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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Joys of Marriage

Ah, the joys of marriage... to a maintenance man.

My husband came home from work today looking like this:

 Oh yes. Mud. And grease. And just... dirty.

And this is only the bottom half. I'd lovingly asked him to take his shirt off outside. Because it was worse. Worse than the pants. Believe it.

Joys, I tell you. Joys.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


This week, I've been working.

Which means that my season of alone time, of quiet time, of "me" time, is over.

I'm working as a Substitute Teacher Aide with special ed eighth graders this week. It's a small school- the teachers are close, and the kids are close. And I like my students. I genuinely like them. But, like working with every type of eighth grader on the planet, it gets to be a little... well, exhausting.

I head out for work at about 7:15 in the morning. My day mostly consists of, "Where's your book? Let's get that out, please," and "Nope. The question is asking you where this took place, not who the main characters are," and, "Sloan, that behavior is unacceptable. What would an acceptable behavior be, in this situation?" And it's good. I love being back in the classroom. I get home around 4 pm.

When I get home, I just want to sit. Sit and do nothing. Maybe watch TV. Maybe eat some junk food while watching TV.

When I was student teaching, that would be exactly what I'd do.

But I'm married. And I have to actually feed my husband- and he won't last long on just a couple pieces of string cheese and a quart of cookie-dough ice cream. And he likes having clean clothes. And talking to me. And doing things in the evening, like boating or visiting friends. Zeke helps a lot at home, actually, which I truly appreciate, but still.

It makes me feel like a bad wife, sometimes. Like the things I need to do are so overwhelming compared to the things that I want to do.

Then I start comparing myself to other people. People with children. How do they ever get anything done at all? Working all day, coming home and talking and sharing and cooking and feeding and cleaning and bathing and laundry and sleep... well, maybe no sleep... How? I feel inadequate just thinking about it.

I think that I'll make a transition. Learn to balance. I keep telling myself that it's only my first real week of work, and that I'll get into the swing of things. And I truly hope that I'm right. Still, though, there's something lurking... something telling me that I really can't do it. I'll just have to prove that thing wrong.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Budget Bride: Unity Braid

I don't really know if this post can be considered a Budget Bride post... mostly because I really had very little to do with making this thing. This DIY project was all Zeke. He got the wood for the base, he structured the cross and figured out how to mount the thing... I have no idea how he did it, so I can't give you any kind of tutorial or tip.

But I'm posting about it anyway! Why? Because I think that a unity braid is a great alternative to the unity candle. Or unity sand. Or unity been-there-done-that.

Our Unity Braid

I've always liked the idea of the unity braid (sometimes it's called a Cord of Three Strands) because it really embodies what a marriage (at least a faith-based marriage) is all about. Both Zeke and I have very distinct personalities, very unique characteristics. We didn't lose those characteristics when we said our vows. No, we're still ourselves. That's symbolized by the two different colors, the orange and blue, in our braid.

At the same time, our marriage is made complete and strong only because we have another strand in our braid- God. He's represented in our braid by the lighter (almost white-beige) strand. Like it says in Ecclesiasties, "A strand of three is not easily broken." We were brought together by the Lord. We will remain strong in the Lord, and He alone will get us through our times of trial and will keep us together.

Zeke made our unity braid in the shape of a cross. He actually tied the top part of the cross before the wedding, and then we braided together the bottom part. I'd never seen anything like that before. When I asked him to be in charge of the unity braid, I was picturing just a simple braid. He totally went above and beyond with the cross shape.
Unity Braid
 It's so fitting, though. By forming a cross with our braid, we're saying that our marriage will be a reflection of the kind of love that led the Son of God to die for humanity and take away our sins. We're saying that individually, we are strong and beautiful, but by being braided together, we are more than the sum of our parts. Our marriage is bigger than just Zeke and Adrie. Three little ropes are okay, but when they're braided together, there's so much more there.

