Getting Crafty

I noticed the change about a month ago. I was in the midst of wedding chaos and moving chaos and the heavy presence of family and expectations and scrutiny. I didn’t have enough time. I didn’t want to write. I read to survive, mentally and emotionally, but I wasn’t particularly excited about any one book. What I did get excited about, though, was crafts.

Two weeks before the wedding, I went to Joann’s after work to buy a hot glue gun, scrap fabric, matching thread, and a small mason jar to make my own pin cushion. I had found an unopened box of straight pins and was returning my mom’s sewing kit, with pin cushion top, after 10-15 years in my possession. I’d noticed a lot of things I’d quietly pilfered from her over the years and I wanted to give them back. After doing so, I needed a pincushion. I could buy one online and it’d be delivered in a couple days (Amazon) or a couple weeks (Etsy). I could buy one in an actual store and save some shipping time. But I wanted to make one.

A few days later, I got together with a couple of friends, and we each painted a canvas. I created a spooky (spoopy) pumpkin on a black and grey streaked background, which I set on the bookshelf in the living room as soon as I got to Tyler’s apartment that night.

We returned from our honeymoon to actual fall weather, and I realized I had less than 10 days to take full advantage of the Halloween season.

A day or two later, I had an idea for a wreath while at work, and raced home on my lunch break to see what I could cobble together from materials I already had. I found a rope circle such a people use for macrame, and which I’d originally intended to turn into a spring wreath for my parents. I grabbed a length of off-white yarn and a pair of scissors and plopped down on the living room floor to spin a spider’s web.

Twenty minutes later, I clipped a black rose barrette, my makeshift spider, to the end of the string and hung my new wreath on the front door as I headed back to work. I remain really proud of it. Tyler’s dad makes wreaths for their house, so I showed him a picture of my creation and earned a “looks good.”

Sunday afternoon, I flipped through a magazine of winter holiday crafts at Tyler’s grandparents’ house and took pictures of the instructions for several projects I’m happily dreaming about.

Sunday, I crocheted a little sleeve to help protect my new phone until it’s case comes in.

This week, I intend to crochet a couple of pumpkins that I can also use to decorate through Thanksgiving.

I’m so happy with these projects, but the change still feels a little random, a little sudden. I didn’t spend a lot of time crafting before. I’d intentionally avoided Pinterest-ing any aspects of the wedding decorations so that my friends and I wouldn’t be rushing to fold enough paper roses or arrange the right number of silk flowers by the wedding date. So what’s with the sudden crafting passion?

In all my packing and moving, I rediscovered a bunch of craft supplies I’d forgotten about, plus buttons. And I still have those seashells from the beach at St. Augustine last year. What can I do with all that? A crate full of yarn is hard to give away, so what can I do to whittle down what I do have? Yes, I intended to make a scarf from that skein and a hat from that one, but what can I do with it today?

I think the lack of a deadline (except Halloween or Christmas) is a big draw. I can do these projects casually, whenever I get the chance. And it’s something that I can finish. I can’t finish all the laundry in a day (though I tried). I can’t finish all the unpacking in a day (again, I tried). I’ve yet to finish this book I’ve been working on for 7 years or this scarf I’ve been crocheting all year. But I can create something I like, something I wanted, in just a few minutes or a few hours.

Plus, I don’t have many holiday decorations. The last five years, I’ve lived with someone who had her own decorations for the living room, kitchen, and other shared spaces before I got there. The decorations I did acquire were mostly for my bedroom and mostly Christmas-themed. I don’t have decorations for fall or for a whole apartment. I don’t know how Tyler will like the ones I do have. And I don’t want to spend a ton of money on ornaments or red pillows just to have ornaments and red pillows. I’d rather build our collection over time, but have enough this year to make things feel festive and homey for our favorite season of the year.

Do you have a favorite fall decoration? Have you been getting crafty lately? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Our Love Story – Q&A

A couple months before our wedding, which was yesterday, our officiant Blake Jenkins emailed us a list of questions to answer, which he planned to use to tell our love story to our wedding guests. Below are my full responses.

Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate yesterday, in person and in spirit.

When was the first time you met your future spouse?
I first saw Tyler across the worship room in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) house on Georgia Southern’s campus a couple weeks into my freshman year. He and my roommate Allison had been talking and a mutual friend pointed him out as he passed by the stage. I met Tyler a few days or maybe a week later when he and Allison wanted to watch a movie at our dorm room. I had the biggest movie collection of my roommates, tucked into rows in a big black footlocker under my bed.

Please describe your first impression of him.
Tyler’s curly hair bloomed from beneath his worn, blue Atlanta Braves hat. He was clean-shaven and wiry. As my friend pointed him out to me, safe behind dozens of people and the din of their conversations, I thought, “Remember this. This is important.” I thought it was because he and Allison would start dating. I wanted to be able to recognize him on campus and seem in-the-know when I did finally meet him. I also felt a shot of jealousy. He was cute and nice and the first time I met him, he picked out one of my favorite movies, The Count of Monte Cristo, to watch. (I’ve since read the unabridged book and it lowered my opinion of both the book and the movie considerably.)

