who have a profound influence on my life.

The first of these is taking place in a mere THREE WEEKS and I cannot contain my excitement about it.

Liana & Steve:

Liana and Steve on New Year's 2011.

When I met Liana, I thought I would never see her again. My first day at my job was her last day. Little did I know that she would come to be one of my closest friends. I think the first time I met Steve was at a girls’ night we held at Liana’s, where he was sequestered to the bedroom. As I got to know them more, I realized they are absolutely perfect for one another. They’ve been together basically forever and are finally tying the knot this year. I look at them and I have hope for true love. I was truly honored this week when Liana asked me to go with her to her bridal hair trial. When she introduced me as “one of my best friends in the world,” I couldn’t help but feel my heart surge with love.

Kisses for the Groom!

And as they put the finishing touches on her hair, I started to tear up. She looked like a bride! In the year and a half that I have known them, Liana and Steve have become very integral parts of my life and I really can’t imagine my life without them. So many of my favorite memories from my post-college life include them and I am beyond excited to watch them exchange vowels on May 21, to hopefully not cry too much, and to party the night away in celebration.

Alicia & Josh:

Alicia & Josh at Lake Mead during our Vegas trip last summer.

The second wedding I’m looking forward to isn’t until August, but I am equally as excited for it! Alicia was my supervisor when I first started my job, and it took a while for us to really hit our groove together. But once we did, we’ve never gone back. I think the turning point was once she was no longer my supervisor and at that point she became my friend and my mentor. We’ve come a long way and we have some conversations that I’m not sure either of us would have with other people. She was the main reason I stayed at the job as long as I did, and I will always be grateful for her support and friendship during that time. I think I met her hubby-to-be, Josh, at happy hour once, and it took a few meetings before we really talked, but I’ve finally gotten to know him better. They complement each other very well and can both make me laugh until it hurts. And hey, if Josh let Kristin and I have the run of their house to prepare a surprise goodbye party for Krissy, he can’t be too bad, right?! ;) I look forward to helping Alicia out as her big day approaches and to watching them celebrate their love for one another in August!

Claire & Kyle:

They're sometimes so cute it makes me sick.

Last, but definitely not least, is the wedding of Claire and Kyle. I have known Claire since our freshman year at Elon, and Kyle since our sophomore year. Fact: I was wearing nothing more than a bath towel the day I met Kyle because Claire brought him back to our dorm room to hang out without giving me any notice. The very next day, I walked into my 8 a.m. lit class and was greeted by his smiling face. Five years later, they’re engaged to be married. And yes, I am planning to mention the bath towel in a toast at their wedding (or some wedding festivity).

Claire was not only my roommate for a year, but is also one of my best friends in the world. She has seen me at my best and my worst, and loves me anyway. She really found her match in Kyle, and while Kirsten and I often marvel how she changed from tomboy to girly-girl in the five years we’ve all been friends, we love the person she’s become, and a lot of that is due to Kyle. (Not that we didn’t love her before!)

Oddly, while this wedding is furthest away (June 2012!), it’s the one I’m most obsessed with. I’m making her update me on every detail of the planning. Helping her assess dress options. Basically trying to plan it FOR her. And already trying to figure out how I’m going to keep from sobbing like a baby during the ceremony. Oh, and plotting my goals for the day, including dancing with her father (because her dad is awesome).

When they called on Christmas Eve to announce their engagement, I tossed down the camera I was using to photograph my sister and her husband and child to answer the phone. I squealed and could barely contain my excitement for the three days it would be before I saw her and the ring in person. I have had their wedding date on my Google calendar and a countdown on my Mac dashboard since they set the date (407 days to go!). And I am incredibly impatient for their big day to get here. To see them exchange vows, to see which one of them cries first (my bet’s on Kyle), and to take inevitably ridiculous photos with them.

When your best friend finds her soulmate, you can’t help but be happy for her. Although you will still always take photos that look like this:

This is the first photo I found of the three of us...playing Chubby Bunny on our last night at Elon. We're wiiiiiiiild.

Playing third wheel on an exciting exotic vacation...aka in my bedroom.

