Tuesday, June 30, 2009

the enemy attacks

My first enemy has grown too brave. One day last week before work, Brad escaped to our deck to eat his cereal and spied a squirrel sitting in one of my flower pots on the deck. Apparently, the squirrel was innocent at the time... he just sat there... but Brad still shooed him away. I came home from work that night and realized that the pot where the culprit was spotted earlier used to house three petunia plants, but I only found two and a gaping hole with a thin strand of root from the kidnapped plant waving in the breeze.

Usually the squirrels will dig up my plants and leave them there to taunt me. I searched the yard, but my petunia plant was nowhere to be found. The thief!

Over the weekend, I had not one, but two squirrels land right in front of me while I sat on the deck. I found the way that they faced me directly and stared me in the eye for quite a few seconds quite unnerving.

They're up to something.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Eastern Market reopens

After nearly two years in a temporary facility after a fire devastated the historical building that housed Eastern Market, the market has officially reopened in its original building--hooray!

The renovations are classy and beautiful. Those leading the effort strove to make the inside look unchanged, while adding modern amenities such as air conditioning and new lights. The entire facility looks light, airy, and clean. I was delighted to see the old, scary bathroom located up a narrow, creaky staircase replaced with normal restrooms on the main floor. All the indoor vendors are back in their original spots. Yes, Eastern Market vendors and Hill residents gladly accepted air conditioning, but resisted any major aesthetic changes that could possibly diminish the venue's charming, locked-in-time atmosphere.

Patrons will certainly buy more in a clean-looking, beautiful building, which should help the indoor vendors recover some of their losses these past two years.

Have you checked out the renovations? What do you think?

Friday, June 26, 2009

missed opportunities

Last night, a friend told me that she thought that Stephenie Meyer had participated in a former National Book Festival. Sure enough, after a quick Internet search today, I learned that she was in fact featured at the 2006 National Book Festival, soon after her second book, New Moon, was published. I was there all day that year, but I had no idea who she was until last fall, when I caught wind of the Twilight buzz because of the first movie's release. Now I'm kicking myself that I didn't know who she was in 2006. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me over the years. Despite my faithful, all-day attendance at the book festival each year, because six or eight sessions run concurrently in the various pavilions each hour, I inevitably miss out on some fascinating authors. Then, years later, I'll discover authors who I love only to realize that I could have heard them speak had I fallen in love a little sooner.

Shucks. Stephenie's too big of a name now to make a return appearance.

If there ever comes a day when I no longer work and have nothing else to do with my time (I'm not holding my breath for this to happen), I vow to read something by every single book festival author so that I am better prepared to make the most of this wonderful event.

And now, on to book three!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

oh, dust bunnies

Wretched, cursed dust bunny, allow me to threaten discourage thee. Since moving into the new house, you have become my second-worst enemy (this one ranks first). Wood floors, unlike carpet, allow few hiding places. And in a 1915 home whose floors consist almost entirely of hard woods, your kind multiplies rapidly in plain sight. How malapropos of you! You've taken a personal vendetta against my wonderful husband, as you keep him in a constant state of discomfort. But me, you love. How do I know, you ask? By the way you trail behind me as I walk down the hall. Or the way that you instantly scatter and open up a path for me when I purposefully step forward to break up your cluster. You lust after my long, blond hair, snatching up fallen strands immediately and incorporating them into your tribe. Rest assured that your brown-nosing has not gone unnoticed. The queen of the manor appreciates obedient subjects. But please understand that extinction equals true obedience in this case.

You throw raucous parties underneath the bed, with millions of your friends descending upon a small space. When the crowd grows too overwhelming, or when excessive time passes between interventions, you carefully poke your nose out from under the bed, only to scurry beyond my reach when I crazily charge after you with the broom. Despite meticulous house cleaning before my own social engagements, I often glimpse you in the corner or along the wall, spying on my guests and gloating that you will always attract a much larger crowd than I do.

Because of you, I keep Swiffer in business.

I scoop you up almost daily, only to find you floating across the floor again within minutes. After all, you inhabited the house before I did. I guess that, in a way, you believe that you are the rightful owner. And boy, do you have a way of marking your territory!

I refuse to give up , though. Despicable dust bunny, I will fight you till the bitter end. Or until Brad and I move on to the next house. Please promise not to follow us there, okay?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

a temptation

I have 48 pages to go in Twilight, and if I didn't have a panel presentation this morning at work, I really think that I would have been tempted to call in sick to stay home and finish the book. Myriad chores, errands, and a social engagement or two precluded me from reading much over the weekend, but I picked up the book again late last night after our company left and I wanted to stay up to finish it, but Brad, ever the responsible one, made me go to bed as it was already after midnight.