Please describe in detail your first date and what you thought afterwards.
We’ve had two first dates and a Looney Tunes almost-date that Tyler probably wishes I hadn’t brought up. First came Looney Tunes. At some point in college—Tyler could better tell you when but I’m guessing my second year/his third—we got to talking at the BCM and realized we both loved Looney Tunes. I boasted that I had the Looney Tunes: Golden Collection on DVD, and he suggested I bring it over to his apartment so we could watch Looney Tunes together. I didn’t know if it was supposed to be a date, or if he liked me, or if this was just Looney Tunes. I was nervous. I gave more thought than I probably should have as to what Allison would think if Tyler and I started dating, even though Tyler and Allison had never actually dated; I decided I’d tell her only if something came of it. I arrived at his apartment and there were entirely too many places to sit. In my memory, the room was full of couches. Full. With a huge sectional that wrapped around the back of the room and bean bag chairs taking up everything that would normally pass as walking space. Tyler assures me there were only two couches, no sectional, and a reasonable number of bean bag chairs. Still, there were too many options and I didn’t know where to sit so I panicked and sat in the corner. I figured if he sat by me he liked me. If he didn’t, he didn’t. My choice to sit in the corner was weird to Tyler because it was not the sofa directly opposite the TV, obviously the best choice in seating. He didn’t want to crowd me, and figured if I didn’t want to sit by him then I definitely didn’t like him, so he sat opposite the TV on the other couch and neither of us spoke for the next three hours. I left after the DVD finished with a headache and the conviction that we would never date. I still have that DVD collection, and no, we have not watched it since.

Our first actual date was at the Starbucks on Forsyth around Thanksgiving in 2012. I remember what I wore (black turtleneck with buttons down the sleeves, skinny jeans, back flats, and peacock earrings), where we sat (at the second hightop from the trash can with my back to the window). I don’t remember much about the date itself, though. Prior to moving to Macon to work as a ministry intern at Mercer’s BCM, I knew Macon as that interstate exit with the Five Guys, the place my Dad’s cousins lived, and Tyler Cummings’s hometown. I’d been living and working in Macon for about 4 months when Tyler, getting ready to graduate from Georgia Tech and move back home, ran into a former roommate of mine (not Allison) on campus and looked me up on Facebook to see where I was. We dated for a few months after that first date, though at the time I wasn’t sure if it was a date or just coffee, until my internship ended and I moved back home to SC for a few months.

We both had really rough autumns in 2016, gratefully got through Christmas, and found each other at church the first Sunday of the new year. Finding him sitting a seat over from my roommate (and bridesmaid) Morgan that Sunday felt like such relief. By that point, we’d known each other for over 9 years. We’d once dated. We’d both traveled and grown and worked on our careers while keeping in touch. I knew him. And I trusted him. He’s always treated me incredibly well. Morgan would like me to point out that she suggested Tyler and I try dating again after that Sunday. Our first date was on his birthday that week. His sister Rachel had been ill that day, and Tyler told me about it when I texted him to wish him a happy birthday. I figured any plans he’d made with his family for his birthday had probably been postponed. That night, he went to the first night of a Bible study series at church, taught by (our officiant) Blake. I offered to meet him afterward, in case he wanted a “buddy” (yes, I used that word) to have dinner with. I’d heard he was dating someone (from my bridesmaid Nicole), so I figured he’d have made alternate dinner plans with her. But Tyler said he’d like to have dinner with me, if I didn’t mind waiting. While he was in Bible study, I made break-and-bake cookies—the only kind of sweet I had in the house—and hid them in my purse. We met up in the Ingleside parking lot, and he drove us to Metropolis on Riverside for dinner, where we stayed until we noticed the staff closing the blinds and putting up the chairs for the night. I could tell by the way he treated me and listened to me that he wasn’t dating anyone else. I was pretty sure he was interested in spending more time with me, too. When he dropped me back off at my car, just before I got out of his truck, I gave Tyler the tupperware container full of cookies, feeling badly that he wouldn’t have actual cake on his birthday. He just sat and looked at them for a minute, but I could tell it was a good kind of silence. Wednesdays after he got out of Bible study became out regular date night.

When did you know you were falling in love?
Not long after we started dating in 2017, I asked Tyler to take me to his favorite restaurant. Unfortunately, we arrived at Medi’s on Bass Road right at closing time. We offered to come back another day, but DJ and Darshawna insisted on serving us. So we insisted on taking our dinner to go. Tyler’s apartment was closer than mine. He hadn’t had time to clean or tidy, and I could tell he was a little embarrassed about the dishes in the sink and his unmade bed and the piles of books and receipts on the table. He had exactly one candle, for emergencies if the power went out, and lit it for us. After dinner, he gave me a tour, and we sat on the floor of his spare room as he showed me coins he’d collected from all over the world and his Lego sets, some of which were the same ones my brother David and I had played with as kids. He had a home I felt comfortable in. It was cozy. His earnestness about the things that interested him was so endearing. That night, I knew I could fall in love him. And I knew part of me had already started.