During our ceremony- Braiding the Unity Braid
 Anyways. Now that I've told you the reason behind our using a unity braid, I'll fill you in on the very few details that I know. The strands themselves are actually rope used for boat tie-downs. I thought they were pretty, there were lots of colors to choose from, and we were running low on time, so that's what we went with. I would have preferred to use a true white for the strand representing God, but there wasn't one
available. In the end we went with a beige cord. It has red flecks in it, which made me think of the sacrifice of Christ, so that made up for it not being white, I think.

Unity Braid
The base was given to us by a woodworking friend at Zeke's old camp. He also made our cake topper. He had a rough piece of wood that he hadn't started working on yet, and it looked great. I actually didn't even think of using it for a unity braid base, but Zeke saw the purpose in the wood and grabbed it.

... and that's all I know. It turned out really cool, though, and it's something that we'll be able to display in our home for years and years to come, unlike a unity candle. It's a definite symbol of our marriage and will remind us of our commitment to be unified with each other and with God as we celebrate our lives together!

Monday, August 27, 2012

2012 Black Hills Vacation! Part One

Okay, so I'm finally going to post about our Black Hills trip this summer (which we got back from a week ago. But whatevs.)

(I kind of hate it when people say "whatevs." Just saying.)

Story Book Time!
HH and LW Present: 
The Black Hills! Summer 2012

 We packed up and Zeke expertly strapped it all down to the motorcycle. Ready to go!!

 It started to look like rain...

 ... so we put on our rain gear! And then it didn't rain.

We stopped for gas and to stretch our sore bums.

The Badlands were beautiful! And very windy. Very very windy. So windy that my helmet was catching the wind and felt like it was going to rip my head off. I didn't get to see too much of the Badlands, because I put my head on Zeke's back most of the way.

 Despite all the wind, we made it to the Black Hills!

 And we made it to our campground!

 We set up our tent (this is the view from our tent), ate supper, and went to sleep.

 The next morning, Zeke went dirt-biking with his brother-in-law, and I went horseback riding with Zeke's brother, JB, and his dad!

Me on a horse. Thinking about the fact that maybe this wasn't such a great idea after being on a motorcycle for eight hours the day before. Hmmm.

 In the afternoon, JB, Zeke's dad, and I went on an hour long four-wheeler ride! As if my bum hadn't had enough. It was really bumpy in places, but I was riding behind JB (who is an excellent four-wheel driver, by the way) and he kept me from completely falling off. We were headed to White Sand.
And this is it! White Sand isn't accessible by car... it's a hike (or four-wheel trek) to get there, and, like many of the beautiful places Zeke and his family visit every year, is definitely not a tourist spot. Which is why these places are so special.

(We'll continue our story later in the week, when I haven't been subbing all day, when I don't have a little headache, and probably after I've made supper. Stay tuned!)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Budget Bride: Wedding Program Wording

I've had a couple of questions come in about how I worded by beautiful (and simple) wedding programs. I'll break it down for ya!

Keep in mind, my wedding is not your wedding. You may have completely different wedding traditions. The order of ceremonies may be completely different in your wedding than it was in mine. Or maybe you won't want to include musician's names (our musicians were family members). Or maybe you added a totally cool element to your wedding that you'll want to explain. Every wedding is different, so every program is different!

On our wedding programs, I left the front cover blank, with just our two heart logo on it...

...so the wording started on the first "inside" page (which I printed on just plain computer paper). I printed the inside (computer paper) pages front and back, so page two is actually on the back of page one.

Remember, I used fancy fonts for my programs (fonts that won't show up here on the blog, so you'll just have to find your own- I have tips on my post about booklet wedding programs).
Here's the break down:

First Page: 

Zeke and Adrie (just our first names here)
Wedding Date
Name of the Church
Location of the Church (town and state)

Pastor Joe Schmoe Officiating

Second Page: 

Prelude and Processional
Susie Q (Organ)

Entrance of Bride
Susie Q (Organ)

Pastor Joe Schmoe

Giving of Bride


Lucy Black and Karen White, Sisters of the Groom

Third Page: 
Congregational Song
"One in the Spirit,"  Jimmy Bob (Guitar)
(See last page of program for Lyrics)

Exchange of Vows and Rings

Unity Braid 
The braiding of three strands demonstrates how HH and LW are joined by God in marriage. 
Soloists: Little Sister and Littler Sister, Sisters of the Bride

Declaration of Marriage


Susie Q (Organ)

Fourth Page: (I won't bore you with fake names, here... here's the basic order I used...)