Kyle, Kirsten, me and Claire at the homecoming tailgate our senior year. Let's recreate this at the wedding, k?

Well, at least we got one normal one in there. :)

So, while I will not be watching the Royal Wedding today, I will probably be thinking about at least one of these weddings in some capacity. OK, maybe that “probably” a “definitely.” Because I’ve got wedding fever, and probably will for the next 407 days straight.

(PS – while this posted at 5 a.m., no, I did not wake up to watch anything wedding related. Such is the beauty of scheduling posts on WordPress.)

This is Why…

I just finished reading my “Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing” book. And as I finished the last story, I wiped the tears from my eyes and had to concentrate on my breathing. And I remembered… this is why. This is why I want to do this.

Because through travel writing, you can take people on journeys with you. While reading that book, I was on the beach on Ascension Island with the writer watching a lunar eclipse and turtles laying their eggs. I was with another writer in Casablanca looking for an old friend and making new ones along the way. I was with yet another writer and his wife, settling into their new lives in Slovenia, completely different from what they expected, but OK at the same time.

As that last writer, Chris Colin, wrote:

“This is the essence of travel, or at least travel taken to completion: it’s not the change of scenery or the new way of preparing lamb – it’s you. You are lost to yourself, you don’t know who will emerge from the pit.”

And that…that is why. Why I want to travel. Why I want to write about my travels. Why I took the plunge and I’m taking the steps. That’s why. Not to see pretty places or get passport stamps. Not to avoid being tied down and to escape “the real world.” No, it’s none of that. It’s to get lost in the journey, to have life-changing experiences, to see the real real world, to find myself in a whole new way with each trip and each experience, never knowing what part of me is going to be awakened.

THAT is why.

Letting Inspiration Find You

I’ve been uninspired the past week or so. Unmotivated really. Finding no real meaning or purpose in my writing, just kind of sputtering along.

My work with the company I’ve been contracting for slowed down at the end of the week before last and I hadn’t heard anything back. My work for my travel writing course was completely suffering: no where near my best effort or my most passionate, but I just couldn’t get into it. And the feedback reflected it. And, as you know, I’ve been sucking at keeping up with the blog.

It’s just hard to write when you’re not feeling inspired by anything. What am I supposed to say? “Woke up. Went to the gym. Ate. Watched ‘Sex and the City.’ Job searched.” Because that’s pretty much my days when I don’t have writing assignments.

The only thing I was putting effort into and feeling good about and enjoying was my writing for the Go! Girl Guides. (My second post went up today!) And I am loving the community this website has and the rush I get from working with these girls. If only I could find the passion and energy for everything else that I’m getting from that.

So I decided Tuesday night during my class’s chat session that I was really, really going to put a lot of effort into the next assignment. I started brainstorming on Wednesday. But everything I came up with was lackluster or had already been covered recently or just wouldn’t pan out. I hit a wall again.

My solution to that was to at least be productive in some other way – with a GGG post. I drafted two of those in less than an hour. Can you tell where my motivation really is right now?

Then as I got on Facebook, my news feed was full of people talking about the new jobs they just got. Meanwhile, I have heard nothing about the jobs I’ve applied for. I was sliding…

Then at 4 p.m., I had my weekly chat with my liaison at the company in Arizona. We talked about the work I had completed for them already, and then moved on to what I really wanted: NEW ASSIGNMENTS. And actually, a new client as well. A client that I think I’m really, really going to enjoy working with.

After she told me about it and gave me some background material to read, there it was. BOOM. Inspiration. Finally.

Without giving too much away, one of the people I am going to be interviewing for this new client is wheelchair-bound thanks to a spinal cord injury when she was 16. At the age of 31, she has done so much in her life and overcome every obstacle with such fierce determination. As I read the bio she sent me over and over again, I got goosebumps every time. If she can overcome that and go after her dreams and be ridiculously involved in a million different things, all for the good of others… why can’t I?

I can. And I will. And I’m going to figure it out, eventually. In the meantime, I’m going to keep a little bit of perspective thanks to my newfound friend and try to stay motivated and inspired every day.

