The View from Here


Squinty selfie

When my hubby Steve and I attended the local Wedding Crawl a few weeks back, we snapped a photo on the top deck corner of the Rooftop, Center in the Square. It was our attempt to reprise, in a spontaneous selfie, a shot taken from the same perspective on our wedding day, almost seven and a half months ago now. Behind us, in the background, you can see the peak of one of our Blue Ridge Mountains–which, I’m not sure–and slices of the roofs of the art museum and City Market building in our beloved downtown. The sky above and behind us is a bright, clear robin’s egg blue, the sky I’d hoped for the day we got married. In the foreground, we squint. The sun is so fiercely bright, we duck our heads forward, as we smile and try to open our eyes even a sliver against the glare.

The day we walked down the aisle, the sky was filled with clouds: rolling, steel-hued, oh-please-don’t-rain-clouds. That day, clouds were a disappointment. On the day of this photo, as we grimaced against the light, it became clear those wedding day clouds might have been a blessing. Now, as I gaze at the resulting picture, I’m reminded of a lesson I first learned on another set of cloudy-then-sunny days, long ago: you can attempt a repeat performance, but to reprise anything with any accuracy is nigh impossible.

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One summer during my twenties, I met up with my friend and former roomie Sara for a visit that included a trip to Six Flags, an amusement park just outside of Atlanta. It was a bit overcast that day, so the park was less crowded than usual. When the cloud cover broke into rain showers, the park all but emptied. Sara and I made a circuit or two of the indoor Monster Mansion ride during the worst of the rain. After it let up, we hit Splashwater Falls and made several trips down Thunder River—we were already damp, and there were practically no lines, so why not ride our faves multiple times, no waiting? When the rain stopped after an hour or two, we circled back to the car and put on the dry clothes we’d brought just in case. We returned to the park and stayed into the evening, playing Skeeball and enjoying the still-short wait times for a couple rounds on our favorite roller coaster, the Great American Scream Machine. We had such a great day and so much fun we decided to reprise our trip the following year.

Fast forward: when we arrived at Six Flags the next year, it was sunny—and steaming hot. The lines were outrageous, and, if I recall correctly, one or both of us developed a nasty headache. Sara and I had hoped to relive the fun of our first visit, but the attempt failed utterly. And our disappointment was doubled because our expectations were so high. We met up for a girls’ weekend almost every summer for several years to follow, but we never went back to Six Flags again.

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Aside from the dramatic change in weather, there were other obvious differences between Steve’s and my wedding day and the day of the squinty selfie. The day we married, we were dressed to the nines, color-coordinated, with hair and makeup (mine anyway)—not to mention the photograph itself—styled by professionals. We were surrounded by friends and family, high on love and adrenaline. On so many levels there’s simply no way to recreate that day. And maybe that’s as it should be; a wedding is, by definition, a special occasion, heightened in meaning and significance.

But not even an ordinary day can be exactly recreated. To paraphrase the wise words of Greek philosopher Heraclitus, no one can step in the same river twice: it’s not the same river, and you are not the same you. Time moves forward, and so do we. Perhaps a less eloquent way of putting it: there are no do-overs. Each moment in our lives is its own singular experience, and that’s good. That is, in fact, a gift. If we recognize it as such, we’re more likely to be present in the present. “Clinging to moments,” writes memoirist Helen Brown “is futile. The trick is to appreciate their beauty, do your best by them, and let them go as graciously as possible.”

In our reprised photo, Steve and I are a little older, a little plumper, a lot more casual, and decidedly more crinkly around the eyes than in our rooftop wedding portrait. In the months since we married, we’ve shared many more smiles, had a couple more arguments, shed a few more tears, and laughed loudly and often. We’ve snuggled and questioned and kissed and comforted through cloudy days and sunny. Each day, we discover and understand one other anew.

Yet even as the world changes and we change with it, we still stand side by side, surrounded by the town and mountains we call home, looking forward together. The view is pretty spectacular. Now we just have to be sure to keep our eyes wide open, so as not to miss a moment.

Woven Whimsy (more thoughts on nesting)

Woven Whimsy: Stickworks by Patrick Dougherty, Atlanta Botanical Garden - Gainesville

View of Woven Whimsy: Stickworks by Patrick Dougherty, currently on display at the Atlanta Botanical Garden – Gainesville


Late 15th century, past participle form of weave: from the Old English wefan, meaning “to weave, form by interlacing yarn.” Cognates of weave include the Sanskrit ubhnati, “he laces together” and the Greek hyphe or hyphos, “web.” In the late 14th century weave took on the extended sense of “combine into a whole.”


Circa 1600, probably related to whimwham, meaning “fanciful object” and whim, as recorded in the 1690s, meaning “caprice, fancy, sudden turn or inclination of the mind.”

