drooly dreams.

I don't know when my parents started saving for my wedding, though I suspect it was the day after my sister got married. They paid for her nuptial event by chopping down a bunch of trees on their land. Or maybe that was just a coincidence. In any case, I was seventeen at the time. A few months later, I picked my college based on which one my boyfriend was attending, and so it might have looked to them that they might have to finance another bride before too long. They're savers, and so that's what they did.

Roughly twelve years later, I got engaged. It took a little longer than anyone expected, but life's a funny thing.

I'm pretty sure my parents stopped adding to that wedding account a long time ago, once it reached some sort of maximum. They probably matched the tree money, you know, keep it fair. I have an idea of how much it might be, but I haven't asked.

I can't tell you when it first occurred to me, but sometime after we got engaged, I decided that I did not want that money. I'm going to be a thirty-year-old bride. I have been consistently employed in a good-paying job for the last seven years. And, like my parents, I'm a saver. At some point, adult children should pay for their own weddings. So thanks for the offer, Mom and Dad, now go spend that money on something else. Take a cruise through the Panama Canal.

Josh thought this was a great idea. He even thought it was a great idea once I told him that we probably would not be going to Europe on our honeymoon, because there just wasn't that kind of money. We will have a fun and fabulous honeymoon, but it will be stateside. He agreed that continuing to pay extra on the mortgage was the first priority. See? We're building a marriage here. And once we pay off that house, we'll have all kinds of money lying around.

As for the rehearsal dinner, I figured we'd leave that up to Josh's folks. I am all maxed out on things that I am going to pay for, and by the way they were already offering to pay for little things, I could tell they were itching to pitch in. So yeah, I was ready to let them buy me and the rest of the wedding party a nice dinner. Heck, they could even pick where they bought me dinner, I wasn't picky. I was already having dreams of my sister's rehearsal dinner at Ruth's Chris steak house. They were drooly dreams.

Then Josh destroyed my drooly dreams by deciding that he wanted to pay for the rehearsal dinner himself. See? You start volunteering to be a grown-up and you talk yourself out of a fancy dinner.

I did not see that coming at all. But what can I do? Josh will tell you that most of what he knows about money-management, he learned from me. And though I was a little sad as the steak-filled thought-cloud went *poof!*, I am proud of him. It will be more casual than fancy and the dinner party will likely be a little more inclusive, but who cares? We're getting married! We'll be happy no matter how much or little of our own money we spend.


lost sheep.

When the cat's away, the mouse will...go to church?

At least, that's what Josh did the weekend I was gone to Boone, among other things (the mouse also will explode some marinara in the microwave, apparently). He went to a church, but did not go in, because he was twenty minutes late (rather than the five minutes late that he thought). I was surprised when he told me. We've talked about going back to church, but always in a oh-yeah-someday-we'll-do-that kind of way. We both grew up in the church but haven't been regular attenders in years. I miss the extended family, but I sure do like sleeping in on Sundays.

The church he picked was a Lutheran one a couple of miles from the house. This being a big city in North Carolina, there's pretty much whatever kind of church you want within five minutes' driving range. Josh grew up Lutheran. I've been to the church where he grew up; in fact, I will be getting married there. It's a beautiful church. However, I find the Lutheran service exhausting. There is a lot of ritual and reading along. There are also songs that are so old, they are from another era of understanding about music. Their structure is incomprehensible and unpredictable to my modern ears. The program is several pages long. It's like being in a musical, and while I have the script here in my hands, I have missed all the rehearsals. Josh says I'll get used to it. His mom says that she finds the structure comforting. I say bah humbug.

When I'm not bewildered and lost, I mostly don't care for all the ritual. It seems very easy to float along, following the script, without any of it meaning much of anything to the actual participant. I actually remember the moment I figured this out: I was a kid, reading along with the psalms, and I realized I had no idea what any of it meant. I suppose you get out what you put in. Compared to the Lutherans, the Methodist church where I grew up had very little ritual and therefore more of the service was taken up by the sermon. Lutheran sermons are short, so maybe they're onto something there. Lutherans also really like communion. Josh insists that they don't have it every single time. I will believe it when I don't see it.