Sometimes all we need is a little divine intervention, a little inspiration and a whole lot of perspective. If you go searching for the inspiration, sometimes you can’t find it. But when you really need it, it seems that you just need to let inspiration find you.

And then we realize… We can do whatever we set our minds to. We just need to figure out our ways to do it.

And the Bad Blogger Award goes to…

Me!

I have been atrociously remiss with blogging the past week or so, but life kind of got in the way. So what things have been taking up my blogging time? Well, here are just a few:

  • A breakfast date with my favorite Texans: Last Monday I met up with Mary and Drew for breakfast. They were in town for a family event and before Mary took Drew to the airport, we met at a nearby Denny’s for bacon flapjacks, breakfast burritos and skillets, as well as lots of laughter and catching up. Even if it was only for an hour, I’m so glad I got to see them.
  • Car problems: On Monday when I went out to my car to leave for breakfast, I was not-so-pleasantly surprised to find that someone had knocked my driver’s side mirror off. Soooo there’s been a lot of hoopla with that…calling the insurance company, duct taping the mirror on, searching for the part cheap online, trying to organize a friend of the family to install it for me, etc. Yayyy for ignorant people who live in my apartment building.
  • Childhood purging: On Wednesday last week, I went home to help my mom clean out my bedroom there. This meant getting rid of pretty much all signs of my childhood. Stuffed animals? Gone. Really embarrassing CD collection? Gone. (And yes, that is the Space Jam soundtrack.) Glow in the dark stars on the ceiling? Adios. These are things I wasn’t ready to part with when I moved out in December 2009, but it’s time to say goodbye now.
  • Writing, writing, writing: So I’ve been writing, just not here. I’ve been working on my travel writing course assignments, which have been…interesting. Not entirely thrilled with them so far, but hopefully I’ll be getting better. AND I’ve recently become a writer for Go! Girl Guides, which I am psyched about. My first post for them went up on Friday about how to conquer public transportation, so go check it out! I’m anxious to write more for them and see where this could lead!
  • Reading, reading, reading: They say you should read what you want to write, so I’ve been absorbing myself in travel magazines lately, reading them cover to cover and trying to pick up inspiration, tips and some goals to work toward.
  • Best burger ever: I spent Friday and Saturday with Kirsten. Much of that time was spent watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother, including the one where they are on the hunt for the best burger in NYC. This reminded me that I have been craving a burger for like a month now, so we set out on a mission. Destination? Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington. Time the establishment opens? Noon. Time we got there? 12:05. Number of tables available? 0. My burger of choice? The New Jack Zing. A cajun spiced burger, cooked PERFECTLY and OH so juicy, pepperjack cheese, grilled onions, charred jalapeños, lettuce, tomato and raw red onions. All on a fantastic bun. Number of paper towels I used? Five. Number of times I refilled my water? Three. Worth it? Absolutely. The best burger I’ve ever had, bar none. I can’t wait to go back.
  • Aussie Aussie Aussie!: (Oi Oi Oi!) Last night, I got to spend some time catching up with several of my friends from my semester abroad in Australia. One of the Australian girls is in the States this week to see her American boyfriend, who was part of my program. They decided to come to the DC area since Dustin, Will and I are all local and we could get a pretty big group together. Another one of our girl friends came down from Syracuse, so we had a decent sized group put together! I learned that I can revert back to my Australia partying style very easily, that Aussie accents sound a lot thicker after three years away from it, and that even after three years apart, some things never change and I still adore these people. It was a lovely night (that led to a not-so-lovely morning) and I am thrilled we all got together.
And of course today was Easter, so there was the requisite family time, which I always love. Hopefully I will be able to get back into the swing of blogging again this week. I do have a lot of things to be working on right now though, so we shall see! 
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

It Takes Guts to Show Up for Life

When my roommate gave me “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” for my birthday, I was intrigued by it and excited to check it out, but I had no idea what to expect. When I dove into it, what I found was the reflections of a woman on the lessons she learned from some of the most beloved books by female authors, mixed in with the histories of the authors themselves and how those backgrounds influenced their works.

