dress shopping.

I was all alone when I bought my wedding dress. I had spent the weekend with my maid of honor, Ashley, travelling to Boone and back and hitting every thrift store on the way to check their bridal section. We even stopped at a retail boutique in Boone, called "Did Someone Say Party?," a name I used to make fun of when I was in college and which I did again, even as I flipped through rows of white encased in plastic. I had been discouraged by the secondhand selection, but I was reassured to discover that I didn't much care for the new stuff any better. It was still ugly, but no puffy sleeves. All the dresses were too...flashy. They were all weighed down with sequins and beads and lace. Even the ones that could be called understated seemed overly ornate to me.

So no wedding dress. We did buy a bunch of other stuff at those stores, though.

I dropped Ashley off at her house near Charlotte and got ready to head back to Raleigh. She mentioned that there was a Goodwill on my way in Kannapolis. And that's where I found a dress that had no sequins, no beads, no sparkles at all. Just an off-white dress with a fabric flower at the hip. I couldn't decide, and I was all alone, so I texted Ashley pictures of it to get her opinion. In the end, I bought it. $35.

I called my mom on the way home and told her that I had bought a white dress. She was disappointed. Because, you see, I was supposed to find my dress, The Dress, while on a day-long shopping excursion with her. Nevermind that it was unlikely it would've happened that way. You never know what you'll find secondhand, but if you're looking for something specific, you never know when you'll find it. But that was how we found prom dresses for me years and years ago, and that was how we both imagined it happening for my wedding. I admit that I was disappointed, too. Texting in the dressing room of a Goodwill is not I imagined picking out The Dress. But I did want this dress, and so that's how it happened.

A few weeks ago, I went on a nice mother-daughter dress shopping day, because the mother of the bride has got to wear something, too. We went through dress departments in several stores, picking things off the shelves to try on. I pointed out ones she might like, while trying not to pressure her in any specific direction. I took pictures of her looking demure in nice dresses and sock feet, before we went on to the next store. In the dressing room, I was the one taking things off hangers and then putting them back on. It was one of those role reversals they talk about when you become an adult and start doing things for your parents, but this was one of the nice kind. Then I bought her lunch, since she was the one driving.

In the end, we went back to the first store to buy the dress she'd liked there. She thanked me for being patient with her, which made me feel good, even though she hadn't tried my patience at all. It's very easy to hang out with my mom, to talk or to be in silence. Now that I think about it, the role reversal idea doesn't fit at all. It wasn't like a parent and child relationship, but instead just friends on a nice dress shopping day.


of josh and sandra fame.

At church, people introduce themselves to us in pairs. "Good morning! I'm Jennie, and this is my husband James," says the lady who has heard that Josh volunteered to be an usher. Another day, Jack says hello, and then later also his wife, who - get this - is named Diane. Waiting in line to sign up to make jambalaya for Shrove Tuesday, we meet Anne and Andy, who sign up for the same dish. Some later Sunday, Josh nudges me and asks if that's Andy, of Anne and Andy fame. I am glad that we do not have cutesy matchy names, though I suppose you don't pick who you fall in love with, and a Josh by any other name would still make me laugh at his jokes.

I realize that I would not be able to pick Anne out of a line-up of similiarly-aged brunettes, unless she was standing next to Andy. I wish we had talked to them a minute more, since they went out of their way to introduce themselves to another nice young couple about their age (that's us).

I think that is the way they all see us, a nice young couple who just started coming to church. They say peace be with you (and also with you), this is my wife, have you been coming here long? They ask if we have just moved to the area, and we say we're just getting back into the church habit. They invite us to whatever activities they're involved in and hope to see us again. Maybe they wouldn't recognize me at the Food Lion unless I was with a curly-mopped man in a bowtie, and maybe they wouldn't be able to remember Josh's name if they weren't given the hint that it goes with mine. They have no prior interaction with either of us alone, and they don't yet know us well enough to think of either of us a distinct person. And that's fine, it's kinda sweet. We're a unit. I'm Sandra, of Josh and Sandra fame.


3D love.

Remember a while back, when I was too cool for wedding planning? And all women who care about weddings are just trying to have some semblance of control so they don't have to face the terror that is a lifetime of someone else's dirty underwear? Man, I can be a jerk sometimes.

Let me tell you about my invitations.

