Hooray, We’re Hitched! (Raise a Glass!)

We're hitched!We did it!

Steve and I are now officially a Mr. and Mrs.! It was a beautiful day in every way (even the weather—it rained early on but cleared before the ceremony!), full of family, friends, and joy.

I took a week off from blogging (and the office) for the wedding festivities, and now I think I need another week to recover…. I’ll be back soon with some reflections on our big day (and how it flew by), a few behind-the-scenes stories (you’ll never guess who almost got arrested), and descriptions of the elements we kept a surprise (everybody loves a parade!).

In the meantime, kick back and enjoy one of our “Quite a Pair/Pear” signature cocktails (recipe follows below), and check out our wonderful “next day album” provided by photographer Noah Magnifico, who brought us hard book copies the morning after the wedding so we could enjoy and share immediately!

Sandee and Steve’s Next Day Wedding Album, Magnifico Photography

Enjoy with a Quite a Pair/Pear and Elderflower Martini (from Barinacraft):

  • 1 oz. pear-infused vodka
  • 1 oz. elderflower liqueur (St. Germain)
  • 1/4 oz. dry vermouth
  • Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with a pear slice as desired.

    Raise a glass and stay tuned for more tales from FsFTB!


    Desert Sunset: An Anniversary Reflection

    LisaToddromanticNote from FsFTB:

    My brother Todd and his wife Lisa, pictured here in 2014, just celebrated their twelfth anniversary a few days ago. I have long been inspired by the love they share and the ways they lift each other up in even the toughest times, so I asked them what advice or wisdom they might offer as I get ready to walk down the aisle.

    They sent me the following. You might want to grab some tissues first.

    Todd and Lisa

    When Sandee asked us to write about our love in honor of our twelfth anniversary, we thought it would be easy. Turns out, not so much. Legal battles, cancer, money issues, struggles with our five children had sometimes overshadowed the spark that always held us together. We stared at each other, floundering for ideas.

    Todd said, “What about our high school yearbooks? We could start there.”YearbooksJHS

    The beginning is most always a good bet on where to start.

    We wrote our initial commentaries separately, with plans to then head out to the Nevada desert, thinking a peaceful place might make the task of comparing and combining them into a finished essay easier to complete. Continue reading


    The Art of Moving — or, Paws, Claws, and Compromise

    We hear the moving truck before we see it: the tell-tale whoosh and squawk of air-brakes. Wait—air brakes? I step outside onto the porch, Steve right behind me, as a tractor trailer filled with all my fiancé’s worldly belongings pulls up to the curb in front of our new home. The truck must be over fifty feet long, so tall it takes out a branch from a full-grown maple as the driver backs it up.

    moving_truckI glance at Steve with a raised eyebrow. “Um, they didn’t fill the whole truck, did they, honey?”

    Day one of our multi-part move-in, and I don’t know if my heart is beating so fast out of love, excitement, or fear.

    A bit of all three, I suspect.

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    Navigating a mid-life marriage brings a number of challenges, not the least of which is figuring out whose sofa stays, and whose goes. The biggest challenge for most folks who marry (or re-marry) later in life is the blending of families with young children. On the whole, Steve and I have it easy in that regard: his two sons are grown, college-age and just-post-college, the same age as the students I interact with regularly in my job as a professor. In contrast, when my brother and sister-in-law married twelve years ago, each brought two children to the household, all four under the age of thirteen. If that sounds intimidating, do the math. For one parent living full-time with two children, there are 4 possible total relationship combinations, 3 for each individual: all three together, parent and child 1, parent and child 2, and child to child. Six people, however, share 57 total possible relationship combinations, 30 for each individual. Merging a family of three with another family of three doesn’t merely double the relationships—it multiplies them ten-fold.

    It multiplies the love, too. Still, the sheer thought of navigating that many relationships in my own house sends my inner introvert into the corner, trembling.

    Steve’s sons are each settled into their own places now, and hanging out with them means sharing good wine and lively conversation, not Sippy cups and alphabet songs. The bigger challenge in merging our households? Our three fur kids.



    Steve is owned by Imoh, a sweet-natured Jack Russell terrier/beagle cross. Imoh has a big bark but zero bite, his most notable feature (aside from adoring and adorable brown eyes) a penchant for giving hugs. His snuggles are melt-your-heart cute.