What is the most embarrassing/awkward moment with your partner? One of those moments when you knew it must be love if this person still loves me after this.
There were a lot of awkward, embarrassing moments, including Looney Tunes. (If he could still want to date me, and I him, after that, it must be serious.) The one that comes to mind, though, happened on March 10, 2018, the day Tyler proposed. We were visiting my parents in SC for the weekend and I’d known Tyler had procured my parents’ blessing the night we’d arrived. We’d designed the ring together months earlier, but I hadn’t thought he intended to ask me to marry him that same weekend. I had suggested the beach, after all! I was the only one who brought it up. My parents didn’t let on at all as they handed us bottles of water and encouraged us to have fun. Hunting Island, the beach we went to that day, had experienced massive damage during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017. Sand had been pushed into the parking lots in some areas and swept out to sea in others. Hundreds of trees had been snapped by the wind and bleached white by the salt water in the air. The blue sky of the morning had grown overcast as we pulled into one of the recently cleared parking lots. I zipped up a thin jacket and we took off down the beach. I told stories and pointed out features like the lighthouse and the campgrounds. On the way back, we were walking into the wind. My ears ached and my nose ran because of the cold. Between the lighthouse and the parking lot, Tyler suggested we head up into the trees. He wanted privacy to propose, but I thought he might be trying to give me a break from the wind. We trampled up the little sand hill, emerged into the trees, and stopped. It was a dead tree cemetery. White, bark-stripped trees lay in rows as far as we could see. Many were the tops of the dying trees around us. Tyler said, “Well this is kind of depressing.” I answered, “Yeah, but it’s kind of cool, too,” and tramped on ahead. After warning Tyler about snakes and mud—so romantic—he caught up with me and hugged me. His face was so full of love, it startled me. Then he wiped the snot from under my nose and kissed me. And if I hadn’t known before, I absolutely knew then that he loved me.

When did you realize this is the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?
During Hurricane Irma last year, my house lost power for 4 days. Morgan, my roommate and bridesmaid, had to be at work for almost 48 hours straight. I grew up on the coast, so I know what hurricanes are capable of, even far inland. I also remember seeing my cousins’ houses after the Mother’s Day tornado here in Macon in 2008. Tyler lives in a second-story apartment. I lived at the time in a house on the side of a hill with a half-basement. Of the two, the house is far safer in the event of a tornado. But for the first time, I didn’t wanted to be in the safer place as much as I wanted to be wherever Tyler was. I would rather be in Tyler’s second-story apartment, knowing he was okay, but possibly being in more personal danger, than in my basement without him. And I knew that feeling wouldn’t change. I wanted to be wherever Tyler was for the rest of my life.

What is the most loyal / endearing / sacrificial thing your partner has done for you?
Last summer, Tyler and I went to visit his friends Colby (a groomsman) and Tina and their daughter Harper for the weekend. We all went to the Atlanta Zoo together, then Tyler and I planned to go downtown to the Georgia Aquarium and, after, to a Persian restaurant Tyler used to enjoy eating at when he attended Georgia Tech. I had a migraine that day, but my symptoms were different than usual so I didn’t realize it. I was exhausted. I had a terrible headache. I threw up three or four times throughout the day (always in a bathroom, thankfully). And Tyler was so incredibly patient and attentive. I felt so badly that our fun day together had turned into such a fiasco. I was quiet, hardly talking with his friends, who I hadn’t met since college. I kept having to sit down. The Advil I always carry with me wasn’t doing anything. Even Harper could tell something was wrong. She was only two, but she noticed I was hanging back and took my hand to lead me up to the glass at the panda exhibit. I didn’t want to ruin the day, so I said I felt okay to stay, then okay to go downtown. We braved the CNN Center crowds to get me a smoothie after I could only eat a couple of fries at Johnny Rockets at lunch. The moving sidewalk at the GA Aquarium gave me vertigo. I had to physically lean on Tyler to keep my upright while we waited to see the sea lion show. I was miserable, and sure I was making him miserable. Of course we didn’t even try to go to the Persian restaurant. The smell of my potato soup at dinner sent me running for the bathroom (and I barely made it). Tyler did not complain. Not once during the day. Not once since. He didn’t express any frustration with me or let me feel guilty. He spent the entire day focused on what I wanted and needed. He insisted that he only felt sorry that I felt so badly, and didn’t care if we went to the aquarium or his favorite restaurant or went home to Macon immediately. Anything to help me feel better. So even though it was a horrible, miserable time in a lot of ways, I have really good memories from that day, too.

What do they do that drives you crazy?
I’m not going to publicly criticize Tyler, so I’m not going to share anything he does that drives me crazy. Instead, I’m going to talk about baseball. It’s Tyler’s favorite sport and his favorite team is the Atlanta Braves. The first time I saw him and the first time I met him, he was wearing a Braves hat. Before we started dating, I’d watched exactly 4 baseball games in my entire life: two college baseball games, one Braves game at Turner Field, and the game when the Cubs won the World Series. That was it. And, honestly, I could probably go back to that life pretty easily. But Tyler loves it. Even though baseball is played outside. In summer. In Georgia. Even though there are 162 games a year. That’s a 4-hour game almost every single day for an ungodly number of the hottest months of the year. 162 games a year. One hundred. And sixty-two. Not including playoffs, spring training, or the All-Star game. For every single team. When the game is really good, it could only be 3 hours long. When it’s bad, it could be 4. Or 5. Or 6. Or 3. At least in football there’s a clock. But I’ve learned to enjoy baseball. I’ve learned to recognize the Braves players in their batting helmets and in the dugout. I’ve memorized their positions. I pretend to understand when Tyler starts complaining about the Braves’ home record. I loudly criticize the Indians’ racist logo and name and have developed an unreasonably strong dislike of the Marlins and the Nationals. I know the only place in SunTrust Park to get a funnel cake is the 300 level by the elevators. I’ve learned to recognize a balk! I take a lot of naps now. Tyler loves baseball and I love to see him enjoying it. And I’ve learned to enjoy baseball, too. Which is good, because the Braves are still in the playoffs, Tyler will be spending at least 4 hours every day of our honeymoon in the hotel room watching them play. (Don’t worry, I packed a lot of books.)