Some of the books were ones I haven’t read (yet), such as “Gone With The Wind.” (It’s been on my bookshelf since I was like nine…I’ll get to it eventually.) And others are some of my all-time favorites, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Little Women.”

I appreciated Erin Blakemore’s ability to weave the histories of the authors with the stories of the heroines, all while giving her personal experiences with the books and the lessons she learned from them.

From the books I have read, I think she really pulled out accurate life lessons from them. For example, we learned about compassion from Scout Finch, simplicity from Laura Ingalls, and steadfastness from Jane Eyre.

But as I approached the end of the book the other night, I found myself dog-earring one page in particular. In reference to Jo March of “Little Women,” Blakemore writes the following:

Ambition is a heroine’s trait only when it adds to life instead of detracting from it. Louisa [May Alcott] would be proud and happy to see that a modern woman can choose any avenue for her life’s work, that our road is easier than the one she trod so resolutely and so ruefully. But fewer obstacles doesn’t mean fewer obligations. Though we have it relatively easy, we still face the challenges of being taken seriously, of proving that our efforts have some meaning and worth. It takes guts to show up for life, to tackle what we are handed. And it takes even more strength and courage not to confuse self-sacrifice with self-sustenance.

I couldn’t help but reread those last two sentences over and over again.

It takes guts to show up for life. What a powerful statement. Life is a funny thing. It’s forced upon us in a lot of ways. We’re dealt good and bad cards. We can either just float through life taking what’s handed to us without asking questions, or we can truly show up. Be present. Be active. Have the guts to show up and participate in our own lives. Tackle what we are handed.

Things are going to be hard every once in a while. They’re going to suck. But if we truly show up for our lives and tackle them head on, we’ll be better off for it in the end.

I think that’s what I’ve been trying to vocalize for myself the past couple of months, but I didn’t know how. I wasn’t showing up for my life. I sure as hell wasn’t standing up for my life. I was just letting things get thrown at me without tackling them. Now, I’m taking it all on. I have guts. I’m showing up. I’m shuffling the cards I’ve been dealt and I’m making the best hand I can out of it. I’m growing and I’m learning. And every day is a struggle in some way, but I’m really making a true effort to show up every single day.

But as Blakemore reminded me, “A heroine’s work — growth, self-definition, barrier-smashing — is never really done.”

I wasn’t expecting to file this read under The Self-Help Files, but I don’t think I have a choice now.

I’ll leave you now with one last passage from this chapter:

Let us heed Louisa’s warning and do as Jo does, taking up the work that’s right for us instead of that which we feel obligated to pursue…

Here’s to showing up for life, to having the guts to do what is right for you, and to learning lessons from the heroines we’ve been blessed to have in our lives, both real and fictional.

The Single Girl’s Checklist #15

I told you how our friend Liana’s bachelorette party was this weekend. Well, in the process of those festivities, I accomplished another item on my Single Girl’s Checklist.

#15: Get drunk during the day,
just because you can.

I will start off by saying this wasn’t precisely my intention. But I guess it was inevitable since we were starting the day at 10:30 with a van ride to the first of two wineries we would be visiting. And especially inevitable when we realized there was a bottle of wine prepared for us to imbibe on the way to the winery. Nothing says “good morning” like some blueberry wine (Gatorade? Scope? We aren’t sure) and a white chocolate cranberry scone!

Wine not?

We got to the first winery, Thanksgiving Farm, which is fairly new and owned and operated by the sweetest couple in the world. A self-proclaimed “mom and pop operation…and you’re lookin’ at Mom and Pop!”

They hugged Liana and congratulated her on her impending nuptials, looked at the rings of all the engaged ladies in the party (four total?), and stole a couple of adorable kisses and loving looks during the course of our tasting session.

All the lovely ladies at the first winery.

The tasting was not free, but at $1.50 per sample, they were more than generous servings. We got about half a glass of each of four wines, and they were all quite delicious. By the end of the tasting, we were all feeling a little bit happier than we were at the beginning of the adventure. The ride to the second winery was loud, giggly and perhaps a bit inappropriate conversation-wise.

