Happy Birthday to Me: A thought on being 27

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If you asked me a year ago (my 26th birthday) where I’d be on my 27th birthday, my answer would probably not be where I actually ended up.  Last year I was living in my grandfather’s house, so while I was technically living alone, I was not on my own.  I look back on the last year..well really on the last 6 months, and can’t believe what a whirlwind it has been.  Out of nowhere my best friend put a ring on my finger and whisked me away from Illinois to actually be on my own (well, on our own, as I’m only out here because of him), I found a voice teaching job and am now less than two months away from marrying the love of my life.  At this time last year did I think I’d end up here by now?  Not at all.

Erik and I were regularly talking about rings and someday getting engaged, but he had this “rule” about how we needed to live in the same state before we got engaged, just to make sure we worked as well no-distance as we did long distance.  As irritated as I was by this (as I didn’t see any way I was getting to where he was anytime in the future), I understood, and after much emotional fighting with myself, I decided to let go and let God choose the timing of things.  Man, do things get easier when you decide to do that.  Somehow, that rule got changed, my surprise proposal happened and the tornado happened, and now I’m definitely over the rainbow (yeah, I went there.  People who know me understand my Oz obsession).

I’m regularly blown away by how I got here: the dramatic and romantic way it happened, how it feels like we’ve always been together like this, and how baffled I am every time Erik and I tell our story to new people when we’re at socials and parties.  The way people regularly respond (shock, amazement, etc) reminds me of how awesomely blessed I am for having this relationship work the way it has.  Thank God for all of his blessings.

This is my first birthday away from my family (unless you count college, which was an hour away, so it doesn’t count in my mind), and it’s kind of weird knowing I’m not doing anything.  Not that we have done anything that spectacular the past few years (two years ago, right before we started dating, Erik was actually in town to see me and took me out for my birthday), but I’m still getting used to the whole not being around for normal life things that I’ve been around for the last 26 years.  Christmas will be even weirder. I’ve done the exact same thing every single year, and this year I’ll be in Florida with Erik’s family.  I’ll be able to wear a sundress if I want to.. that’s mind blowing.

I haven’t made a big deal about my birthday for awhile now.  I don’t really think it’s necessary.  I love getting a few nice presents and having an occasion to get the family to get together and go out, but I don’t need anything spectacular.  Even for my 21st birthday my friends and I went out to a bar, those of us that could drink had a drink, and I went back to the dorm to do homework.

Every year I do think about how big of a deal birthdays used to be, with themed parties and cakes and a wish list full of toys that get played with for a month or so before becoming another forgotten thing in the playroom. I vaguely remember these huge birthday parties.  I remember various Disney princess themed cakes (Belle and Ariel) and a Power Rangers birthday party (yeah, I was that girl), a spa sleepover party when I was 13, and after that I don’t recall what exactly was done for my birthdays.  One year in high school I had two friends spend the night and we watched movies.  I can’t even recall if I did anything for my 18th birthday.  Is that sad?

Instead, I use my birthday as an excuse to treat myself a little.  I’m expecting my Erin Condren Life Planner by the end of the week, and that was my big gift this year (thanks to my aunt), because I wanted it.  A planner!  Man that makes me feel old.  Tonight’s big exciting birthday plans: curl up on the couch with my wonderful fiancé and make him sit through “The Proposal” starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Renolds.  One of my all time favorite feel good chick flicks.  Maybe we will even go out to dinner so I don’t have to cook..and you know what? That is enough.

The Lord has blessed me in SO many ways throughout my life, that merely getting to another birthday some days feels like a miracle in and of itself.  The fact that I am here, less than two months away from marrying my best friend, living life the way it has turned out is the icing on top of a pretty epic birthday cake.  I’ve always felt so far behind on things, and now I feel like I’m finally catching up.

I can’t wait to see what blessings the next year will bring.  Whatever they happen to be, I know they will be amazing with Erik by my side and our new life together ahead. God is good.

To those of you who have taken the time to read this and/or to wish me a happy birthday, thank you.  It is because of the friends and family I have that I am the woman I am today.

 

Be happy, my friends.