Now, there are an awful lot of traditional wedding things that you can hurl right out the window. For example, the garter and bouquet tosses. Why do we still do this? It's awful. It was great when I was twelve and I used some basketball skills to block everyone else out and catch my cousin's bouquet. However, I was quickly informed that this kind of behavior was not appropriate. You're supposed to try and catch the bouquet but not too hard, I guess. The secret of those tosses is that the only people who actually enjoy the activity are the married people and the DJ, who gets to make tired jokes about women being desperate man-traps and men being afraid of commitment.

So, some traditions go and some stay. They tell you when you get married that you can do anything you want, because it's your wedding. Sometimes, when they find out what you want, they wish they hadn't told you that. But you can just cackle at them, because it's your wedding!

You do have to let people know about the wedding, so some kind of notification is required. And you know what? I like sending mail. It's my thing. So while things like ring pillows make me frown and try to think of a way around it, invitations have me doing google image searches. And in these google image searches, I saw some pop-up cards. I was instantly smitten. I could invite people in three dimensions!

My maid-of-honor and I spent a weekend with a borrowed Cricut, making my 3D dreams come true. Have you ever heard of a Cricut? It's sort of amazing. It's like a printer, except instead of printing things, it makes cuts. Scrapbookers use them a lot, and we used one to cut out the letters for our pop-up card.

Have you ever used a Cricut? It is not amazing at all. They provide free software for you to make your own design, in case you don't want to spend $40 on a special cartridge that does the specific thing you want (there is one for pop-up cards, as it happens). And I don't want to make any assumptions here, but I got the impression from the incredibly buggy, limited, and non-intuitive design software that they'd rather you just buy the cartridges. It took hours to get the design done, and then another few hours to get it to cut right on the paper. Then we had to cut each individual sheet, some of which turned out neater than others due to the how the Cricut was feeling from moment to moment. My MOH did most of the work, but I did bring her beer.

Oh, and that? That was step one. Step two was folding all the cut sheets. Then we had to cut out the backing paper (which makes the pop-up, uh, pop). We used pages I ripped out of atlases. Finally, there is a lot of gluing. I bought special glue, called paper cement, and using it gave me a headache. Also, we had to put something on the front of the card. I had Josh write a wedding-y poem, which also needed to be printed, cut, and glued. Seriously, I just made up a bunch of work for myself to do, I guess so I could then complain about how weddings are a lot of trouble.
Oh, but I do love how they turned out. I admit it, I am proud of me. They are personally designed and handmade. I was worried that they would end up looking a little too handmade. The trouble with all these steps (and any step involving a danged Cricut), is that each one introduces room for a small error. Add up all the little errors, and I'll have to start telling people I had my invitations made by a kindergarten class. Some of them turned out more perfect (or more imperfect) than others. But I feel like if I got this thing in the mail, I would really want to go to that wedding. And that's the whole point of an invitation. Not just to tell you about the occasion, but to make you want to go.


pancake tuesday.

Here is another thing I like about the Episcopalians: they have extra holidays. In general, they are much more observant of the Christian year than we were in the Methodist church. One Sunday, the preacher asked the congregation to name the seasons of the Christian year. I was stumped. Is this like saying Autumn instead of Fall? No, as it turns out there are seasons! The good little Episcopalians in the pews listed them off. I had heard of them. In fact, I remember seeing something like "Fifth Sunday After Pentecost" in the bulletins at the tiny Methodist church where I was raised, and I never knew what it was about.

Aside from learning about the seasons, we've also been learning new customs and celebrations. For example, on January 6 (Epiphany, end of Christmas season), we chalked the door. During the children's sermon, the preacher had the kids take some chalk and write some symbols on the door frame. It's sort of a blessing on everyone that comes through that door. We liked the idea, so we did it at home, too. Except that we couldn't find any chalk at 3 stores on the way home from church, so we used a pencil instead. And we ask that all burglars use the back door, because they don't get blessed.

In case there are any other uninformed Methodists out there, today is Shrove Tuesday. That name cames from the word "shrive," which means to confess. Shrove Tuesday comes before Ash Wednesday, when Lent starts. We also call it Mardi Gras. In England, they call it Pancake Tuesday, because everyone eats pancakes. Why pancakes? Because you gotta use up all the milk and eggs and butter before Lent, when you're not supposed to eat anything too delicious. There are even pancake races, where people run down the street with their skillets, flipping their hot cakes. Apparently, there is a very heated annual race between their elected representatives.