Like a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme…good to go.

Upon arrival at the second winery, we all ran to the bathrooms and then promptly set up the picnic lunch we had brought because we couldn’t even think about drinking anymore wine yet. After devouring our amazing lunch in utter silence, we began the second tasting.

Fridays Creek‘s tasting is free and includes probably 15-18 wines. Yes, you read that correctly. Smaller samples, but still, it adds up. Needless to say, by the end of the tasting we were like a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme…good to go. 

Keepin’ it goin’!

Of course, this didn’t keep us from continuing the party at the hotel before dinner…or at happy hour after putting our name in for dinner…or getting pitchers of mojitos at dinner…or accepting free shots from guys after dinner at the bar.

So, thank you to the planners of the bachelorette party for allowing me to complete yet another task on my Single Girl’s Checklist, an unintended side effect. I’ve certainly accomplished this “feat” multiple times in my early adulthood, not that I want to brag about that. (Although, I’ll just say one word: Jamaica.) But I’m not sure any excuse is as good as celebrating a dear friend’s upcoming wedding with a group of 10 fabulous women.

At some point in the future, days like this won’t be so easy for us to plan. As more and more of my friends get married and start their families, things will definitely change. But hopefully we’ll still always find girl time. Days to go on wine tastings and have random hotel parties.

It was a glorious day with some absolutely wonderful women, full of smiles, laughter, love and, of course…wine.

Let the Hootenanny Begin

Back in February, my dear friend Liana’s gchat status one day said something along the lines of, “Alicia, Sara, Krissy, Kristin and Lindsay, I hope you all are prepared to be members of the bridal hootenanny! Your assignments will be doled out soon!”

First, I was honored to be included in this prestigious list of women. And second, some of us were wondering at the choice of the word “hootenanny” for this particular congregation. So I looked it up, and the all-knowing Wikipedia has this to say. I’ve highlighted the pertinent points:

Hootenanny, via Wikipedia, with some highlighting by me.

  • Thingamajig or whatchamacallit? Yep, that seems about right for this group. We’re a unique group that I’m not sure can be accurately described. I also get the feeling that on the morning of Liana’s wedding, there are going to be requests to find her that thingamajig or hand her that whatchamacallit. (It’s called BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE, Liana. Try to remember that.)
  • An old-country word for party? HECK YES. If there is one thing our group knows how to do, it is party. And I believe we will follow through with that on Liana’s wedding day. From drinking champagne with her while she gets her hair done to beckoning the guests to the dancefloor with our choreographed moves, we will make sure the party is there. Oh, and did I mention the glowsticks?
  • Meeting of the minds? When we need to put down the “party” aspect of our lives, we usually can. So when Liana needs us to be serious, walk away from the glasses of champagne and talk her through something, we’ll be there.
  • Other circumstances that require a focused discussion between key individuals? Well, obviously. Key decisions will likely include: “Can I have this fourth glass of champagne and still stand up straight long enough to say ‘I do’ to the love of my life?” And while our peer pressuring ways may be tempting, hopefully we’ll say, “I think you should maybe wait until after the ceremony now.”
  • Call together the required personnel needed to accomplish the prodigious assignments placed on them? DONE. Liana is doling out the assignments to us and we will answer the call with vigor and gusto. I have been practicing my Katy Perry “Just Dance” Wii choreography, my “you know you want to come sign the guestbook” face and my “I’m not going to cry” tactics, and I think I’m up to the challenge.

So after this careful scientific analysis, I think it is safe to say that yes, we are Liana’s bridal hootenanny. And I am honored to be part of that.

Dreaming of her hubby-to-be on her fake bachelorette a year ago...

Liana, we love you SO much and we hope you’re ready for your bachelorette festivities this weekend! Your hootenanny will not let you down. And we’re hoping that it’ll still be acceptable even without the *ahem* Australian visitors that were present for your fake bachelorette last year…

(AND…thank you for showing me an awesome opportunity to go after my dreams! You’re the best!)