Wedding Party

Name.................Relationship to Groom
Name...................Relationship to Bride
Flower Girls
Name...............Relationship to Bride
Parents of Bride

Parents of Groom
Fifth Page:
Grandparents of Bride
 Names (I only included those who are still living here)

Grandparents of Groom

Name.....Relationship to Couple

The roses next to the guestbook are in memory of (deceased grandparents' names).

Sixth Page: 
Thank You!

For sharing in this very special day with us, 
For supporting us and encouraging us along the way, 
For your prayers and thoughts as we continue this journey together, 
And most of all, for being an influence in our lives and making us who we are. 

Seventh Page: 
 (Here I put the song lyrics to the congregational song, which saved us time and hassle with using the church projector.)

Eighth Page: 
 Crossword Puzzle!

(For this, I actually just used Microsoft Excel. I first figured out my clues, then made the puzzle using a puzzlemaking site. I didn't like the quality of the free printable version, so I just blacked out cells in Excel to make my own puzzle. I used text boxes to number the words up in the corners.)

Inside Back Cover: 
(Here I glued the clues to the crossword puzzle)      

So there you have it! Our wedding programs worked out great, and a lot of people commented about the crossword puzzle.We included little golf pencils with the wedding programs, too- ones with erasers (fancy).  I just know that having to sit and wait for a wedding to start (and most of the time, you don't know all that many people who are there) gets a little boring, and having something fun to do while you wait for the thing to start already can be really great. 

The puzzle also sparked some conversation among our guests... we made sure that we used clues and words that encompassed many aspects of our lives. Like, what kind of pet do we have? What was the name of the camp where HH worked? When was LW born? Some of our guests would know each of the answers, but very few guests knew all of the answers. 

Anyways. If you have any questions, I'd love to hear them! I'm all about helping the next bride! Thanks for your comments and your searches!  


Thursday, August 23, 2012

First Day of Work!!

So, the night that we got back from the Black Hills, I got a phone call. From a school.

I'd called all the schools in the area to ask about what paperwork I needed to become a sub, because it seems like every school is different. Now, I hadn't turned in this paperwork yet (still waiting on my teaching license to come in the mail... switching teaching licenses from one state to another takes forever), but one school had asked if I'd be willing to substitute for an Aide position. I said sure.

And then the school called and asked me to sub for an Aide position.

It was a little whirlwind, just getting back from vacation and getting called in for the next day. Very exciting. I had no idea what to wear.

The school was great- small, close-knit, and the teachers were wonderful.

It felt great, GREAT, to get back into the classroom. I was totally making mental notes of teaching styles, classroom set-ups, use of technology... it felt wonderful. Just another testament that teaching is where I'm supposed to be.

When I got home, I checked the mail, and lo and behold! My license! I made copies right away, and I'm planning on driving around tomorrow and delivering my application packets to a bunch of school districts. I'm excited. Hopefully I'll be busy this fall!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Turkeys in my Yard

Our camp (and our home) is situated near a state park, near the lake, and has beautiful big trees.

And deer. And bunnies. And.... turkeys.


 I have turkeys in my yard.

 Wild turkeys. There are a couple of flocks, the largest has about thirteen birds.That's a lot of turkey.

The turkeys are doing a great job of distracting me from laundry and dishes. And from putting up vacation pictures. It'll get done. 

Gobble gobble.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back From Vacation Blues

We just got back from the Black Hills! It was a great trip- beautiful, refreshing, restoring. I'll post pictures and details soon.

Not now, though. Because now, now I'm unpacking. I'm doing laundry. Re-acclimating to being home. Realizing that there's no food in the house and trying to figure out what to do for supper. The first day after vacation is so. much. work.