It's not that I think that Stephenie Meyer is a brilliant writer or anything. But the characters are lovable (a requirement for me to fall in love with a book), the storyline compelling, and the plot suspenseful. Plus, like my friend, I'm a real sucker for a good romance, which is probably why I'm even more addicted to the Twilight series than to the Harry Potter books, even though I believe that J. K. Rowling's creativity and writing skills easily trump those of Stephenie Meyer.

My mind is already plotting how I can sneak in a few pages of reading at work today. Maybe I'll leave for my panel presentation a bit early or take a lunch break. I usually strive to set a good example for my staff. But I'm really struggling today. I just want to blow everything off and read.

I need to accept the fact that most of my house projects, regular chores, sleep, and heck, at moments even my real job (!) may just have to fall by the wayside until I finish all four books in the series. It's not often that I read a book that keeps me up at night instead of lulling me to sleep within ten minutes of crawling into bed, but when I do, it's such bliss!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

dc dreariness

Brad and I must have brought the San Diego June gloom back to DC with us. With few exceptions, the weather here has been chillier than normal, gray, rainy, and depressing since we returned home on June 2nd. Because we also had five days of it in San Diego, we've endured this gloom since May 28th, exactly three weeks. I am starting to feel cheated out of my summer. So sorry, DC readers. I do feel responsible.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

the classics can wait...

... because I am OBSESSED with the Twilight books. I'm only 100 pages into the first book of the series, but Edward Cullen is already invading my dreams at night.

I've avoided these books for a few months because, like my initial reservations with Harry Potter, the subject matter just didn't sound like "my thing". Teenage vampire romance? Boy wizards? No thank you.

But the creativity and the feelings of total escape have seduced me. Stephenie Meyer's writing skills in no way rival those of J.K. Rowling, but there's something about revisiting teenage life and young love that is so lighthearted and refreshing. I read too many tragic and depressing novels. The Twilight series is a nice switch, and the books make a perfect summer reading choice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

plant surgery

My beloved plant, Fern, has now exceeded ten feet in height. The tips of her leaves brush our living room ceiling. Amazingly enough, I think that she's continued to grow in our new house, which surprises me because she receives much less light there. My mom informed me that cutting her new growth at the top would kill all of the green leaves below, so we were forced to conduct "surgery" on Fern, as I called it.

Here is Fern's pre-surgery picture:

To conduct surgery, my mom and I took a huge butcher knife and cut all the way through Fern's stem about two feet above the ground (see the post-surgery picture below). We replanted Fern (the green leafy part, not the stump) into a new pot with fresh soil and plenty of water and firmly staked her to keep her vertical through this initial period of shock (when she may go limp). Lord willing, after a few weeks of special attention, Fern should sprout new roots and grow normally again, except now she's two feet shorter. Although it seems a little weird, my mom encouraged me to water Fern's stump often and in a few months, the stump should sprout new growth and I'll have another plant! Amazing! Let's hope that this works. I will be devastated if I've accidentally killed her. Please pray that Fern lives!

The (hopefully) new and improved Fern and her stump:

Also, just a side note, Fern is the only plant that I call by name. For whatever reason, one day last year I randomly decided that she is a girl and her name is Fern (I know, real original... and she's not even really a fern!). My many other flowers and plants do NOT have names. So don't start calling me the crazy plant lady... yet!:)

Once we finished Fern's surgery, the four of us conducted a different type of surgery on the tree in front of our house: amputation of limbs. My dad brought his chainsaw from home and he saved us several hundred dollars by trimming all of the lower branches off the tree himself. He even taught Brad how to use a chainsaw!

Below is the "before" picture of the tree. We wanted to trim the tree to allow more sunlight into our front yard and living room windows. We may cut the entire tree down at some point, but we figured that we'd ease into it for now and decide what to do this fall, once the leaves fall from the tree.

While the yard is still shady, cutting off all of the lower branches made a huge difference in that now you can better see our house from the street. My dad hung from the tree 12 feet from the ground at one point, his legs wrapped tightly around the trunk, while he cut the last few branches. Not bad for a 65-year-old man! Here is the "after" picture:

Here is a closer glimpse of all of the tree limbs and leaves that we cut into pieces and stuffed into eight large garbage bags.

There is something about manual labor that always makes me feel so productive. I do love a weekend of it every now and then.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

where we dine

Gentle Reader, please be my guest for dinner.