What qualities/attributes do you see in your partner that you most admire?
Tyler loves learning about other cultures and languages. He’s curious about how other people live and appreciates all the differences he finds. He’s patient. He listens. He makes me feel safe. Although I’m a words person and he’s a math person, he assumes that I can understand his work and takes the time to explain it. He’s tender-hearted and trustworthy. He makes me laugh. He’s a good cook and baker. The people he lets into his heart, he’d do anything for.

What is attractive to you about his relationship with Christ?
Tyler’s curious. He wants to learn and will go to great lengths to do so. Sometimes he focuses on learning Korean so he can better chat with his former supervisor when we run into him at Publix. Sometimes he focuses on prayer, or why the church is structured the way it is, or stories about God’s role in others’ lives. He loves God deeply and wants others to have the hope that we do, but he also wants those who don’t share our beliefs to know they are safe with him and appreciated by him. When we pray together, Tyler holds my hand and leans his head to touch mine, reaffirming that we’re a team and a family and connected, whether we’re blessing a meal or praying for our families or listening to someone else pray. He spends a long time pondering things in his heart before he acts, and I have confidence in him as a leader and partner.

Emails to My Senators

I haven’t been writing blog posts lately because
1. I’ve been planning my wedding,
2. I’m in the process of moving,
3. I’ve been calling and emailing my Senators regarding Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

I believe sexual assault survivors of all genders. I’m sick to death of men deciding that crimes against women don’t matter, particularly if the culprits are straight white men, the wealthier the better. And I believe a great deal will be lost if Kavanaugh is confirmed. I am increasingly convinced that most people who support Kavanaugh’s appointment believe Dr. Ford. They just don’t care. They don’t think sexual assault matters. If they did, Trump wouldn’t have been elected. But he was, and Kavanaugh was nominated, and here we are. Women are still less than human. Powerful men can still shout and rant and interrupt Senators and lie under oath and be appointed for the highest court in the country. (Although I pray and pray that he won’t be.) Therefore, I have been contacting my senators, including Lindsey Graham on the Senate Judiciary Committee, multiple times a day.

Below are two of the emails I wrote to my Senators today.

To Senator Tim Scott:
I am calling on Senator Scott to demand the White House ask the FBI to reopen the probe into the three allegations of sexual assault brought by Dr. Ford, Ms. Ramirez, and Ms. Swetnick against Brett Kavanaugh. This is a job interview process for a permanent position on the highest court in the country. We cannot risk putting an ill-qualified judge into that position.

Kavanaugh has already lied under oath during these proceedings. If his word cannot be trusted about the legality of his past actions—such as whether it was legal for him to consume alcohol in Maryland when he was a teenager—his overall character and all allegations against him must be subject to the closest scrutiny.

During the past few days, Senator Graham has demonstrated alarming partisanship while threatening to abuse his power in “revenge” against Democratic candidates. I am relying on Senator Scott to uphold the integrity of the Senate, the Supreme Court confirmation process, and South Carolina by demanding the reopening of the FBI probe. Until that time, I urge the Senator to call for the delay of all votes.

To Senator Lindsey Graham:
I have placed multiple calls to your local and DC offices over the past 24 hours and your voicemail inboxes remain full. It is obvious that you do not want to hear from your constituents. However, your outrageous displays of partisanship cannot go unanswered by the people you represent.

Considering your previous service in the Air Force, I expected you to put the interests of your country above that of your party. Considering your position as the senior senator representing South Carolina, I expected you to uphold the integrity of the Senate and our state. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I expected you to uphold the integrity of the confirmation process. Instead, you undid all your work with Senator Durbin on the Dreamers bill, impugned the reputation of our state, betrayed the best interests of the country to appease the Trump base, and threatened to abuse your power by taking “revenge” against Democratic candidates. In short, you have behaved shamefully.

The only way to begin to make this up to your constituents is to demand the White House ask the FBI to reopen the probe into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh and to delay all votes until that probe is complete.

Your state is watching. We will remember in 2020.

Finding Comfort

The wedding is planned. We have a few odds and ends to put together, but the main thing we have left is just confirming the number of attendees for the chair rentals and caterer. (Have you sent in your RSVP yet? We really need those.)

Now, we’re focused on packing up my things from the house where I’ve lived for 5 years and moving them into Tyler’s apartment. We’re doing so gradually but making large strides. All my books and two bookshelves are already set up. My winter clothes, scarves, blankets, and boots have been sitting in Tyler’s guest bedroom for months.

Along the way, we’re doing our best to clean out clothes we don’t wear or that don’t fit anymore, books we aren’t enjoying, and knick-knacks that no longer spark joy. I find myself most prone to doing so when I first get up and at the end of the day, putting off going to bed in favor of closing up one more box.