See? This is a great holiday. Way better than exposing yourself for plastic beads.

Because the Episcopal church is an offshoot of the Anglican church, we also have Pancake Tuesday. Or maybe that's just our church, because they like holidays and pancakes. This year, they expanded it to include some New Orleans cooking, because who doesn't like jambalaya with their pancakes? There were sign-up sheets at church, where people could pick up a recipe to make for the taste of Louisiana. We signed up for the crock pot jambalaya and were excited about making it until we went to the grocery store to pick up the andouille and shrimp and got Shrove Shticker Shock. I think next year, I'll sign up for the red beans and rice.

Happy Shrove Tuesday!


the long walk.

This morning, I looked down the aisle. We met with the church's wedding directors, who would tell us where to go and how to walk and make sure that we tell any non-punctual types to show up a half hour early, just to be sure. They asked me questions that I did not know the answers to, and I deferred to their judgment about candles and/or candelabras. They talked logistics to my mother-in-law-to-be, while I imagined taking a long, slow walk in front of everyone I love, on my daddy's arm. All those people would all be standing, which I find sort of embarrassing. It's only me, guys.

It's a big, beautiful church and a long walk.

A couple of weeks ago, Josh and I watched Sleepwalk with Me, which is wonderful and hilarious. But the dude in it is getting married for the wrong reasons, and so we watch his fiancee pick out invitations and flowers and want to scream at her to stop. The movie is not against marriage in general, just this particular marriage, which is a terrible idea. The audience and the man writing about his own past know that this wedding is a terrible idea. We know because we watched a wrenching scene where he convinced his girlfriend to get engaged, rather than break up. It was a montage of an all-night fight. I have had that fight, sitting in the floor with the person you love most in the world and crying until your eyes are puffy and your head hurts. I cannot imagine concluding at the end of such a fight that marriage is the solution.

But they do, and after that comes a montage of wedding stuff. The same kind of wedding stuff that has been flitting around my head for months, the same kind of wedding stuff that nice church ladies asked me about this morning.

In the end (spoiler alert), they do not get married, because they agree that it is a terrible idea. Josh and I watched it together and laughed a lot. It left me with a little nag in my head, a voice wondering whether this dude and his bad engagement were making my dude think twice before taking the long walk. A couple of times, I almost said something. Just as a joke, of course, except it could turn out to be not a joke.

And then a few days later, he said something which made it clear to me that he'd had the same little nag in his head. Not worrying about his decision to take the long walk with me, but worrying whether I was worried. So neither of us were worried anymore.

The walk is not so long. It just depends on who is waiting at the end.


a snack holiday.

Last night, Josh came home to a delicious snacky spread. There were cocktail meatballs and jalapeno poppers all ready, plus a bunch of pigs waiting to be tucked into blankets. After that first time that Josh blew into the house demanding meat product wrapped in bread product, I have not let the Super Bowl catch me by surprise again. I made a menu and a shopping list a week ahead of time. I was a little worried that the surprise might be ruined if he looked in the fridge and found the canned biscuit dough. Luckily for me (in this scenario), Josh is pretty much incapable of finding anything in a refrigerator.

This year, he didn't stop on the way home to pick up the pigs and their blankets, so maybe his yearly yearning for them depends on the year. But he thought it was sweet of me to remember. It really does not take much to make this man happy: Pigs in blankets once a year, space for his books and guitars, and some chocolate (okay, kind of a lot of chocolate). Thank goodness no woman figured out the formula before I did.

It's funny how Super Bowl Sunday has become this odd little holiday in our house. Since our only TV comes from Netflix, we don't even have the capability to watch the game at home. Also, Josh doesn't get home from work on Sundays until well after the last buzzer (do they use buzzers in football?). We just use the excuse to eat a bunch of food that is not very good for us. Then we watched an old episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force about the Super Bowl. In Josh's family, which is now my family, it's not a holiday without a themed cartoon.

There was one piece of bacon leftover in the pack after making poppers, so I wrapped it around some vienna sausages instead. We each took a bite of the meat-wrapped-meat and decided that it was too gross. We gave the other bites to the dogs. I think Super Bowl Sunday might now be their favorite holiday.