It is good to be home though. I walked in the door last night, saw our living room, and was struck by the feeling that I was home. We have a beautiful home, a beautiful life here together. I'm content here. Well, minus all the laundry and unpacking.

And on top of the laundry and unpacking, I had to mail in some stuff for health insurance today, and my teaching license came in the mail as well! Yay! So I updated my resume (again), made copies of my license, considered asking those who wrote letters of recommendation for me to write new ones with my married name (thoughts?), and started putting together application packets for the districts I'd like to sub in.


Zeke came home to grab something (I think pliers, maybe?...) and saw the lunch and breakfast dishes, as well as all the dirty leftover containers I emptied out, all sitting in a pile in the sink and all over the counter.

He said, "Are you planning on doing dishes this afternoon?" which really meant, "Holy dirty kitchen, Adrie!" but in a much nicer way.

So yes, I should probably get back to work. Even though my butt feels like it might just fall off after all the motorcycle riding.

Puns with Hunky Husband

As I put my belt on today (because I'm wearing jeans- what the heck happened to the 110 degree weather??) and one of the metal rivets popped off. Which is an entirely other post, one about how I've gained twenty pounds since the wedding and I've totally got to get off my tush and move...


So the little metal rivet pops off of my belt and pings on the floor.

I yell over to Hunky Husband, who's messing around on iTunes in the other room. "I lost my rivet!"

To which he responds, "Oh no! You'd better go to the King of the Frogs to get a new one!"

No, honey. Rivet, not "ribbit."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gross Story.

Now that I've posted our lovely and romantic (albeit snot-filled)

I thought I'd also post about the less-glamorous side of our relationship.This story took place a couple of years ago, very early in our relationship... and you'll see why Zeke is a keeper!


It was early summertime in the country. For me, that meant sleeping in, enjoying being done with school for the year, and starting a new job. Oh, and watering flowers when my mom asked. For Zeke, early summer meant "rolling beans" on his family's farm.

One night, after getting done with my long shift at my still new job, I wanted some good Zeke time. I was tired, but a good cuddle was completely necessary. I called him.

"Whatcha doing?" I asked.

"Working." My poor thing, I thought. He worked all day, and now it's ten at night, and he's still working. Now I had to go visit him.

"Are you sure you want to? It won't be any fun," was Zeke's encouraging response. But I wasn't having any of his unenthusiastic attitude. I was strong and tough and interested in the whole farming thing that was still a new adventure to me!

So out I went, to visit Zeke and keep him company in the tractor. I was excited. Even though we'd started dating almost a year before, I had yet to see him drive a tractor. Surprising, I know. Of course, I'd never ridden in a tractor, either. I mean, I sat in one at the county fair once...

I miraculously got to Zeke's house. Granted, it's only fifteen minutes from my own house, but those fifteen minutes entail a gravel road and poorly marked streets. And I'd only driven there once or twice before. And I have no sense of direction. I made it onto "the yard," meaning Zeke's driveway, and then gave him a call. He was out in a field somewhere.... my lack of spatial reasoning made it just about impossible for me to know exactly where.

"Where are you, honey?" I asked nervously. I hadn't thought about the fact that I would have to find a dark field that looked exactly like every other field in the area. I was too busy being worried about getting lost on the way to his house.

"I'm in the north field," he answered with that deep voice of his. "Just go toward the pasture where the horses are, then turn in at the first field driveway."

Yeah, like that made any sense to me. I start to panic. He's gonna think I'm a complete incompetent. That I have no idea where anything is. Well, I didn't have any idea. That part was true. But I didn't want him to know that....

"Um, well, I'm not sure that I can... Can you just come and get me?" I crossed my fingers and hoped that he'd just show up and keep me from inevitably getting horribly lost.

"Not really." He's a man of few words.