My late grandmother and I are nostalgic and sentimental and have a talent for squirreling away letters, cards, bookmarks, and “dust catchers” as my dad calls them. This weekend, I rediscovered several birthday and Christmas cards from her. I found one my late aunt had also written in. And my late great-aunt. And friends I’ve long ago lost touch with. I’m getting rid of a lot, but I’m also grateful to have squirreled away so much. Like photos in frames that I can now use to reserve tables at my wedding reception. And a set of 4 hand-crank music boxes I bought in Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid almost ten years ago.

In college, I displayed them on my bookshelf and desk, ever ready for my fingers when I felt sad or lonely. I would take one—maybe the one whose box featured a detail from Klimt’s “The Kiss”—and sit on the edge of my bed, slowly winding the cool silver crank. At some point, perhaps when I moved in five years ago, I lined them up in a padded bag and tucked them behind the journals on the shelf in my bedroom to be organized later. And there they stayed. No batteries to corrode. No dust to taint. Just waiting, their location sliding out of memory.

Saturday night, I carried the bag to the sofa and drew them out, one at a time, keeping them in the order I’d originally packed them in. I turned each crank, remembering the tune as the notes sounded in the dark room. Then I played each again. The same solace soothed my heart as the first time I’d ever heard them, in noisy, echoing gift shops at the Palace of Versailles and the Prado Museum and the Gaudi Museum.

I had also listened to them the day I dropped my first college class. And the morning I started drafting my first book. And the afternoon I realized one of my best friends found me dispensable. And the night before the first day of my internship. And the evening my grandfather died. They were lost by the time my grandmother, and then my aunt, passed. So I played them again with those women in my mind.

Because today is September 11, I think it’s a fine day to take comfort as I remember.

Several years ago, I discovered “Boatlift,” a 12-minute documentary about the hundreds of ordinary people who brought their boats to evacuate lower Manhattan after the first tower fell. It was the largest maritime evacuation in human history.

The story reminds. It draws one in. And it focuses on goodness and courage and our shared humanity. If you haven’t yet seen it, today may be a good day to do so.

I also recommend the Broadway musical Come From Away, which tells the story of Gander, the small Canadian town that hosted thousands of passengers who were stranded when the US airspace was closed. I saw the musical in New York more than a year ago and have listened to the soundtrack countless times since. A performance of the first song, “Welcome to the Rock,” is here:

If you aren’t sure how deeply you want to wade into the painful waters today, I hope you find the comfort you need.

The LORD is my Shepherd…

My sleep schedule has been a little off lately. I’ve struggled to stay awake at 3pm and lain wide awake at 3am. Around midnight last night, as I waited (and waited) to fall asleep, I enjoyed a good long talk with God. Somewhere in there, I took out my phone and used voice-to-text to rewrite Psalm 23 one line at a time. In the daylight, I’ve enjoyed my midnight brain’s insights and priorities. Instead of continuing the shepherd imagery, I named simple ways that God cares for and blesses me.

It’s not my intention to belittle this gorgeous and beloved song of praise. This was simply an exercise in thinking through a familiar passage in an unfamiliar way, personalizing a Scriptural prayer while giving a formal structure to my own prayers of thanks. (Additionally, I’ve been trying to step away from using male pronouns for God in my personal prayers, as God is neither male nor female, so I avoided them here.)

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not starve for anything.
God encourages me to lie down and take a nap,
God reminds me to drink water,
God restores my soul.
God guides me toward righteousness paths
because that’s God’s character.
Yea, though I walk
through the darkest news cycles,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
rom coms and my roommate’s dog,
they comfort me.

You prepare chicken casserole for me
in the presence of the racist Twitter followers I had to block.
You bless me with cat videos;
my laughter overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will find me
all the days of my life,
and I will call the house of the LORD “home”
forever.

What would your version of Psalm 23 look like? What comforts you? What does God prepare for you? Who are your enemies and when are you most afraid? I’d love to hear your variations!

Weekend Watching and Summer Reading

Weekend Watching Recap

1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Netflix)
A 16 year old’s secret letters to her crushes, some years old, get mailed. Including one to her first kiss and one to her neighbor, who her older sister just broke up with. Yikes. A soon-to-be-classic teen romance starring an East Asian protagonist.

2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Netflix)
Just after WWII, a London writer begins conversing with a member of a book club on Guernsey, an island in the English Channel which was under German occupation. The writer travels there to meet the club’s members, including her handsome pen pal, and begins uncovering the mystery of what happened to the book club’s founding member.

3. Crazy Rich Asians (theater)
An NYU economics professor is invited to join her boyfriend on a trip home to Singapore for a friend’s wedding, where she discovers he’s the “crazy rich” Prince Harry of Southeast Asia. And almost no one—from his mother to the bride’s friends to strangers on the street—are happy about him choosing a “commoner”. A modern Cinderella retelling with an all Asian cast.

All three movies are based on books! Speaking of books…

Summer Reading Recap

Furyborn by Claire Legrand
If you don’t like fantasy, this book is my best hope for changing your mind.

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean
A compelling, complex, nuanced love story that begins with a petition for divorce.

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford
A novel about the real journey that inspired at least 3 of Agatha Christie’s novels, including her most famous.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
One of the best Agatha Christie’s I’ve read yet.

Jackaby series by William Ritter
Sherlock meets Grimm-style fairytales in an alternate 19th-century NYC.