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Patrick Dougherty’s “Woven Whimsy: Stickworks” at the Atlanta Botanical Garden – Gainesville. I was intrigued in part by the name of the exhibition; I am, after all, the bride who declared her wedding decor style “vintage whimsical.”

Artist Dougherty was in residence from late March until early April and created the unplanned sculpture onsite from locally harvested wood, branches, and twigs. He’s completed over 250 such sculptures and has said about working with sticks that it is “something that stirs the sense of simple shelter.” Walking inside them stirred in me the same dizzying mix of wonder, comfort, and occasional chaos that is marriage.

The sculpture creates a sense of both enclosure and openness, the whirling weave of the sticks suggesting at once movement and stillness. The outsize scale and organic simplicity places the experience somewhere between wandering beneath towering skyscrapers and exploring a cluster of fairytale cottages.

From afar, they look almost like baskets, and like all art, they hold more than the substance of their making. They feel, inside, like giant sheltering nests, if nests had doors and windows.


Old English nest. Noun, “bird’s nest, snug retreat.” Cognates include the Sanskrit nidah, “resting place, nest.”


Adjective, 1650s, “making or using a nest.” Also refers to objects “fitted into one another.”


Where there is art, there is life. Long live whimsy!


All definitions adapted from the Online Etymology Dictionary.

catalyst: for change


I am thrilled to introduce my readers to catalyst wedding magazine, the wedding magazine “for wedding space disrupters,” and to share that my essay, “Making a Together Home,” appears in volume two of this beautiful publication!

I love, love, love the impetus behind catalyst. The editors recognized that there was a certain sameness to wedding magazines: the brides featured in the style shoots were invariably young, thin, white, and heterosexual, and most of the articles seemed to presume a lavish budget and slavish devotion to trend as well as tradition. As a bride who failed to fit into a number of these categories—starting with “young”—I often found myself somewhere between amused and horrified at the wedding industry vision of the “ideal bride.” The real-life brides I knew, and celebrations I’d attended, were quirky, authentic, and lovely. The “real wedding” sections of some bridal magazines do feature unconventional couples and approaches, but where were the gorgeous styled photo-shoots featuring older brides and plus-size brides? Or wedding planning advice from and for same-sex couples, or stories of ceremonies that blended faith and cultural traditions? Where were the perspectives of couples who embraced love and marriage but eschewed the conventions and pressures of the wedding-industrial complex?

Enter catalyst, which editor Liz Susong has described as “a wedding magazine that value[s] diverse representation, challenge[s] gender roles, and [is] tireless in advocating for equality.” From the perspective of applied feminism, catalyst explores what “it mean(s) to choose marriage and plan a wedding in this moment in time–in this political and historical context.”

Clearly, the magazine struck a chord: since its debut last year, it’s received national media attention and has been picked up for distribution by Barnes and Noble. Check out this list of the Barnes and Noble bookstores around the country where you can find catalyst. One of them, I’m glad to report, is right here in my home of Roanoke!

It was exciting to find the magazine on the shelf and especially fun to peruse my essay—a humorous chronicle of the challenges encountered when two middle-aged people with full lives and fuller homes blend households—at the local Barnes and Noble in Valley View Mall.

Bonus: Barnes and Noble is also currently stocking the spring issue of bridebook, which features a brief story about our big day, along with those of a number of other area celebrations, in its substantial real wedding stories section.

When I first visited the bridal magazine aisle looking for inspiration shortly after Steve and I got engaged, I felt overwhelmed and under-represented. It matters, seeing faces, bodies, lives that look like yours, reflecting back at you from the pages and pixels of the media. I’m so glad and grateful catalyst is leading the charge, and I’m honored to have my work be a part of the change.

If you see a copy of catalyst in your local Barnes and Noble, snap a pic with it and share it below, and/or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @catalystwedco @40firstimebride.

Wedding Crawl, Revisited

Last weekend, held their annual Wedding Crawl. Each year five downtown venues, working with local wedding professionals, pull out all the stops to create mock weddings in each space, featuring ceremony and/or reception set-ups complete with food, flowers, photographers and photo booths, music, lighting, and models dressed as brides, grooms, and wedding party. It’s rare opportunity to see the spaces fully decked out and filled with people, as they would be during an actual celebration. And it always benefits a good cause: this year, the Roanoke Valley SPCA.

Hubby Steve and I decided to revisit the Crawl this year. We’d attended the 2015 Crawl as then-prospective bride and groom and had so much fun: dancing in the Corinthian Ballroom, tasting cake at the Taubman. I even caught the bouquet in a prize-giveaway toss at Center in the Square. Even though we already had most of our vendors sewn up by then, the Crawl gave us a chance to see examples of their fully realized visions, which made us look forward to their creations for our own wedding day all the more.