Just as I begin to realize, dread sinking in my stomach, that I'm going to actually have to find him myself, Zeke's dad came out of the house. Now, it was about ten thirty at night by this time. So I couldn't be truly surprised at what he was wearing. Which was nothing but a pair of jeans. Still, having only met the man like, three times before, I wasn't really prepared for that.

"Looking for Zeke?" he asked.

"Uh huh."

"He's in the north field." Zeke's dad is also a man of few words.

"Yeah, uh, I don't exactly know..." Now he's gonna think I'm an incompetent, too! I start blushing.

"I'll take you out there."

Whew! Well, despite his shirtlessness, I was eternally grateful to Zeke's dad. I followed him to the shop, where he got out...

the four-wheeler.


Oh! I'm going to ride this thing, holding on to Zeke's dad's shirtless self. Oh. My. Gosh.

I get on, feeling uncomfortable with the fact that I was actually touching Zeke's dad. He's a very intimidating man. Trust me on this one. He's 6'5", and terribly quiet. The kind of quiet that makes you worry about what the person is thinking about you. Serious quiet.

To make matters even more interesting, it was my first time ever to ride a four-wheeler. We're now up to three firsts- first time in a tractor, first time on a four-wheeler, and first time seeing Zeke's dad shirtless. Quite the night.

So I blushed and blushed and prayed that I would block all this out of my memory someday (hasn't worked). The ride felt like it took forever, and I'm still not sure where the north field is to this day, because I didn't pay any attention on the ride there. I was too busy inwardly freaking out.

We finally got to the field, where Zeke was in a tractor pulling a thingy that looks a little like a tambourine. I'm sorry, an implement that looks like a tambourine. I thanked Zeke's dad again, thankful that the ride of awkwardness was over, then hoisted myself up into the cab of the tractor.

Now, a note to those of you who have ever thought of, or ever will, get into a tractor with a man. Tractor cabs are far from roomy. Especially with a large man occupying most of it. And they smell pretty bad. Like manure. Which is to be expected, but I wasn't expecting it.

Anyway, we rolled beans together in the tight little cabin for about two hours. Rolling beans basically means dragging the tambourine thing over the dirt to break up big clods and get the soil ready for planting beans. All that dirt clod breaking makes for a very very bumpy ride. Bumpy and dusty. Zeke made me drive the tractor a little. I giggled as I became airborne over the big clods. I got to snuggle up close to him and sit on his lap (there was nowhere else to sit). But when the third hour rolled around, I started to get a headache. But it wasn't bad. And I was tough and excited.

Until I started to feel genuinely ill. Throw-up ill. Apparently, my sensitive stomach becomes motion sick at about one in the morning when I bounce around in a tractor in the dark. Who knew? I held out, though. Because I'm tough. And I didn't want Zeke to know that, despite the fact that I'd really like to be tough, I'm actually a big baby.

At about 1:30 am, I asked Zeke if we could stop. He wanted to get the field done. He asked if I could hold out for a half hour, then we'd be back at his house. It wouldn't take that much longer. And I, still wishing to be tough, even though I felt so tired and sick I could cry, lied and told him I'd be just fine. I was still trying to convince him that I was tough.

I don't remember terribly much of that half hour, probably because I was focused on not ralphing in the tractor.

True to his word, Zeke got that field done after only a half hour. He parked the tractor and helped me out. I will not throw up, I will not throw up was my mantra. Zeke turned back to the tractor and fiddled with something (don't ask me, I have no idea what he was doing), and when he saw me still standing there, he said, "You can go outside if you want to, you know."

And so I did. I sat outside the door of the shed, and the fresh air did me some good.

But not enough good. Right as Zeke was walking out of the shed, I threw up. Puked, ralphed, up-chucked, tossed my cookies.

Great, I thought. Very attractive. Just go ahead and vomit all over your boyfriend's grass. Fantastic. I blushed. Zeke came and sat down next to me. I patted his knee and told him I was okay. He laughed at me for comforting him when I was the one getting sick.