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant
While filming a mockumentary in the Marianas Trench, the crew discovers real (murderous) mermaids.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
I’ve written about this book before. Basically, it’s a novel in prose and you need it in your life.

Tropic of Squalor by Mary Karr
A short but deep collection of poetry by a best-selling, hilarious memoirist.

The Martian by Andy Weir
I’ve read this 4 times in as many years.

2 Wedding To-Do Lists

Yesterday was exactly 2 months—61 days—until our wedding. Tyler and I spent this past weekend with my family, playing games and eating barbecue and addressing, stuffing, and stamping our wedding invitations. Despite the massiveness of this accomplishment, and of how excited I am to be just 2 months away from our wedding day, I’m finding myself in a constant hum of low level stress about all the details still needing to be handled.

Here is yesterday’s wedding task to-do list:
-Address, stamp, and stuff invitations for 2 remaining wedding party members
-Address 3 final invitations
-Distribute invitations to coworkers
-Mail all invitations
-Email florist
-Email coordinator
-Fill out coordinator’s questionnaire
-Review photographer’s timeline
-Forward timeline to coordinator
-Call salon to make wedding day apts
-Email Maid of Honor re: mobility needs for hotel
-Call hotels re: mobility accessible rooms
-Visit 2 hotels to look at mobility accessible rooms
-Book hotel room
-Update “Accommodations” section of wedding website
-Research traveler’s insurance for honeymoon
-Email photos to the bridesmaid who’s designing the guestbook

And on top of all those wedding items, I went to work, went grocery shopping, cooked dinner with Tyler, and read a little. Only 3 items didn’t get done. It was a productive day and I feel good about it!

Here’s today’s wedding to-do list:
-Fill out coordinator’s questionnaire
-Call salon to make wedding day apts
-Research traveler’s insurance for honeymoon
-RSVP “no” to 2 showers that conflict with wedding events
-Order gifts for 2 showers

Honestly, despite the amount I got done yesterday, it’ll probably take me a couple days to finish what’s left on this list. I’m already getting tired and my schedule today gives me less time to get wedding-related things done.

I like to try to get a lot done early in the week, when I’m energetic and am still capable of making decisions. By Thursday and Friday—sometimes even by Wednesday—I’m asking Tyler to pick what we’re having for dinner, napping after work instead of making calls or cleaning, and telling my bridesmaids that whatever they want for the shower/dinner/art project will be fine. By the end of the week, I’m less capable of handling the volume.

In addition to the big party and big trip I’m planning, I’m moving in two months. I’m trying to enjoy the time left with my roommate and her dog, stay on top of my nutrition and exercise, maintain my close relationships, prepare for married life, make sure family members and friends feel included, get ahead on my work projects, write occasionally, read, clean, check the weather, do laundry, and not bore everyone around me by talking about all these things.

One weeknight recently, Tyler asked me if anything was wrong. I had been quiet for a while, trying to think plan for all that needs to be done. I asked him to tell me that we’re going to get everything done and everything’s going to be okay.

I thought it’d be nice, though definitely not necessary, to hear. When he repeated my words, though, so sweetly, I started crying. I hadn’t let myself feel the weight of my stress until that moment. I hadn’t meant to let myself feel it at all.

Tyler asked me to pick two things I was stressed about. I picked unpacking wedding shower gifts and writing thank you notes, and for the next hour he worked on one while I worked on the other. Then we picked two things we couldn’t work on immediately—packing and moving a nightstand from my house to his apartment—and promised to make progress on them this week.

All-in-all, there really isn’t much left to do. Everything and everyone necessary for the wedding and reception are booked. My calendar knows who needs to be paid when. It’s the details that are adding up now. Still, as my aunt told me earlier today, this is normal. It doesn’t feel like it, but it is.

The most important thing is that we are blessed with friends and family and family-to-be who love us and who we want to celebrate with. The lists will get done. Or they won’t. Lord willing, we’ll be married in two months. And that’s all that matters.

Taking Sick Time

I’ve noticed a weird pattern. I’m extremely hesitant every time I feel the need to take a sick day, or even sick hours.

I could have a migraine and be squinting out the light from my phone’s dimmest setting, but I’d still wonder if my boss would believe me for calling in sick. I could be throwing up as the sun rises and I’d wonder if I should try to go in that afternoon. Even if I don’t have pressing deadlines or major projects underway, I struggle to accept my need to take sick time.

I can know I’m on the precipice between feeling poorly and being actually ill, but taking a day to rest and recover feels like an indulgence. As do the monthly massages that significantly reduce the frequency of my migraines. When I’m depressed or need to leave work early for therapy or something else that helps my brain manage its chemical equilibrium, I never take sick time. Even though I know my brain needs care the way the rest of me does, I am ruled by the stigma associated with mental illness, the idea that productivity equals worth, and my own anxiety about being seen as dedicated to my job.

In “Missing Hope: A Trio of Miscarriages, and What Happened After,” Laura Turner writes, “Sick is a feeling as much as a state of being, and it makes you feel Victorian in the worst way, like a woman sent to bed for being weak, which is an especially tough blow in a culture where your value is predicated on your professional productivity.”