    I am owned by felines Charlie Kate, a bossy if big-hearted Norwegian Forest cat, and Lola, a solid black love-bug. Both adopted me as strays, and both adore Steve. They are, we were not entirely surprised to learn, less fond of Steve’s dog.

    Charlie and Lola

    Charlie and Lola

    We had a great plan for introducing the animals. They would meet for the first time in neutral territory, maybe outside, Imoh safely leashed, the cats in carriers or on the other side of some kind of sniff-through barrier. They would meet and greet a few times for short stretches, with the hopes that curiosity would outweigh any territorialism or threat. As they got used to each others’ presence and scents (already somewhat familiar, from sharing their humans), they would grow more relaxed, easing the final transition when we all moved into a new home (more neutral territory) together.

    The best laid plans o’ dogs, cats, and humans gang aft agley.

    With Steve in a town an hour away, finding a way for the animals to hang in a neutral space for fifteen minutes at a time proved impossible. When his house sold, the pressure grew to get not only him but both his sons packed and re-settled, so the animals took a back seat. Then, our closing was delayed when the seller didn’t finish some key repairs. Granted occupancy for stuff but not humans or pets, Steve had to move in with me while we waited for things to sort themselves out. Imoh came with him.

    In my cats’ eyes, one morning, life was normal. By afternoon, there was this creature, this dog-thing, hanging out on the sidewalk in front of their house. Why was their Steve attached to it by a string? Why did it wiggle around and sniff at them? And—wait—why was it on the porch now? Why was it coming inside? Sitting on the sofa? What was this insufferable indignity?

    Imoh and Lola


    To be fair, Lola was content to express her disapproval with a disdainful stare, an arched back, and sideways hops accompanied by a well-timed hiss. Charlie Kate, well.

    Imoh is pretty much terrified of her. I can’t say I blame him.

    Charlie likes to park herself in Imoh’s path and stare at him while he attempts to look anywhere but her direction. If he moves too quickly for her liking, she takes a swipe. We don’t think claws have made contact more than once or twice, but as Steve says, ‘Moh seems to recognize that “those things come loaded.” He yelps just the same.

    For days we took ‘Moh with us every place we went, or one of us stayed home to keep a watch on the beasts. The constant vigilance was exhausting. If that’s what it’s like to have toddlers, I’m not sure I could have survived raising human children. Enduring the cats’ accusing looks was hard enough. And felines know from punishment: denial of affection, refusal to purr.

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    Now we’re half in (Steve’s half) the new house. With Imoh mostly there and my kitties mostly at my house, the critters have achieved a temporary détente.

    We thought it was tough to get the animals to play well together. What about the furniture?

    Somehow, I never noticed that Steve had an end table fetish. Every chair has at least one. Sofas, two. We haven’t even moved my furniture yet, and there’s a surplus. Then there’s the double dining tables. I don’t care much about mine—I bought it used and don’t mind selling it. The problem: I’m not crazy about his either, especially the uncomfortable matching chairs.

    Steve dislikes my grandma’s porcelain swan lamp. If I were a guy, I would too, especially the insanely frilly shade with pink roses and ivory frou-frou I made for it. His giant flat-screen television looks like a big black hole. If we put them in the same room, will the TV swallow the swans?

    Perhaps there are advantages to getting married young and, between the two of you, owning barely a pot to p— in at the start.

    We own so many books. And I have two beautiful barrister bookcases purchased with an inheritance from my maternal grandmother. Steve loves them too, and we both want to feature them in our early 1900s, Federal-style home. If we showcase them in his front parlor study, should they house only his books? If they hold some of mine, too, will his study not feel entirely his?

    Daunting, but doable

    Steep learning curve: daunting, but doable.

    It takes a few days, then: what if we combined all of our fiction, arranged it all alphabetically, put it all in the bookcases, together? We are, after all, fashioning a new life, together.

    Of course, books, unlike dogs and cats, don’t bark or bare claws.

    Fear gnaws, but rarely bites.

    I’ve lived alone—except for cats—for over twenty years.

    One day at a time. One day at a time.