And after I had my little vomit-fest, I felt much, much better. Zeke took me into his house, where I fell fast asleep on his bed. After about an hour, he woke me up and asked me if I wanted him to drive me home. Of course, by now I was doing just fine. But he was so sweet to me, despite the disgusting situation he'd just witnessed me in, that I thought, Maybe he won't leave me after all. Maybe I can't scare him away. I mean, if vomit didn't do it, what would?

The next day he called me, to check up on me, and also to tell me that he was pretty sure that he'd just seen the farm dog, lovingly named Dog, eating all the evidence from the night before.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Engagement Story, Part Two

 After a sniffly, stuffy, drug-induced sleep, I woke up in our little cabin in the Black Hills. It took a little while before I felt alive. Quite a while. When I got up and moving (finally), I made breakfast (oatmeal), and woke up Zeke. It was quite a feat. Overnight, his cold had gotten even worse. But I was determined. We would have fun on this trip, congestion or no. We were in the Black Hills, for heaven's sake. Magical, sacred, gorgeous. There was no way a cold was gonna slow me down!

So we got dressed, showered, make-uped (me), lotioned (me again), and packed up extra medicine, cough drops, and tissues. We went out to the Tracker and headed for Spearfish Canyon. There's something about pine trees, mountains, and snow that just feels like Christmas. Like hot chocolate and peppermint. Like being in a nice warm cabin, cuddled up under a blanket. It was beautiful.

This is what we saw . . .

 I spent most of the time pointing at things and saying, "Beautiful! Ah! Beautiful!!"

And we also drove up Terry Peak in the snow. I was, of course, nervous about slipping and falling down the mountain. Zeke, not so much. He likes scaring me, though. It was hard for him to freak me out once we saw things like this....

We kept driving around, enjoying the magnificent mountains covered in snow until Zeke noticed the frozen waterfall. So cool! So of course, I had to get out and take pictures. Bridal Veil Falls was completely frozen, and so pretty. Zeke got out of the car, too, and we walked closer to Bridal Veil Falls.

Zeke has always been pretty wonderful about stopping so I can take pictures. He gets it. I have to take pictures so I can remember as much as possible about where I was, about how I felt, about what happened. I take pictures so I can take a little part of the place with me. That's also why I've started collecting rocks from the places we go.

Anyways, I just had to take a picture of the frozen waterfall. There are a few waterfalls throughout the Black Hills, and we saw tons of waterfalls in the spring on our northern Minnesota motorcycle trip, but a frozen one? Way awesome. I walked closer to Bridal Veil Falls to take the picture, and Zeke went to the back of the car, to get a tissue for his runny nose, I assumed. I kept looking at the waterfall, feeling the freezing cold wind begin to pick up. Eventually, Zeke followed me over to the other side of the road. He was silent, taking in the amazing sight in front of us. At least, that's what I assumed. He was so quiet, in fact, that I heard a different sound. A "chink, chink," like the sound of metal on ice. I looked closer. That's when I realized that there was a guy CLIMBING THE FALLS.


Can't see him yet? Here's a closer shot...

Crazy! I, of course, am all excited. Who would ever think of climbing up a frozen waterfall? Crazy South Dakotans! What would ever possess a person to do that? Wouldn't they be cold!?

As I rant and babble, Zeke smiles nervously. He's still quiet. I attributed this to his bad cold. He must not be feeling well, I reasoned, and made a mental note to give him more cough medicine when we got back into the car.

"That's just nuts. Okay, let's keep going!" I said, feeling bad that I'd made him get out of the car when he wasn't feeling so well. Poor guy.

We kept driving, looking at more of the beautiful scenery, talking about how much fun it would be to go live in a cave up in a mountain. Fun, but difficult to get to. And where would Zeke park the motorcycle?

Eventually, as dark began to fall, we headed back to our cozy little cabin. We decided to grill up the pork chops and the last of the green beans and corn. Zeke took care of all of that. He also went outside into the cold again while I looked out of the window.