Wedding Planning Weekend: Part 2

Friday

Friday we had a leisurely morning and then headed to the Hyatt where our reception is going to be. This was the day of our tasting (a few months earlier than usual).  Lauri, our wedding consultant, has been amazing with accommodating the issue of distance and Erik’s lack of availability.  Since this was the last weekend before orientation and full blown wedding craziness started, she allowed us to take full advantage of it and managed to pull off planning our tasting in advance.  When Erik and I arrived at the hotel, I showed him around to the room where cocktail hour will be and where the reception will be (two different places).  Before you knew it it mom and sister were there and Erik’s mom and sister, Kristin, were 5 minutes away.  It was time to get the wedding planning ball rolling.

We sat down at a table in the restaurant and were immediately served wine; white wine to start.  Throughout our meal we would taste 4 different wines and have to pick one red and one white to be served with dinner.  We also would be discussing the meal as a whole.  We get to choose soup or salad, and were trying two of each, and then 3 entrees.  First up were the soups.  We had opted for a tomato soup with pesto with an asiago bread and a chicken soup with tortellini in it.  Both were good, but the unanimous winner was the tomato soup, so if we decided to go with soup, we had our answer.  Then came salads.  One was your basic dinner salad with a choice of a vinaigrette or ranch dressing.  The other one was a risk we decided to take as it is for our special day: a dark green salad with pears, brie, walnuts and a white basalmic dressing.  The high class decadence was flowing in this salad.  This was the clear choice in the salad route.  We ended up deciding on salad over soup, although Erik wanted the soup, which is no problem since the bride and groom can basically have whatever they want (according to Lauri). She’s had a groom order a burger on his big day.  I decided against soup personally simply because I’ll be wearing white.  Red soup, expensive white dress..bad combination.  Maybe I can get some to go up to the wedding night suite with me for later…. hmm.. 😉

App tasting

Then came the main courses.  Course 1: steak.  I wish I could remember all of the descriptive words in the preparation but chef vocabulary aside, it was fantastic.  Topped with garlic, a side of what I lovingly called the “potato ball” the rest of the meal, ratatouille, and cooked to perfection.  I later came to find out (from Chef himself, as he came to talk to us when we were finished) that the potato ball was improvised, as he realized we didn’t have a carb on the plate.  I expected it to be a ball with mashed potatoes inside, but no.  It was a delicious scalloped potato ball.  I loved it.  Next up we had a chicken breast in a thyme reduction with broccolini and herb roasted potatoes.  Again, delicious.  Chef was treating us really well.  Our final dish (3 wines in) was a salmon with a sauce I can’t remember, roasted potatoes and green beans.  While it was the least favored dish at the table, I enjoyed it simply because it had been awhile since I had eaten salmon, and I love fish.  Throughout the entire meal Lauri kept us busy with discussing details about the reception: time, receiving line, chair covers, when to cut the cake, what time we want to make our exit.. the list goes on.  We ultimately decided on offering the beef or chicken for dinner, but changed the sides.  I was so obsessed with the potato ball that I wanted it on every plate, and we decided to put broccolini there with it.  I’m excited, although I know I won’t be spending much time enjoying  my food that day anyway.  With tummies full, a list of things to think about, decisions on the food made, we were off to continue our day of eating with the cake tasting at the Baking Institute.

Meals

(I had to throw in the pic of Erik enjoying his soup.  Sorry babe.)

At the baking institute we also preselected what we were going to taste.  Red velvet with cream cheese (my all time favorite), dual yellow/chocolate with vanilla buttercream, and white with a hazelnut custard cream.  There was also a delightful arrangement of sweets for us to try if we planned on getting a sweets table.  Each of us (the whole tasting party came) tried the cakes and we all agreed (much to my delight) that the red velvet was the winner.  Now we had a little visual dilemma: bright red cake, purple themed wedding..  After thinking about a suggestion I believe Erik gave me earlier (I can’t remember if it was my idea or his), I asked our consultant, Igor (again, someone Mike, my wedding planner friend, knew and called to say I was coming) if there was any way that the red velvet cake could be dyed purple instead.  Thankfully he said this would not be a problem.  SO, I get awesome purple velvet cake on my wedding day.  The color loving girly girl in me is beyond psyched.  It’s going to be beautiful.  I won’t tell you what it is going to look like, so you’ll just have to come back here after my wedding in January.