This time was not about looking forward, but looking back. At our first stop, Charter Hall, Steve and I picked up the most recent copy of bridebook, which features our wedding story. At the Taubman, our next venue, we lingered in the ethereal ceremony space (created by Lighting Ninja and Gloriosa) as an RSO harpist began to play. Steve smiled and took my hand: it was Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” the music I’d walked in to at our ceremony.

At the Patrick Henry Hotel Ballroom, our photographer Noah Magnifico had some of our photos in his display, and we admired the lush elegance of the bouquets and centerpieces crafted by Mark Frye of Creative Occasions, who’d done such a beautiful job with our flowers.

We saved the Center in Square Rooftop, where we got married, for last. It was hopping. Creative Entertainment had fashioned a Vegas theme, complete with game tables, a bride who doubled as a mobile hors d’oeuvres table, showgirls, and Elvis. We picked up information on honeymoon travel–we still hope to take a romantic trip somewhere tropical–from Rose of the Winds Travels, and said hello to my stylist, the awesome Brandy Moorman of Bliss Studio. After tasting brunch menu samplings from Chanticleer Catering and delicious mini-cupcakes from For the Lsove of Sweets, we headed outside.

The view from the roof, as always, was breathtaking. It was sunny, if a little windy, with the clear, bright blue skies I’d hoped for on our big day. We attempted a selfie in the same spot on the upper deck where Noah had taken our wedding pictures, but we couldn’t stop squinting—maybe those dramatic rolling clouds had been a blessing in disguise? We walked down the staircase to the spot where we’d said our “I do’s.” We held hands and shared a happy kiss. Operation Newlywed Nostalgia was complete.

We missed the last featured venue, the White Room at Blue 5, where we’d been told a real wedding would take place as part of the crawl. Sadly, that meant we also missed the opportunity to taste delectations from our favorite baker, Evie’s Wildflour Wedding Cakes. Coconut cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache… mmmmm.

The Wedding Crawl felt different this year, minus the anticipation of our own nuptials and all the excitement (and anxiety!) that comes with waiting and wondering. But we were more than satisfied. It was a lovely day filled with beautiful sights and bountiful treats, and we’d already celebrated the real wedding that mattered most: ours.

My amazing vendors!

With two of our wonderful vendors, Noah Magnifico and Mark Frye, and our -bridebook- feature!

Nothing else, a lack of chocolate ganache notwithstanding, will ever compare.

Nesting: A Parable (of sorts)

imageOn hubby Steve’s and my first foray to what has since become our favorite local farm-to-table market, I was charmed by a set of three metal flower pots nested on a small oval tray. Enameled in graduated shades of dark-to-light, creating an ombré effect, the three pots’ Caribbean-sea hues recalled our wedding colors and provided a welcome contrast to the grim gray January sky. They were the also the perfect size for a small kitchen herb garden.

A large plastic pot in a similar turquoise caught my eye, too, along with a healthy aloe plant that reminded me of the one my mother had used to sooth our childhood sunburns. One small container each of thyme and oregano and a packet of basil seeds later, I was ready to warm up our winter kitchen with flora and flavor.

imageWe stashed the empty pots on the radiator by the front door as we unloaded groceries, where they stayed, as did the plants on the kitchen counter, for several weeks. One day I asked Steve to bring a bag of potting soil from the garage to the back porch for easy access, and he obliged. It rested there, undisturbed. Another week passed. I brought the pots into the kitchen. By then I’d realized we didn’t have a good spot for plants where they wouldn’t be knocked over or gnawed on by cats. We measured a window for a shelf and brackets, but another few weeks went by before we could get to the hardware store.

imageFinally, one afternoon during spring break, Steve gathered a level, screws, and drill and cut the shelf, while I re-potted the aloe and the herbs and rescued a rapidly wilting poinsettia and some ailing succulents. I painted the shelf ends, he installed it, and we arranged the plants on the shelf with an enormous sense of satisfaction.

After all, it had only taken us seven weeks from start to finish.

March 11th marked seven months to the day since Steve and I took up full-time residence together in our new old house. We’d held our wedding one month after move-in, taking a week away from academia for our celebration and a brief honeymoon. Then it was back to full-time teaching and administrating. Since then we’ve amassed, between the two of us, a total of eight work trips plus four visits with family, and we’re looking ahead to a similar travel schedule between now and June.

It’s hardly surprising we still have boxes stacked down the hallway and in the living room, or that we’ve only managed to paint one room of the house. I’d be astonished if we had managed to settle in fully. I don’t feel surprise at our lack of progress. I feel…thwarted.

imageSeven weeks of combined efforts, sandwiched betwixt and amongst the myriad other demands and desires of our rich (and wonderful!) lives—for one simple shelf and a few sprouts. We’re in it, in more ways than one, for the long haul.

I’ve been a little quiet recently because I’ve been overwhelmed. By work. By the news. By losses I’ve witnessed, near and far. Even, forgive me, by the abundance of my blessings.