We did NOT repaint this room. I love the deep red hue on top of the white wainscoting. We do, however, need to fill in the nail holes and touch up the paint.

The open doorway leads to the kitchen. As we learned, the brown accent wall in the kitchen turned out to be crucial, because it's visible from the dining and living rooms.

The curtain on the dining room window is atrocious. Do you think that a nice, white Roman shade would work for this window or do I need something fancier? The space outside of the window frame is very tight.

I wonder why someone, at some point, got rid of the fireplace by installing a wall in its opening. Brad and I may rip out the partition and installing a vent-free gas fireplace. Not quite the same thing, but we could still enjoy a fire on cold, winter evenings, and it would probably look much nicer.

In the picture below, the yellow area is the entry to the second-floor staircase. While this set-up may seem a bit strange, this is one of Brad's and my favorite features of the house. In most Capitol Hill homes, a staircase greets you upon entering the front door of the house. Having the staircase wrap around and empty into the dining room not only provides more usable space in the living room, we think that it just looks nicer when you enter the house.

My favorite piece of furniture in the dining set is the chest against the wall (see the photo below). It provides a great deal of storage, and the top folds out to create a buffet.

We searched high and low for a dining room set that was formal, but simple, not too bulky/heavy, and ideal for small spaces. Below you will see a better picture of the cherry china cabinet, table, and chairs. As you've probably noticed by now, I do love the dark woods! With the leaf, we can seat eight people, but we normally leave the table set up for six. Unlike most people, we are getting great use out of our formal dining set. It's our only eating space in the house, so we use it every single day! While it feels a bit odd sit at the table and chow down on pizza or nachos while wearing my yoga pants and a t-shirt, I love that we're forced to use this set so much.

Dining Room to-do list:
  • Spackle the nail holes and touch up paint
  • New window treatment
  • Wall decor
  • Possibly install a vent-free gas fireplace? (this is a down-the-road project)
  • Find a place to store our two extra chairs... do you think that they would hold up okay in the basement?
We have now concluded the Blondie house tour. The only area I haven't shown you is the basement, but just picture a space the size of the first floor that is unfinished, houses our washer and dryer, and all of our Christmas decorations (among other things). We're grateful for the storage space!

Over the coming months and years, I'll post more pictures once I finalize the furniture, window treatments, and wall decor. Thanks for your interest and encouraging comments. I've realized that I prefer to spend my time working in the yard, so settling into the house has fallen a bit behind. I appreciate any and all decorating suggestions!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

where we live

Welcome to Hotel Blondie. Won't you please come in?

Please ignore the red pink couch, chair, and small ottoman. Unfortunately, they are casualties of the wonderful, but wicked, skylights in our old apartment. We finally broke down and ordered new living furniture, which is scheduled to arrive on July 22nd. We are eagerly anticipating our new chocolate brown sleeper sofa, chair and ottoman, and accent chair, all of which will hopefully look much nicer than our current furniture and will fill the space much better. We are still shopping for a small accent chair to place in the bay window where the smaller plant is and for a leather storage ottoman to serve as a coffee table.

The curtains have GOT to go. The sellers left them for us, which I appreciate because with our large window only ten feet from the sidewalk, we need our privacy at night. But the curtains are not my taste and are too short (from what I've learned in my curtain research). To add some color to the room (which we will need once the chocolate brown furniture arrives), I envision deep red curtains, similar to the color of our lamp shades, which will complement the colors in the area rug. Brad may mount our his TV on a swivel arm at some point, but he's still deciding about that. Fern seems to be adjusting to less light quite well. I believe that she's even grown since we moved her in because her leaves now graze the ten-foot-tall ceiling (she was only two feet tall when she came to live with us when we got married seven years ago... she's evidently had a good life with us thus far!).

Brad and I painted the room harvest brown, in an eggshell finish. The wall colors used to be a pretty blue color. I like the eggshell finish, but I wish that I knew how much I would grow to love the flat finish (this was the first room that we painted). The picture below provides a sneak peek of the dining room, the subject of tomorrow's post. Although a bit unusual, we love the accent window above the chair that overlooks the staircase to the second floor.

Living Room to-do list:
  • New furniture - yay!
  • Shop for a small accent chair for the bay window
  • Shop for a leather ottoman
  • Find a place for the wooden bench that we've used as a coffee table for years
  • Mount the TV? (this is Brad's job)
  • New curtains!
  • Wall decor!
  • Prune Fern
  • Add a few more plants
  • Install a glass storm door outside of our front door so that we can leave the front door open when we're home and enjoy more natural light in the room.