When he came back inside, we had a lovely meal of pork chops, creamed corn and green beans (cooked in the can), and also had the Cabernet that Zeke had gotten as a farewell gift from his camp. We drank it in disposable plastic cups that we got out of the bathroom. The wrapped in plastic kind. We're so full of class that I can't even stand it. The queen would have been impressed if she woulda been there. Zeke and I aren't much for wine. We both prefer, say, Mike's Hard Lemonade or plain old beer, on the rare occasions that we drink any alcohol. But wine is classy and romantic, and this wine was free... and we didn't like it. Zeke went so far as to mix it with grapefruit juice to make it more palatable. (We ended up giving the rest of the bottle to my parents after we got back to Iowa).

After our unfortunate wine experience and a really delicious meal, it was time to open Christmas presents! Yes, I was aware that it wasn't yet Christmas- it was only December 22. But we figured that before the craziness of family Christmas parties began, we'd exchange our gifts to one another. I went first. I made Zeke an embroidered picture of a motorcycle, as well as a few little embroidered images that will someday be made into a quilt. They're pictures of things that we've seen together, done together, or laughed about.

Then it was Zeke's turn. He'd had a plastic bag in the closet at the cabin that he told me that I couldn't look in. I thought that's where my present was. He pulled out the bag and said that it was my birthday present, not my Christmas present. I opened my birthday present-- it was a travel mug, a water bottle, and a little notebook and pen- all of which are orange and say "Stitch Happy!" on them. So adorable. I'd been looking at them at the camp store, and Zeke knew exactly what I'd wanted. I thanked him and gave him a hug.

"Okay, now the Christmas present," he said.

"Okay!" I love getting presents.

"Um, for this I need you to sit over here," he said, leading me over to a chair in the little cabin kitchen. "And close your eyes."

I did as I was told, and eagerly waited for my present....

Now, he had really built up to this present. I am an impatient person, and while I like surprises, I usually ask for 40 million hints when it comes to gifts.

The trouble is, my Hunky Husband is very very good at giving obscure and misleading hints. About a week before our trip, I had concluded that I wasn't going to figure it out, and I should just stop driving myself crazy trying to. His hints had included: Some part of it was made of wood, other people had worked on it, he'd been working on it for a year and a half, he really hoped I would like it (lame one...), and it was smaller than a bread box.

For a long time, I admit that I thought it was an engagement ring. I really did. And then I convinced myself that it wasn't. Of course not. I was just being irrational and too much of a romantic. Head in the clouds. Not gonna happen. No use in getting my hopes up.

About three weeks before the trip, we'd had a conversation that went something like this...

"So, what do you think I got you for Christmas?" Over the phone, I could just hear that Zeke had that mischievous grin on his face. He knew he was driving me crazy.

"I don't know..." I said.

"Just guess. What do you think it is?"

"I... I don't want to tell you."

"Why not?"

"Because I just don't."

This went on for about ten minutes, him asking and me refusing to tell him that I thought he was going to propose. I didn't want to pressure him or make him feel like I expected something... He wasn't satisfied with my evasions. He kept asking what I thought the gift was.

"Come on, just tell me. What do you think I got you?" he said, not realizing what was about to happen.

"I don't want to tell you! Okay?! (sniffle) I just... I don't!" I burst into tears. Zeke, in all of his infinite gentleness and kindness, began to laugh. I cried harder.

Eventually, I regained some control over my tear ducts... and told him, very sheepishly..."I think, maybe, well, I used to think it could be an ... well, that you were... going to propose." I began to cry again.

"Oh. Well..."

"No. I know, okay? I know it's not an engagement ring and I feel silly that I even brought it up and I don't want you to feel like I'll be disappointed with the gift you give me and I just hate myself because I don't want to be one of those girls and I don't want to-- I mean, I'm only 22 years old and I'm being ridiculous and I'm sorry and I just think that maybe, hold on, I need a tissue." Poor Zeke's head must have been spinning. Although, he's dealt with irrational me before... so this time must not have been so much of a surprise.

As I blew my nose, Zeke finally got a word in edgewise.