And there’s the idea that you must be productive—constantly productive—to be valuable in any way. Yes, we’re paid to work, and so rightly must work to be paid, but there’s also the sense that taking sick time demonstrates a lack of devotion. Or worse, indicates weakness. I’m much less likely to take a sick day on a Monday or Friday because I don’t want people to think I’m lying about being sick. And whenever I must email in sick, I over explain and over justify, trying to make sure my boss knows I’m devoted to my work and to being on a team, but also too ill to be a good employee that morning, or that day.

Last Monday was a day like that. I’d struggled with headaches all day Sunday and medicine made little to no difference. After a wonderful day Saturday with my mom and grandmother and two of my three bridesmaids, and a beautiful bridal shower thrown by Tyler’s family, I thought at first that I was just drained. I’m an introvert who’d spent a lot of time in others’ company the day before. For all the good of that day, I’d need some time to recover. And I probably didn’t drink enough water the day before, and that could account for my headache. I’d mostly muscled and drowned it into subservience by Sunday night, but when I woke around 4 Monday morning, I had a full-blown migraine.

I took medicine immediately and rubbed a special blend of peppermint and eucalyptus oils on my forehead to try to take the edge off. I curled up on my side in the dark room and waited. Nearly an hour later, the pain had lessened enough that I thought I could sleep. But I also knew I wouldn’t be recovered enough in two hours to go to work. I flinched at the light of my screen as I emailed my boss and turned off my alarms. Then I turned the screen off and finally fell back asleep.

In the morning, as expected, the remains of my migraine remained. Maybe by 9, I thought. Then, I’ll aim for 10. Probably by noon or 1. None of which came to pass. I snacked when I felt up to walking around. I wrote a few thank you notes while I sipped Gatorade.

Around noon, head still pounding, I lay down on the sofa. When I next woke, it was 2pm. I felt much better! I got up and walked upstairs, calculating how fast I could get ready and by what time I’d reach the office. The sunshine filtering through the slits in the blinds was uncomfortably bright. I took another sip of Gatorade as my forehead began to hum. I decided I’d try to read, to make sure I’d be okay doing the same activity at work. Ten minutes later, book abandoned, laying down with more peppermint oil on my temples, I finally gave up on making it to work that day.

I am so grateful that I had felt so well on Saturday for the shower and all the fun we had together. I’m grateful I have paid sick time. I’m annoyed with myself for feeling guilty for using it. I’m annoyed that I struggled to admit to myself that I just wasn’t well enough to go, even when there were only a few hours left in the day. I frustrated that the demands of productivity are so closely tied to the idea of worthiness. And I’m aware that the ones who most suffer this are disabled.

Thank you to all the disabled rights advocates, past and present, whose work betters the world for everyone, every day.

For those interested in exploring these themes in fiction, I recommend On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis.

For those interested in learning more about the social work of disabled people, try A Disability History of the United States and Enabling Acts.

Poetry is Saving My Life

Last Wednesday, I read Liz Deere’s exceptional blog post, “Life Savers.” In it, she explains the origins behind a question I’ve heard asked, and liked, for a while now: What is saving your life? I encourage you to go read the post, and the rest of Liz’s work. For Liz, meeting around the table with friends was saving her life. Poetry was saving mine.

Tyler had had a long, rough day. I lay down on the couch with him for a while, until he was soothed and asleep, then slipped away and fetched the book I’d started several days earlier: Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming. I bought the book years and years ago. I’ve even given it to others, on all the highest recommendations, without having read it.

At the moment, I’m galloping through my existing library, trying books I’ve had for years, giving them just 20 minutes to capture me or they go in the “to give away” pile. Even books I finish and thoroughly enjoy, I often put into the “to give away” pile. I don’t need them taking up space on my shelves or in the future’s moving truck unless I intend to treasure them for years. And a great many books, though I enjoy them, are not that way. Many were, but I no longer need them as I once did. I want them to go to people who need their stories, who will read and love them as they were meant to be read and loved.

Several nights before as I prepared to take a long, hot bath, I picked Brown Girl Dreaming because it is a memoir in verse and I expected it wouldn’t take me long to finish. I felt almost manic that night, wanting to get things done, get things through, to add to my piles and give one pile away. But I couldn’t go to sleep that way.

One of the many wonders of poetry is that it doesn’t care about your desired pace. In poems, time and rhythm and pacing and focus exists differently, uniquely, almost-but-not-quite rigidly.

Reading a book of poetry, whether done over years or a few hours, is like slipping your head under the meniscus of the ocean. You can surface after each poem or stay under and explore the depths until your lungs burn and your legs feel leaden. But for every moment you are reading, your body moves with foreign resistance and unearned grace. The currents determine how quickly and how well and they are not yours. They don’t listen to you. Someone else has already decided how this will flow. The experience can leave one gasping and disoriented or invigorated and refreshed. I have enough experience with poetry, like swimming, that I’m usually of the latter. Even so, I can put my head up and find the landscape completely changed from what I remember.

When I finished the last poem in Woodson’s collection, I wrote “Mom” on a blue post it and stuck it to the front cover. Then I curled up next to Tyler and let my mind float again through the words and phrases, images and sounds I’d gathered while swimming. And it sustained me long past when he woke.

The following morning I encountered a photo of Mary Karr’s poem, “VI. Wisdom: The Voice of God” from her new collection, Tropic of Squalor. “Ninety percent of what’s wrong with you,” the poem begins, “could be cured with a hot bath”.