Monday, June 8, 2009

where to begin?

When I slaved away on my dissertation during 2007, I often dreamed of what I would do with all of my free time once I finished. Oh, I had many grandiose plans, a few that I have pursued and many which have, sadly, fallen by the wayside. But I still feel hopeful about one of my goals, even though I am off to a slow start: reading more classics.

A recent visit to my library's used book sale resulted in the eight classics (all for less than $10), pictured to the left. I haven't started reading any of them yet, but I have high hopes for the future. Amazingly enough, I couldn't find one Jane Austen book at the sale! I guess that all of her books are snatched up quickly. I can understand why.

What are your favorite classics? Which ones should I add to my meager collection?

a successful plea

I'd like to cordially thank the First Lady for continuing a wonderful tradition and in my opinion, DC's most engaging and inspiring annual event...

Please mark your calendar for the 9th Annual National Book Festival to be held on the National Mall: Saturday, September 26, 2009.

I anticipate that the list of authors will be announced later this summer. I will keep you posted!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

sunny san diego?

Brad and I have decided to avoid traveling in the future to celebrate our anniversary. I have no idea how we lucked out with a beautiful, warm, sunny June 1st wedding day because most of our anniversaries since then have been cold or rainy, or both, at least wherever we happen to be on that day. Who would expect such weather in June?

In 2003, we traveled to Virginia Beach to celebrate our first anniversary and endure 50 degree, rainy weather the entire time. We have pictures of us sitting on the beach in jeans, jackets, and SOCKS!

In 2005, we traveled to Miami for three days to celebrate our third anniversary. Again, it was chilly and rainy for the entire trip. We laid on the beach once, for only about 45 minutes during a cloudy period, before the rain resumed its constant drizzle.

In 2006 and 2008, the blazing hot days triggered severe thunderstorms, which precluded our outdoor dining plans at Iron Gate Inn and Tabard Inn.

This year, we spent five days in San Diego, and while the last day, our anniversary, was the warmest weather of the trip, we still experienced five days of dark gray skies, mist, and chillier-than-expected temperatures. I lived in a cheap velour jacket from Target the entire time. We never dressed up, because we would have frozen in the clothes that we brought with us. We had hoped to lounge at the pool or beach to recover from the marathon, but both were completely out of the question. I'm a little sad that Brad, who had never been to San Diego, missed the beautiful sunshine that characterizes San Diego. I worry that he'll always think of San Diego as a gloomy place, which is anything but the truth!

Because we didn't have beach or pool time, we actually did more sightseeing than we expected to. We visited Hotel del Coronado, the San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, Torrey Pines Golf Course, and Soledad Natural Park. We also ventured into a number of neighborhoods: Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, Little Italy (twice), Old Town, La Jolla (three times!), and Del Mar (twice). We rented a car two different days and spent one day driving to all of the beaches where we wished we could sunbathe! The walking and getting into and out of the car, though painful, were probably good for our legs after the race. By the power of Facebook, we connected with DC friends who were also visiting San Diego, and reunited with an old college friend of Brad's who he had not seen in over ten years!

Special thanks to Derek, who recommended that we check out Del Mar Plaza. We enjoyed appetizers and drinks there last Friday evening. What a spectacular view! And Allison, your TWO restaurant recommendations actually netted us FOUR meals, as we visited each place twice, something we rarely do! We loved the ocean terrace at George's at the Cove, and the restaurant in Little Italy that you couldn't remember the name of, but told us to "look for the line out the door"? Yeah, well, we found it with no problem at all. At 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, the line was out the door and all the way to the corner. Our pre-marathon pasta gorging session only cost us $36 including tax and tip. We loved it so much that we went back for pizza on Monday night, and drinks, salad, pizza, tax, and tip only came to $29. Gotta love the hole-in-the-wall, cheap-but-delicious, Italian restaurants.

Although the weather was a little gloomy, we still had fun. Now that I know about the May gray/June gloom phenomenon, I'll think twice about planning a another trip to Southern California during those months.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

4,925th place

Gentle Readers, please indulge me one last post about the marathon, and then I promise to zip my lips, never to speak another word about the subject again... well, until I sign up to run another one.