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After that we had a bit of a break, so Kristina (my sister and MOH), Erik and I journeyed back to grandpa’s to relax for a bit while Erik’s mom took care of getting rid of the rental car.  The other stop we had before dinner was to Starbuck to meet with our photographer, Marcin.  This man is my sister’s, best friend’s boyfriend, and his work is stunning.  He’s had photo’s in Vogue and regularly shoots for Chicago’s fashion brand Akira.  I am honored that he is willing to give Erik and I the celebrity treatment (2 photographers and two videographers, all amazingly professional and his top choices for a very reasonable price) on our big day.  He’s a sweet guy who is very put together.  We had a great time talking with him (again, the whole crew went along).  He plans on coming to our rehearsal with his team just to make sure he can get his plans lined up so we don’t ave to worry about a thing on our day.  I’m so excited to have all of this documented, as I know it’s going to feel like a total blur to me on the wedding day.

After Starbucks it was time to head to dinner back at grandpa’s house for the meeting of the families.  Grandpa, Marilyn, Deanna (my other sister) and my dad were there to meet Erik’s mom (my dad accomplished this on our move) and sister.  The menu: Portillo’s!  Chicago food for the Chicagoland visitors, complete with the best chocolate cake in the entire world.  Marilyn just purchased a whole cake from them, so we even had some for the ride home 🙂  It was an awesome evening full of good food and great company.  I feel so blessed knowing how well our families get along.

Saturday

Erik got the luxury of sleeping in while I headed out to David’s Bridal. It was bridesmaids dress day.  My best friend from high school and college, Laura, is the 4th and final bridesmaid.  Luckily she was free to come down so I had my whole group of girls there, which was great because I have a variety of body types and wanted to see what everyone looked like.  I knew the color I wanted, so we started right away with dresses that came in that color.  I had the girls try on 4 or 5 different dresses.  Eventually I put on my wedding dress so I could stand next to them and decide what looked best.  It took us awhile and a bit of talking it out, but we said yes to the dress 🙂  My mom also managed to find her “mother of the bride” dress at the same outing.  It was nice to have all of the girls and both moms there for all of this.  After our fittings and decisions Erik joined us for lunch at Panera so he could see Laura before she headed out for the day.

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(Deanna and Kristin on the left are in the winning dress, only they will be in the color Kristina has on second from the left.)

Then it was off to church to talk to Pastor George about the ceremony.  This part was always my biggest worry, as Erik and I come from different churches (I’m Lutheran, he’s Nazarene), but it will be no problem.  I then got to go to Praise Team rehearsal to sing for the service that night.  That definitely felt like home to me.  We told Erik to sing with us as we rehearsed, and he did, but then when service time rolled around he did something unexpected:  Erik got up in front of the congregation with me and sang with Praise Team the whole service.  I never thought he’d do something like that, and it meant so much to me that he did.  Baby, if you’re reading this and you had any doubt about how much I valued that, don’t.  It meant the world to me <3  It was nice to have Erik’s mom and sister (who rocked out to all of our songs) join us for worship so they could see where I grew up (and see the wedding venue of course).  What a nice treat.

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(Sorry Dan, you got stuck in the picture too)

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Grandpa and Marilyn came to church that night 🙂

After church we went to my parents house for another gathering, this time with my aunt Norene and her best friend Eileen (who will be designing my center pieces).  Tonight’s menu: Lou Malniti’s pizza, more food I can’t get in NC.  There was puppy bonding, more talking, more family members meeting (Eileen counts as family too) and a great time.  We talked centerpieces and invitations (Pam came over) and were sufficiently wiped out by the time we went to bed.  When we got back to Grandpa’s Erik’s dad had just gotten into town (he was left behind in WI) so he stopped by to say hi.  Then we collapsed into bed and slept in preparation for the long drive we had coming.

Sunday

Sunday morning rolled around, we packed up the car and were ready to head out.  Erik’s amily stopped by the house on their way to the airport to say our goodbyes and my mom came to drop off my hairbrush, which I managed to leave at her hpuse the night before.  Grandpa gave us coffee, we thanked him for letting us stay and off we went on our 14 hour drive back to Chapel Hill.

It was a lovely weekend.  I am so blessed to have amazing people in my life.  I’m beyond thrilled that I have  a family that seems to mix perfectly with Erik’s, and I am grateful that Erik got to participate in some of the major wedding planning details.  There’s still a lot to do, but given the 3 days we were in town we accomplished quite a bit.  I won’t be in Illinois again until my bridal shower/bachelorette party weekend in October, so I was also very thankful for the time just to be home and in familiar territory.

Lots of wedding planning down, yet still so much left to do.