    DIY Decor: Easy Aisle Markers

    I’ve been DIYing up a storm of late, working on a variety of wedding projects. One project has been aisle markers and ceremony markers. We’ve opted not to have a wedding arch, as we want the mountains in the background to frame our ceremony. But we still wanted something to define both the start of aisle, where guests will enter to take seats, as well as the ceremony space.

    Traditional white columns were too formal, so I kept my eyes open for other options. Ultimately, I chose two sets of metal plant stands and set about transforming them into something with a bit more color and whimsy.

    Step 1: Prime and paint plant stands

    I selected two brown plant stands for the aisle markers. The flower shape on top echoes a daisy. I also liked the second ring just a few inches from the top, as I had plans for it.

    I had Rust-oleum Clean Metal Primer on hand from another project, so I started with it and got a solid base coat on. Then I painted the stands with Rust-oleum Painters Touch Ultra Cover (which also has a primer) in Heirloom White, satin finish.

    Step 2: Gather fabric and beading tools and supplies

    I gathered the rest of my supplies: ribbon in different textures and colors, lace, and several fabrics to cut into strips, along with beads, head pins, and basic jewelry making tools—round-nose and chain-nose pliers, as well as wire-cutters.

    Step 3: Assemble bead dangles

    I assembled the six bead dangles first. The design of the plant stand would allow up to nine on each stand, but I opted for the simpler (and less time consuming) three. If I have time to add more as we get closer to the wedding, I can.

    These bead dangles each required one silver-toned headpin, one ceramic aqua bead, two small round aqua “bubble-glass” beads, and two aqua 3-4 mm bicone crystals. Any combination of beads that pleases will work.

    After threading beads onto the head pin, create a wire loop using the round-nosed pliers, wrap the tail of the wire, and trim. I tied the dangles onto the plant stand with narrow aqua ribbon. They could also be attached with wire.

    Note: Michaels and other craft stores stock a lot of pre-made pendants and dangles these days, so you can probably purchase something you like if you’d rather not make it, or don’t have the tools.

    Step 4: Cut fabric strips, ribbon, and lace to desired length. Thread onto the plant stand in a repeating pattern.

    This is what gives the plant stands a column-like effect. Cut each ribbon or strip of fabric twice the length you want it to hang, plus about 1 1/2 inches. I kept the width to about 1-inch, with a little variation. Fold in half, pull the folded loop over the second ring, thread the two ends through the loop, and pull it snug. Putting the loop to the outside looks a little more formal, like a man’s necktie; I preferred it to the inside.

    I like the wispiness of the loose ties, but if you wanted an even more structured look, you could wrap or tie the ribbons around the bottom ring so that they were taut and stayed in place.

    Step 5: Place alongside the aisle and enjoy!

    I added a little lace to the top, too, though I’m still debating whether I like it.  These two whimsical “columns” will greet our guests as they take their seats. The finished ceremony markers I’m keeping a surprise. 🙂


    All beading supplies and Celebrate 360 ribbons available at Michaels. All lace and fabrics except dupioni silk and velveteen from JoAnn Fabric and Crafts; silk and velveteen from local antique store and my stash, respectively. Primer and paint available at Lowe’s. Featured plant stands purchased at Tuesday Morning.


    Tomorrow is Independence Day. Red, white, and blue everything will abound, and towns across the United States will sound with clanging cymbals, sizzling brats, fizzing sparklers, and booming blooms of light.

    The holiday has made me think about how often we talk about love in terms of sparks and fireworks. “Sparking” is even an old-fashioned word for “courting.” But it doesn’t take much of a tug on the metaphor to trouble it. Sparks flash hot and burn bright. Sometimes they start a big flame; too often, they fizzle, and fast.

    Chemistry matters. Yet scientists tell us that the initial spark, the feeling of being “in love,” is better understood as an altered chemical state akin to addiction than as the stuff of real intimacy. The rush is intense and intoxicating: you’re drawn to your partner, compelled, amazed. You feel alive and exuberant when you’re together. The whole world is your holiday, every day lit up like a Fourth of July sky.

    Fireworks dazzle. They light up the night, big and bold. Yet their beauty quickly dissolves into wisps of smoke.


    Consider a man I once knew, certain he had to feel a spark and fall in love within the first fifteen minutes, or there was no chance a relationship could grow. There are good reasons why one might assume disappointment would attend any sentence that combined the words “love” and “fifteen minutes.” But we’re not talking about love, then, are we?