It was absolutely amazing. I wish that everyone wanted to and could have this unique, mind-over-body experience. And even though the pain of the past two days has made me want to cut my legs off, I'm still riding the post-race high. Even Brad, a bit of a curmudgeon throughout training, remains giddy about the experience. And while he has officially declared his retirement (those of you who are friends with Brad on Facebook know what I'm talking about), I have the slightest glimmer of hope that I may be able to talk him into running another one in a few years. Or maybe I'll run the next one by myself and he'll miss it so much on race day when he comes to cheer me on (and probably run with me) that he'll join me for another one. I can dream, can't I?

I thought of you often, Gentle Readers, throughout the course (I had plenty of time on my hands...). I authored posts in my head as I ran because there are so many details about the experience that I wanted to share with you, but I know that I've forgotten half of them already, as I firmly believe that I crossed into delirium during the hours that it took me to finish. I don't even remember whole segments of the race now. But I do recall tearing up as I glimpsed the finish line, and then sobbing with relief as I crossed it.

In an attempt to be as concise as possible, here are my concluding thoughts on the race and the experience, grouped by category:

The Stats
  • Brad's goal was to break four hours, which he did with a time of 3:53:27 (8:55/mile pace). He placed 2,046 out of 13,328 finishers, which I think is really good! I'm so proud of him!
  • My goal was to finish within an hour of Brad, and I'm happy to report that I did it! He only beat me by 32 minutes! And I shaved five minutes and eight seconds from my Marine Corps Marathon time in 2006. I ran the San Diego marathon in 4:25:39 (10:08/mile pace). I placed 4,925 out of 13,328 finishers.
The Weather
  • How did I not know about Southern California's "May Gray and June Gloom" season??? The weather for the race was PERFECT (high 50s/low 60s, misty/rainy, overcast, and breezy), but it stunk for a vacation. Brad and I spent five days in San Diego and did not see the sun once. Our dreams of lounging by the pool or on the beach disintegrated. We froze during most of our visit. But we still had fun. And we were incredibly thankful for the cool weather on race day.
The Course
  • The bands sprinkled throughout the course really helped to break things up. And wow. The roads on the west coast are so WIDE. There was PLENTY of room for running once you got through the initial crowd at the start line. I didn't have to worry about tripping over anyone.
  • This course covered a lot of ground and we got a great tour of San Diego, which I learned is very spread out. At one point, I think around mile 18 or 19, I glanced across Mission Bay to see the faint San Diego skyline on the very distant horizon, and I thought, "Wait... I came from there? And now I have to run back there?!!"
  • Mile 20 was cruel. At the Marine Corps Marathon, Mile 20 was a huge deal with lots of fanfare. Not so with this race. I saw the Mile 20 marker, located at the base of a fairly steep ramp that we had to climb to cross a bridge. There were no crowds at mile 20. No hoopla. It might as well have been mile 6 or 14 or 22. At the time, I was ticked! But then I witnessed a man proposing to his girlfriend at Mile 20, and I remembered why I love running these races. You see so many cool things!
  • The course was mostly flat, although there was a gradual incline from miles seven through ten, but then we were rewarded with a relaxing downhill run between miles ten and eleven. Just for kicks, I timed that downhill mile and it was my fastest pace of the entire race: 8:30.
  • The crowds were kind of hit or miss. Some areas were deserted and some were crowded. I did enjoy running through residential areas where the locals distributed their own food. Some little girls gave out popsicles. A group of moms distributed oranges.
  • All in all, the course was okay, but I'm not sure that I'd run this particular marathon again. While I appreciated seeing so many different areas, we ran on more highways and freeways than I care to. But, it was a wonderful excuse for a vacation to San Diego!
Notable Thoughts and Moments
  • Brad and I agreed to start sending text messages to each other once he hit mile 20 so that we could encourage each other and also so we'd know where each other was on the course. This helped make the last 6-8 miles much more tolerable!
  • Favorite spectator sign: "Why do your feet hurt so bad? Because you're kicking so much (fanny... NOTE: another word was used on the sign, but you know, I try to keep this a G-rated blog)!"
  • I burst into tears when I saw the mile 17 marker. I have no idea why. Maybe it's because I've always had a fondness for our 17-mile training route.
  • My eyes filled with tears again when I spotted the finish line, which is a little more understandable. It's such a relief to know that you've made it!
  • At mile 11, I witnessed a runner go up to a spectator with a half-eaten banana and ask him for the rest of it. He happily obliged. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • Right before mile 23, I spotted a spectator with a small bag of chocolate chip cookies. I ran over to her and asked for one. The sport beans and the GU just weren't doing it for me at that point. I needed more substance. And let me tell you, that cookie was the best one I've ever eaten. That cookie helped to carry me to the finish line. I wish that I could tell the woman thank you.
  • The last six miles of marathons are rough. I was so tempted to walk during the last few miles, not because my head hurt or I had a side cramp or I had a blister, but just because I was tired and lazy. I actually felt great except for heavy, sore legs. But I forced myself to stick to my rule of "no walk breaks except to drink at water stations" and now of course, I'm glad that I stayed strong. But I was running so slowly at that point that I probably could have made faster progress by walking. The way the mind overcomes physical pain just amazes me. I believe that a marathon is so much more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
The Proof

