a winter wedding retreat

The weekend before Christmas I had the honor of participating in a Winter Wedding Retreat – a small, intimate, multi-day wedding celebration. Every time I have sat down to write this, I have ended up at a loss of words. Not because there is little to say, but precisely the opposite – there is so much to say, and so little of it can be said in words, but only captured in the wholeness of the weekend. I hope that this shares some of that beauty.


26 of us – family and friends – gathered at Renee’s family home and two nearby cottages on the shores of Lake Michigan Friday through Sunday. We each came with our own story and our own connection to Renee and Kylie. Everyone had someone new to meet, and yet each was an integral part of their community, and as a whole we represented a much larger community gathering around them to celebrate and support their marriage. At the weekend’s close, we could honestly call each other friends.

As for me, I met Renee ten and a half years ago as a freshman in university. We were instant kindred spirits and have since then spent years living and laughing together. We have weathered tempests of storms and soaked in the calmest of waters together. I love  Renee and Kylie’s story – what it is and what it will be – but that is for them to tell. What I can tell you is that they were made for each other and that I am blessed to be a part of their community.

I flew in a day and a half early to help with wedding prep – buying food and wine, making welcome baskets for the cabins, fixing a few beads on the wedding dress, soaking in the hot tub, and talking with Renee late into the night. Then the we did the airport runs. So much contentment in welcoming loved ones. Then the celebration began.

Pizza and pasta dinner surrounded by graffitied brick walls. Touching stories, laughter, and tears shared as a group. Morning devotions and prayer led by Grandma and Grandpa, who have been married for 55 years. The picture perfect dusting of snow. The men bonded over laser tag and lunch out. The women stayed in for relaxation for a simple spa time, mimosas, and lunch. The living space was rearranged three times in a night – for a wedding ceremony at sunset, a Thai dinner, and a dance floor. The bride was stunning and the groom handsome. They committed themselves to each other in marriage. There were tears shed and there were smiles filled with joy.  And on Sunday we gathered once more for a large brunch – one last meal over which to linger before goodbyes. It was a blessed time.

I have heard people say of weddings, “That was a good party.” And this was a good party – but not in an out until 3 am kind of way. It was good because we all left wishing we could stay longer and yet our hearts were content. It was good because we truly celebrated Renee and Kylie’s marriage – not just the act of the wedding, but their marriage. It was good because we celebrated as community. It was so good.

My camera was put away during the actual wedding and evening celebrations, so I have no glamorous photos of the couple in their wedding best. But Saturday morning I headed outside with the two of them to get some pictures with the freshly fallen, perfect dusting of snow. I hope you can see their joy.

r&k4

r&k3

r&k2

r&k1

fall leaves and friends

Hello internet. It has been a while – life has been stressful, there is a side project, and some gatherings of family and friends have required some fun planning. If all works out, I will tell you about the side project within a few weeks. But today, I want to celebrate friends and fall leaves.


Last year I waited and waited to bag the carpet of leaves that fell from the trees in my yard. You can read abut me carrying what seemed like endless bags on my head up a rather long lawn here. The experience made me think about the grand irony that I love big, old trees and the deep, varied colors of fall, and yet the raking and bagging of leaves made me want to live in an apartment surrounded by cement sidewalks.


This year I had grand plans to attack a piece of the yard each weekend until it was done. (Yes, if I had true perseverance, I could work hard and finish it in a weekend. But I don’t.) And so two weekends ago I did about a half of my front lawn. 12 bags and I was impressed with myself. The next Saturday, Elizabeth and Joel volunteered their help. In three and a half hours we had raked the rest of the front and all of the back yard, took a break for smoothies, bagged 25 bags of leaves, and somehow managed to fit 33 bags of leaves into 3 cars, and empty the bags at the city compost. And the rest of the evening was filled with Trader Joe’s Chinese food, Blokus, Scrabble, and laughter.


And that is the power of friendship. Three strangers might have been able to accomplish the same task, but there would not have been laughter. There would not have been camaraderie, and there would not be hearts full from having worked alongside friends. This was one of those afternoons in life that lived up to the cliche expression, “many hands make light work.” Thank you dear friends for teaching me how I can continue to love those big old trees and fall colors.

leaves4

leaves3

leaves1

leaves2

a season of a camping

As I sit to write this, I feel rich because of the camping trips I have had this season. Not because they were to the most exotic places imaginable, but because they were trips made with friends and lasting memories were created. There were 2 trips in Tennessee, 1 in Kentucky, 1 in North Carolina, and 1 in Washington. On 2 of the trips people came from 4 different cities to join in on the fun. We hiked, told stories, played games, cooked food, had deep conversations, burned wood (and other things), and laughed much. Friends plus nature is so beautiful and good for the soul. Here are some of the people, some of the laughter, from those trips. (One trip has no photo documentation due to much rain… so here are pictures from four trips.)

TU friends

Four friends from college days reunited.

bethany & james

Marriage is good.

renee & kylie

So is falling in love.

the fence

“Come on Pam… I’ll help you make it over the barbed wire fence.” On this hike, I was the only person under 6 feet tall. And yes, with help, I did make it.

laughter

I told you there was laughter.

tara & araella

For mother and daughter, fantasy stories fill the hours.

heather

“Aren’t you impressed with my packing?”

pam & josh

Getting ready to hike a beach on the Pacific Ocean to find a campsite.

beach camping

Down there is where we camped listening to the ocean through the night. Just like camping when I was a kid – except a lot colder.

matt

That mustache is the source of endless conversations. That look… well… what is family for but to document such things?!

mom

My beautiful mom.

course 1

This was course one of dinner that night. Yes, we are all diving into the pot with spoons so as to avoiding doing dishes as much as possible.