The next weekend after Josh failed to go to church, we got up at the right time and tried again. We were late, but the doors were still open. While this church was similar to the one he grew up in, I enjoyed the service much more. Apparently, how much I like a church depends mostly on singing songs that I already know. There were no random melody songs either, another plus. It was still a lot of ritual, but I must be figuring it out, because I didn't feel so flustered the whole time.

I do like this church. It is alive. There are three services every Sunday (one in the evening!), and a shuttle goes to a local nursing home to pick up attendees. There are a lot of programs going on, though Sunday School ("Christian Education") is off for the summer. The middle schoolers are doing local mission work. Another group is doing a program for children with developmental disabilities. The kids go to camp at Lutheridge and Lutherock. The official membership roster must be huge, but it didn't seem so big from the 9:45 service. I don't like too big churches.

There are a lot of different people in charge, and I don't understand their relationship to each other. The main one wears a clerical collar, but no robe because she is pregnant. There is also an older man who wears fancy robes, another guy in a collar, and a lady vicar. Having only ever encountered the word "vicar" in Agatha Christie novels, I was surprised to find that they're not just for the British.

Our first visit coincided with the beginning of a new sermon series about the Psalms. Each week, we focus on a different description of God and. In the entrance, there is a big banner set up where people could write their own completions to the sentence "God is..." There was also a basket full of small green stones with those words printed on top. I took one, because, hey, free stuff. Now it sits in the bowl where I put my keys, and every morning and evening as I am leaving and returning, I see it. Also, and this blew my mind, the pregnant lady preacher and the older man preacher wrote a psalm. The words and music were printed in the program, credited to them, all rights reserved. It was about God being a good shepherd. They sang it to us (thelady played guitar!), and the next Sunday we sang it with them.

Yeah, we went back the next Sunday. There was communion. I don't know what will happen next. This is motivated by Josh, who feels like he needs to get back to church. And while I don't necessarily feel that pull, I'm not against it. We wear nice clothes, he drives my car, and we walk inside holding hands. We look like a nice young couple looking for a new church home.

I guess we are. Maybe I'll become a Lutheran. That might be okay. I asked Josh who our rivals were, and he didn't understand at all.

"Well, the Methodists say that we need to hurry up and get to Cracker Barrel before the Baptists get out. Who do the Lutherans have to beat to Cracker Barrel?"

"The Catholics."

Good to know.


flag of treason.

There were a lot of new signs in Boone. Some of the buildings were new, but mostly only the signs had changed. The vintage clothing store's sign had been replaced by a glass blowing shop sign. What used to be the movie theatre marquee was now advertising space for rent.

However, the newest sign was made with white spray paint on a shop window. The words are not fit to be printed where my mother might see them. That sign was brand-spanking new. In fact, it seems like it had occurred sometime during the night before we saw it.

The store was a little house-shaped building, slightly apart from the rest of the downtown buildings. There seemed to be multiple businesses within. An eye doctor and a white-water rafting company shared the downstairs. And upstairs, a place called "Dixie Pride." It specialized in Confederate memorabilia and history. The stars and bars flapped in the breeze from a top balcony.


Vandalism is no good, guys. I am pretty sure that my beliefs are much more in line with whoever was bearing the spray paint than the store owners, but property damage does not advance your cause. Although, I have to admit that writing "OBAMA 2012" on the side was a little funny. Again, probably not helpful.

I remember years ago, when South Carolina was fighting about whether to fly the Confederate flag over the capitol building. Whatever we might like to tell you, we North Carolinians are not so different from our more southerly brethren. Kids wore Confederate shirts to my high school, where I was taught in U.S. History that the Civil War was really about states' rights. And so when some people said that flying the flag was about "heritage, not hate," that seemed reasonable to me. After all, I was proud to be southern, because it is the place I first loved. We have good food and hospitality here! That didn't make me a hateful person, so maybe the flag wasn't necessarily hateful either.

I don't believe that anymore.

A couple of years ago, I started reading the blog of Ta-Nahesi Coates, a black Civil War buff (and fantastic writer and all-around interesting human being). Most of my ideas about The Civil War are ripped straight from his words. One of TNC's main themes is how much the discussion and narrative of the Civil War leaves out the slaves entirely. "Heritage, not hate" does the same thing - omits the heritage of a big chunk of the population. You know, the descendents of slaves. Is the flag about them?