The BEFORE picture:

And, the AFTER picture (looking a little rough, but at least we're still standing):

Notice the small orange ribbon pins that Brad and I are both wearing on our shirts. We wore these pins in memory of our dear friend and fellow marathoner, Brad Whittington, who died unexpectedly after a long run nearly two years ago. He came out to support us at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2006, and even ran with us and fed us gummy bears. We know that he was with us in spirit during this race. Our friend Renee wore her orange pin in memory of BW when she ran her first marathon last fall, so we decided to continue the tradition.

On Monday, our legs felt each of the 26.2 miles that we ran on Sunday, but amazingly enough, our feet and the rest of our bodies felt fine. Yesterday, the pain subsided to a feeling equivalent to running 17 miles. Today, I ache as though I ran ten miles, which means that by tomorrow, my body should be back to normal and I can run again. Except that I won't. I think that I've earned at least one more day off.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

the only white walls in the house

The former owners of our house advertised that they were willing to paint their daughter's room to a more neutral color before moving out. Needless to say, we took them up on their offer and wrote this stipulation into the contract!

Below is a BEFORE picture... cute, but we were certain that our guests had no desire to stay in a kid-themed room. Sleeping in a child's double bed is enough!

Notice the cream carpet that covered the second floor. We love our red pine floors so much better!

The former owners painted the room stark white. I wonder how many coats of paint it took to cover up the bright colors. If nothing else, they saved us the hassle of painting a primer coat.

This little nook is kind of unique, with the built-in bookshelves. The shade is broken, and I'd like to add two-inch white wooden blinds. I think that we can fit a small chair in the nook. If not, then I definitely plan to add a plant on a stand in front of the window.

Here is the rest of Brad's childhood bedroom furniture! The door on the left leads to a closet, which currently stores my shoes.

To-do list:
  • Choose a color and paint this room
  • Hang art
  • Work on the bookshelves
  • Order and install blinds
  • Add plants and possibly a small chair

Monday, June 1, 2009

swept away

Seven years ago today, Brad and I jumped off of a cliff, but at least we jumped together, and so far at least, we've lived to tell about it. My crystal-clear memories of the day itself are so incredibly vivid that in many ways, our wedding day feels like it happened last weekend. But then, I remember very little of what my life was like before marriage, so in that regard, sometimes I feel like Brad and I have been together always.

I consider being married my most wonderful privilege in life. The Lord has blessed me, and Brad, in myriad ways. One of the blessings that I am most thankful for is my husband, and our marriage. Growing up observing my parents' marriage, what most would consider rocky even on its best days, instilled in me a semi-paralyzing fear of relationships, marriage, and family. While deep down, I knew that I wanted those things, I felt terrified that I could never make a marriage or family work well. That I didn't know how to. That I would never find the right person and that if I did, he wouldn't understand my upbringing or my concerns or he would be scared away by my family issues.

But I was wrong. The Lord knew his plan for me, and for Brad, and I see evidence of God's work in our marriage daily. That's not to say that Brad and I get along perfectly every minute of every day. We are both sinful, selfish, flawed human beings. Sure, we have our hiccups like every other couple. But overall, our marriage has far exceeded my expectations. I never knew that marriage could be so fulfilling or joyous or fun. I feel incredibly grateful for every single day that Brad and I have together.

I'll conclude this post with the story behind the picture above. After the ceremony, we had a few pictures taken in front of the Illinois State Capitol, located just down the street from the church in Springfield, Illinois, where we were married. A strong wind caught hold of my cathedral-length veil, lifted it straight up into the air, and nearly ripped it from my head. Great-Aunt Mary captured this moment with a Kodak disposable camera. She was the only one to get this picture (our photographer missed it!), and it's my absolute favorite. This photo illustrates the joy, surprise, and excitement of the moment, and serves as a spectacular preview of the years of bliss to follow.

Happy seventh anniversary, Sweetheart. May we never spend another anniversary recovering from a marathon!