In other words, by life.

That’s not a complaint, merely an observation. I honestly believe if we don’t feel overwhelmed, at least on occasion, by this world we inhabit, we aren’t fully inhabiting our humanity. I’ve also found that when I feel that way, it’s helpful to step back and take time to notice the good. To squeeze someone’s hand and tell them they matter. To say “I love you,” and “Thank you.” To find beauty in the smallest flower, feel success in the smallest accomplishment.

imageI paint turquoise polka dots on the poinsettia pot’s nondescript brown rim. Add a little sparkle with a glittery bluebird pick in the pot of the heart-shaped cactus known as the “Sweetheart Cactus,” the “Lucky Heart.”

Each morning, I smile at our shelf of growing greens. Each evening, as Steve and I make dinner together, we watch the sun set through the window that frames the ocean-sky blues of the pots that hold the seeds we’ve planted, the seeds that slowly, resolutely sprout, grow, exceed.

For now, for this day: it is enough.

bird and heart


Don’t let a rebound Trump your reason


Photo by

Having now been romantically attached for the longest stretch of my life ever—three years, counting courtship and marriage—I’ve come to recognize that some of the best things about being in a committed relationship are the things that aren’t part of the deal. Namely, the pain of break-ups and being on the rebound.

Single disastrous date or months-long misguided relationship, a rebound is usually ill-begotten and ill-advised. Most of us make questionable choices in the throes of grief and anger. After I exited a longterm relationship with an organizationally-challenged artist and musician who regularly joked he “needed an adult,” I dated a highly structured man; he always had a plan and managed all the details. It was a relief to have someone else make decisions and take control—until he began speaking for me when I preferred to speak for myself. Another time, rebounding from dating an adventure-seeker, I was charmed by a quiet man’s declaration that he believed in moderation and taking things slowly. We took things slowly all right: he disappeared between dates, then ghosted me altogether. Convincing myself to go out with a young, brash, frat-boy type after a witty doctor broke my heart = the single most awkward date of my life.

carrie-bradshaw-168827_w1000The “What was I thinking?” rebound is exemplified by Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. She drowns her sorrows by hooking up with a celebrity, only to realize when he offers a toothbrush and t-shirt the next morning that he keeps an entire drawer full of the items to supply his multiple conquests. Worse, you can make a bad judgment call in the dim light of loss and wake up next to someone violent or strung out, or to extra partners with whom you (surprise!) don’t recall agreeing to share your revenge sex.

Rebounds are reactive. We feel rejected so we return the rejection the only way we can: by finding and throwing ourselves at someone as different from the lost love as possible. We choose bad matches and bad boys (or girls) to spite the exes, eager to show just how over them we really are. We take risks, eschew reason, even flout our bad and ultimately self-destructive decisions. As if lashing out in that way ever hurt anyone but ourselves.

And now the citizens of the US of A are on the rebound, and I fear we’re about to wake up in bed with some big, bad regrets.

A lot of people are angry and disappointed. Many are still feeling the effects of the financial crisis of 2008, reeling from loss of jobs, retirement savings, even homes. College students are concerned about mounting educational debt and limited employment opportunities. Some voters on the left have been frustrated that Obama’s program has been less progressive than promised, while those on the right are even more frustrated by the opposite, by what they see as an impotent Republican congress: after they voted for politicians who vowed to repeal the ACA, to foil the President’s immigration policies, to block his agenda, their elected representatives have failed to do much of anything.

While I would argue you’re not “disenfranchised” just because you didn’t get your way, I understand that an awful lot of folks feel misled. You were courted. Promises were made. You did your part.

And then you got dumped.

So you’re angry. You’re grieving. You feel rejected and lost and dismissed. What else to do but put on a brave face and get back out there? You’re on the rebound, baby, and you want to teach those folks who rejected you a lesson. Who needs them? You’ll show them what rejection looks like!

It appears to look a lot like Donald Trump.

DTtoupeeAmerica, you’re drunk. You’re mad and sad and not thinking clearly and you’re crying in your beer, and you’re sidling up to the skankiest character in the deliberately dimly-lit bar and offering your allegiance just to make a point. The thing is, those people who “rejected” you, the ones you’re trying to spite? They don’t much care, not about you, anyway. If they did, they would have treated you better in the first place. The only one who’s going to get hurt here is you. And every other citizen who has to live with the results of your impaired judgment and irrational rebound decision.

Be careful, folks. You’re going to wake up to a shock of yellow hair and spray-tanned skin, to a racist, sexist, narcissistic bully who’ll be more than happy to count you as a score, then toss you off as just another conquest who should have known what she was getting. You’re going to wake up and realize you’re in bed with Donald Trump for the next four years—and it’ll be far too late to grab your clothes and dignity and run.

Please, America. Let’s wake up before that happens.