TNC refers to the Confederate flag as a flag of treason. And, man, if that doesn't get right to the heart of things. It's the first phrase I think of when I see it anymore. Before, it was a mildly obnoxious symbol of my home. You know, like a drunk uncle you tolerate at holidays. Now, it just makes me cringe. Even if we generously assume that it is only about heritage to the flag-waver, what does it mean to the people that see it?

Again, don't go vandalizing. Because it doesn't help your cause, any more than that stupid flag helps the South's.


paper crafts.

I saw something online where someone had made some roses out of paper, and I thought that was a great idea. Flowers! Out of paper! What if I made the boutineers for the wedding out of paper roses, wouldn't that just be the sweetest? I decided to give it a try to see how hard it was.

The internet paper roses were made from the pages of an old book, which is two good ideas in one. How appropriate that would be for the wedding of a couple of certified bookworms! I just needed a book. I only had about a thousand in my house, but those were off-limits.

On my next tour of the local thrift store circuit, I looked through the books. And I didn't buy a single one. Not because I didn't see any; most thrift stores are lousy with books. But I had a really hard time finding a book that I would want to rip up to use in my wedding. I didn't want to destroy a book that should be saved for reading purposes. But I didn't want to pin just any old crappy book to the lapel of my beloved.

Finally, I happened upon a Methodist hymnal from the 1960s. And I knew that this was my book. There are plenty of Methodist hymnals out there in the wild. It seemed unlikely that anyone else was going to save this one from the Goodwill. And yet, it had sentimental value, too. I grew up singing hymns from a hymnal very much like this one. In the very front, where I knew it would be, I found John Wesley's Rules for Singing.

I brought my new old hymnal home and discovered that it's very hard to rip apart a book. For one thing, it feels wrong on pretty much every level. For another thing, those dang hymnals are really well-made.

But once I got the pages out, I started making flowers. My first one was a total failure. My second one was not-much better. Despite having clear pictures and written instructions, I was clearly missing something. Everything looks easy on the internet.

So I tried a different style. And I thought hey, that's nice.

Josh loved it, too. After flipping through the hymnal remnants a bit, he even wanted to pick out the songs that would make his boutineer. Not to be relying on gender stereotypes here, but it seems like anytime you can get the groom enthusiastic about any of this wedding stuff, it's a good sign.

Well, that takes care of about 10 hymnal pages. What to do with the other 850?

This could get ridiculous.


old stompin' grounds.

I spent the weekend with my old roommate in Boone, where we went to college. You might say that it's our old stompin' grounds, which is a phrase my dad used to describe pretty much anywhere he had ever heard of before. He usually used the words to dismiss the concern of any passengers who had noticed that a shortcut he had taken had turned out to be more of a scenic route. Later, when we had finally got to wherever we were going, he would explain that they had changed it on him.

They did go and change Boone on me. They widened some roads, tore down some buildings, and built new ones. Businesses that we used to think of as established had disappeared and new storefronts had established themselves in their places. Appalachian State, my alma mater, seems to be doing quite well. I like to think that somewhere in the new library that I never got to use are bricks paid for with my tuition. Most everything in town seemed new and shiny, except for the alley down to our old apartment, which was somehow even worse than when we had lived there. Where before there had just been weeds and mud, now there was discarded furniture and mattresses.

But really, the thing that had changed was me. I was a tourist now, not a student, not a local. I was one more person driving slowly, not quite sure where I was going. I walked at a leisurely pace downtown, as if I was on vacation. It's not as if any of the natives gave me a mean look, but I could feel my otherness. I was just another tourist, here today to be in the way, replaced by someone else next weekend.

Saturday night, we went to one of those new (i.e., not there seven years ago) restaurants. It was not a place we could have afforded back when we lived in an alley apartment, but now that we were graduates of the Computer Science program, we even had drinks and appetizers, too. The waiter asked where we were from, and we hastened to tell him that we used to live here, really, just down the street. He smiled and pretended to care, then asked us if we wanted another round. We did. Later, when we asked for our checks, he acted sad that we were leaving. Maybe he was, because he just barely made rent and really needs to fix the transmission in his old car.

But we left anyway, to go further down the street to Murphy's, a dive bar where we used to eat french dip sandwiches on seats that leaked stuffing out of long gashes partially mended with duct tape. It's been refinished and is much nicer now, too, but it's still a dive. And we both felt more comfortable there, like we belonged. Because who else besides a local would go to Murphy's?