food

Just to demonstrate that I do in fact believe in eating well while camping.

matt & chris

The brothers use creative measures when no ladder is available.

chris & lauren

“L come over here and help out.” “What?” “You are so much lighter than M.” I love the expressions on their faces.

teeth brushing

No, he is not an invalid. Yes, there was laughter.

young friends


One of the joys of returning to Tanzania, beyond time with the parentals, was reconnecting with friends made last year. Not least of these is a young friend who, with her mom and sister, took an 8 hour bus trip from up-country to visit for a few days. BR is my birthday buddy – we share a birthday 22 years apart. A random highlight of this visit: teaching BR the American pronunciation of a few words. While it is funny to take away the posh, Birtish sing-songy pleasant pronunciation of such words as water, bath, and beer, it is “No” that seems most appropriate when said in a harsh American accent. This was just one of the causes for many smiles and much laughter last weekend.


of magic and superpowers

I love Peter Pan. I love him because he lives in Never Never Land and because he flies. He lives in a world in which pixie dust and happy thoughts enable one to fly, and that is something I find wonderfully appealing. This body would not be trapped by roads and paths, and my perspective on the world would take a new form as I looked down at skyscrapers on my way towards the stars. It would be topped off by the experience of moving effortlessly and silently through the night sky. Magical. 

Tonight I asked JM, “If you could have a magical power, what would it be?” Tonight he replied, “To be able to change any one thing into another thing.” (I say tonight because I have asked this question before, and will ask it again. One’s answer should, most definitely, depend on one’s mood… this is magic after all.) His potholder would become his misplaced car keys and a book his wallet. In a sudden downpour a bracelet could become an umbrella or a blazer a raincoat. At that moment, I believe he would have changed his plate into a fully cooked, hot, and delicious dinner. All in all, a wise choice. 

I love water, and I love being in water. And so, rivaling my desire to fly is my desire to be able to breathe under water. When I once suggested that this would be my superpower of choice, JM said that he could already do that – SCUBA diving. But it’s not the same. I love to dive, but to be completely free of gear and gauges would be magical. When I go into the blue water and flip summersaults there would be no shifting of a weights, a large vest, and heavy tank (yes, somehow breathing under water does equate to being neutrally buoyant too). Rather, I would swim freely with my saltwater friends. 

But tonight I said that my power would be to transport myself instantly from one place to another. I could stop in for dinner and be home in time to crawl between my sheets. My weekends could be spent wherever with whomever my heart so desired. No lamenting about hours in the car or on a plane. The mere thought of this makes me smile. This would be topped off by the ability to transfer this power to others. Next time I was on the phone while cooking up a feast, you too could join if I had this power. 

Those are our choices for the night – changing one thing into another and instant travel. Together, we would be unstoppable. And so I wonder, what superpower would you choose today? 

snow

This is a picture from my trip to Pittsburgh to welcome in the New Year. There is a weather advisory in Nashville right now for freezing rain, which makes me think of winter. And snow. Except that we do not get real snow (see twitter update on snow pellets). Well, if there is freezing rain on the roads in the morning, I’m going to work from home in my pj’s for a couple of hours… quite possibly from my bed. Because here we hide inside away from the winter weather. But in the North, you cannot do that because that would mean hibernating all winter long. So, here is another picture from the Pittsburgh trip…fun times were had (regardless of the winter weather). 

fencing

Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BskJRTWZRJY
Sometimes you just have to brag, and this is one of those times. The non-Olympic fencer in this commercial is RC, one of ‘my girls’. To top it off, I just happened to be in LA the day they filmed for the commercial, so I was sitting on the bleachers watching as they filmed. Good memories.

graduation in indy

Last weekend I returned to Indy for BQ’s graduation from IU’s Master of Social Work program. BQ has been a kindred spirit through the past few years as we have both been working on our respective degrees. She started working on the degree part-time while working full time–back when she was still single. Since then she switched to working on the degree full time, got engaged and then married. She excelled at the program she chose, and has worked hard to prepare to be a social worker. As we sat on her front porch a few weeks ago, we laughed about how we have both just finished another batch of schooling and are preparing for what we hope to be fulfilling, though not highly lucrative careers. So here is a shout-out to a kindred spirit who got to wear a fantastic robe, cap, and hood last weekend!

road trip: back to the bend


The day after I returned home, I had a lovely brunch with two of my girls: RC and SR. It was delightful! For those of you who have followed this blog for a while and know the third ‘girl’, LL, she was on her way back from the Kentucky Derby. Fun times for all!

raod trip stop four: athens, georgia

When KJ and I lived together, Saturday morning tradition was waffles or french toast, fresh fruit, and coffee or tea. 9 times out 10 KJ would wake me up by loudly starting to pull pans out of cupboards or by the smell of coffee. We resurrected the tradition… I think we will always be breakfast buddies. 
We went wedding dress shopping, but just in case she chooses one of the dresses tried on for her July wedding, I figured I should keep the photos of KJ being beautiful in white safe on my computer. Instead, us after lunch.

road trip stop three: nashville, tennesse

Me & JB in front of a Vanderbilt University building. As you can see below, it was a rather pretty campus.
For some reason I was not shutter happy this trip and so things that were done but not captured on film, or really, sd memory card…going downtown to Broadway for live music and drinks, friends I stayed with and their lively and imaginative four year old daughter, Lebanese and Ethiopian food.

road trip stop one: upland, indiana

The road trip has been great thus far, which has left little time for blogging or writing about it. Instead of holding out on photos for a time when I might or might not get around to tossing in details, here are a few images from the road of the people I have seen.

Antiquing with JD. (Husband CD opted out of this excursion to do the responsible thing and write a lecture.) 
Chilling with SM & CM. For those of you who know SM, she is doing great and sends her greetings.