Yes, I thought. Brown Girl Dreaming.

A story also surfaced, one I heard Mary Karr tell at a lecture at Georgia Southern when I was still an undergrad there. When Karr was an alcoholic, and when she and her husband were divorcing, she would hear a voice that tried to take care of her. It said things like, “You should make a sandwich.” And when she’d keep listening, it said, “You haven’t eaten all day. You should make a sandwich.” That voice was so kind, so wise, so invested in her well-being that she appreciated it and gradually learned to listen to it. That voice, she told us, she eventually understood as the voice of God.

“VI. Wisdom: The Voice of God” she’d titled the poem. “Ninety percent of what’s wrong with you could be cured with a hot bath…”. And at the end, ”Put down that gun, you need a sandwich.”

The ocean of poetry is as much a gift from God as the air around us, the sandwich that will sustain us. And poetry is saving my life this week.

Poems:
“I Wash the Shirt” by Anna Swir
“Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath
“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes
“Bareback Pantoum” by Cecilia Woloch
“This Happened” by C. K. Williams
“Apostrophe to the Apostrophe” by Eric Nelson

Novels and Collections:
Brown Girl Dreaming Jacqueline Woodson
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Teratology by Susannah Nevison
A Book of Luminous Things edited by Czeslaw Miłosz
On Paying Attention by James A. Autry

Trousseau

Trousseau (n) — the clothes, household linen, and other belongings collected by a bride for her marriage

The first and probably last time I encountered this word, I was in elementary school and reading whichever Little House on the Prairie book that Laura gets married in. She and her sisters and mother sew curtains, embroider handkerchiefs, and finish new dresses for her trousseau. They stack finished items in her hope chest, which sounded like such an antiquated concept, I was shocked when I learned that a couple childhood friends had one. For those friends, it was just a place to store things that they wanted to keep into adulthood. Opening my friend Joni’s, peeking inside with her, felt reverent. There was her great-grandmother’s quilt. Some of her baby clothes. And not much else, honestly. We were eight. Marriage, let alone having a home of my own, felt infinitely far away. I forgot about hope chests and trousseaus.

Until Saturday morning. I woke early, played with the dog, chatted with my roommate, and went to the local mall to do a lot of shopping. I had a game plan for where to park, the order in which I visited stores, and what I was looking for in each. I had budgeted and researched for the watch I wanted, the shoes I hoped to find, a new dress for an upcoming bridal shower. All the stores were having sales and I’d downloaded a number of coupons.

After about an hour, I reached Pier 1 to look at nightstands and other furniture for the guest room we don’t yet have a bed for. While there, I examined flatware we don’t need and platters I chose not to register for. Standing in front of a bread pan that said, “Mr. and Mrs. established 2018,” I asked myself, What are you doing?

This wasn’t normal behavior for me. These weren’t my normal spending habits. Yes, I tend to buy nothing for a long time, then buy a lot of needed items all at once. Yes, I like interior design and haven’t had many opportunities to enact my visions on the space I inhabit. Yes, I’m excited for a place I can decorate and arrange to suit our purposes. But I know we don’t need a 2nd nightstand for the guest room yet. That’s one more thing we’ll have to move when we move out, which may only be a year away.

I’d never even been inside a Pier 1 before. Why did I make a point to come here and look at one? Why am I looking at all these platters I won’t need, especially as I already registered for some I like a lot more? And I’ve been on a hunt for new dresses, shoes, and other clothing necessities as if I’m about to move to the middle of 100 acres. What am I trying to accomplish?

Trousseau.

The word fairly floated into my consciousness. I grasped at it, held it in my hands, and let my mind pull forward its connected memories. I couldn’t even be sure of the definition of the word at first. I hear about nesting, the stage in which expecting parents try to make their homes suitable to their coming child or children, including decorating and other, strictly speaking, unnecessary steps. But I hadn’t heard of the trousseau stage, the urge to acquire domestic items for a new stage of domestic life.

Expectations play into this. I’m about to be married. What do married people have/need (other than a spouse) that I don’t? What am I supposed to have?

Making a wedding registry was a firm step down this path. We put everything we think we’ll need on it, and there wasn’t much. So we leaned back and dreamed, thought about what would be nice or helpful. I asked myself how others’ expectations of me will change and what we’ll need to meet those expectations. I also thought about the furniture I’ll be bringing to our new home. It’s only a few pieces, but I still find myself planning and measuring and doodling a lot, deciding where things can go, how to make the rooms look more put together, more finished, and more functional long-term.

Except, I know we could be moving out in a year. It doesn’t need to be long-term functional. Just functional for a year. After that, we’ll reevaluate.

Still, it’s tempting to go after those plans and dreams now. To look at prices and measurements for that cabinet, that nightstand, and a basket for spare toiletries in the guest bathroom. On the cusp of a big life transition, long-term hopes and dreams that feel more immediate, giving me a false sense of urgency to keep working, keep buying, keep organizing.

I know waiting leaves me more options, and that future Katie will be grateful.

And yet, I’m also bringing large tubs full of blankets and winter clothes to place in that future guest room. A couple pairs of boots and both my winter coats are there are well. I’m planning which sheets to bring with me and which to leave for my roommate. What I should do with my old, raggedy towels? What items will I be bringing with me into my marriage?

Trousseau (n) — plastic tubs full of hope and plans