    Relying on “love-at-first-interaction” as the sole (or best) proof of lasting compatibility defies not only reason but research. It confuses love with lust, giving an emotional weight and depth to a chemical and biological impulse that’s only a small piece of the puzzle determining whether someone is a match.

    The very fact of morning-after regrets proves initial attraction, however intense, an unreliable litmus test for lifetime harmony.

    Fiancé Steve and I are planning to celebrate the Fourth at a pool party. There will be good food, great fun, and, no doubt, celebratory snaps and pops. At the end of the evening, after the sparklers have sizzled and the fireworks faded, we’ll gather with our friends around the low-burning flames and glowing coals of a warm, flickering campfire.

    And that’s exactly where I’ll want to be.

    If lust is a spark, love is a campfire. Sustained with attention and care, it grows with time. It comforts and steadies, not only on special occasions, but through the slog and wonder of the ordinary day.

    Sparks ignite, and fireworks astonish. But a campfire, if you tend it, will keep you warm. It will nourish you, feed you. Fire is elemental, the essence of life itself.

    And while sparks don’t guarantee a flame, hot coals do promise sparks.

    All you have to do is stir, and watch them fly.



    Twenty Things I Wouldn’t Be Thinking About If I’d Been a Twenty-Something Bride

    I don't have photogrpahic evidence of the chintz dress, but it looked a lot like the the one the bride wore to this college dance...


    The first time I served as a bridesmaid for a friend’s wedding was in 1992. We wore pink floral chintz dresses with dyed-to-match peau de soie pumps (they were so uncomfortable, I took them off halfway through the reception). I don’t possess any photographic evidence of the chintz, though it resembled this one worn by the bride to a college dance.

    Mauve lace

    Mauve lace

    My second time as a bridesmaid, I wore a mauve dress with a lace-up back and caught the bouquet—though it’s taken me twenty years to realize the promise of that ritual.

    I’ve watched many friends marry over the last two decades. In that time I’ve changed, the world has changed, and weddings have definitely changed.

    Here’s a list of a few things I’ve found myself thinking about as a forty-something first-time bride that would probably not have been on my radar as a fresh-faced twenty-something in the 1990s:

    1)  Weird wedding photos getting posted on social media.
    2)  Whether we’ll get an errant cell phone serenade during the ceremony.
    3)  The risk of any mishaps going viral.
    4)  Pinterest.
    5)  Burlap. (Why?)
    6)  Mason jars. (Why again? Oh wait: see #4.)
    7)  Two wedding dresses. Choosing just one is hard, but double dresses means double decisions–and dollars. No thanks!
    8)  Reassuring bridesmaids their visible tattoos are okay.
    9)  What the Pantone color of the year is. (Marsala.)
    10)  What information to include on the wedding website.
    11)  Whether or not to have a drone film part of our wedding. Seriously.
    12)  Being mistaken for the mother of the bride. Repeatedly.
    13)  What size Spanx I wear.
    14)  Where to stash my reading glasses if we read our vows.
    15)  The environmental impact of wedding favors. (We should have been thinking about this in the nineties, but I don’t think anyone was, much.)
    16)  What Steve thinks about the wedding colors. Or centerpieces. Or anything wedding-related. (Ditto: the groom’s tastes should be considered, but usually they weren’t.)
    17)  What to serve as our signature cocktail.
    18)  Just how creative my college-age stepsons might get with their toasts.
    19)  Whether we’ll be able to stay awake through a reception lasting past our bedtime.
    20)  What wedding details to share on my blog this week. 🙂

    Oh, and how could I forget?
    21) Unity sand.

    Not then, not now...

    Not then, not now…



    On the Lake, In my Heart

    Recently my parents hosted a small gathering in Georgia so Steve could meet some of the folks from down South who’d known me back in the day (and loved me anyway, I reckon). Through a charity silent auction, my parents had secured an afternoon on a houseboat on the lake, and though the forecast threatened to rain us out, it turned out to be a beautiful day.

    I’d never been on a houseboat before myself, so I enjoyed just ogling our digs-for-the-day! There was yummy barbecue, games and puzzles, a photo booth with goofy props. And M&Ms with our faces on them! Continue reading