"Well, you might be disappointed. I'm sorry." He sounded down. See? I thought. Now I've made him feel bad and I'm just like one of those girls who pushes their boyfriend into things... I'm terrible! And it's definitely not a proposal. I was a little disappointed. I mean, who wouldn't be? But I worked myself back up again, and started looking forward to a longer time of being what Zeke and I already were. We were a great couple! Why did things have to change, anyways?

And suddenly, three weeks later, there I was, sitting on the kitchen chair in our little cabin in the Hills, eyes shut tight, waiting for what I knew was not a proposal. I thought that Zeke had made me something himself- something wooden and cool. And someone had helped him like, sand it or something. I was still pretty excited for that cool wooden thing, despite the fact that it wasn't an engagement ring.

Zeke's coat was hanging on the back of the chair where I was sitting. While my eyes were still closed, I heard him reach into the pocket of his coat. Sneaky hiding place! I thought. This thing is pretty small if he can fit it in his pocket all day without me noticing!

"Okay, you can open your eyes," he said.

There he was, down on one knee in front of me, and in the little mahogany box in his hand was a ring. No way. I stood up and started shaking and crying.

"Will you- " was all he could say before I kissed him.

"Oh! Oh! <Sob sob> Oh Zeke! <sniffle>" was my eloquent response. I continued to cry and hug him. After about five minutes of me crying with him pinned on one knee because I was holding him so tight, we went over to the little couch, which must have been far more comfortable for him than kneeling on the kitchen floor.

I'd been so busy crying and squeezing Zeke's neck off that I hadn't even gotten a really good look at the ring. I was shaking so hard that he couldn't get it on my finger for quite a while, and when I finally did calm down enough to just look at it, I couldn't stop staring. It's perfect for me. It's everything I could have wanted.

He explained, while we sat together on the couch and I stared at my sparkling new ring, that his plan had been to propose at the frozen waterfall. Unfortunately, his plan was thwarted by the climbing guy. It just wasn't the right moment, Zeke said. He was right. The perfect moment was right there, in our little cabin, up in the Black Hills.

It's where everything started, really- where the pine trees and mountains stretch up towards heaven, where two people, in seeing the beauty around them see the beauty in each other, where the very rocks and flowers have a story. Our story is still in the first chapters- I can't wait to see what happens next. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Engagement Story, Part One

We're in the Black Hills right now! I love it here. Some of my favorite things have happened up in these beautiful forests. For one, Zeke and I got engaged here. And here's the story...

Hunky (Future) Husband and I started out to the Black Hills on December 21. It was cold. I was bundled up. HH was not so much. We'd had a lot of snowfall in Iowa, and while it wasn't snowing at the time, it sure was blowing. That's something I'd never really experienced until I lived in Iowa- blowing snow. The wind, uninhibited by trees of any kind, blows snow over roads, over fields, over driveways. Blowing snow means a driveway previously shoveled into submission will be covered again after about four hours. Blowing snow means lowered visibility.

I really wasn't worried about driving the eight hours up to the Black Hills, though. Mostly because Zeke would be doing the driving. And, since he's been driving since he could talk, I felt quite confident that no snow could blow so strong as to delay our magical vacation.

On top of the snow, both Zeke and I had come down with a terrible cold the week before the trip. My mother insisted that it was a sign that we should both just stay home. But, just like with the snow, I remained undaunted. We would see the Black Hills. We would.

So off we went! The plan had been to leave early in the morning and make it up there while it was still daylight, but other things came up. With Zeke, something always comes up. The night before, he hadn't gotten any packing done for the trip because he'd had to help out on the farm (something about a broken fence and a runaway steer), and he overslept in the morning. I wasn't terribly upset about all this. I mean, within the span of two short days, I'd be in four different states. His being late to get started made for a little more time for me to breathe. And unpack so I could repack again. Whatever. It also meant that I didn't have to get up so early.

Anyway, Zeke got to my house at about nine thirty in the morning. I was almost ready to go, having two extra hours to pack and all. My dad (who works from home and so is around ALL THE TIME) was there to see us off, standing unproductively in the kitchen drinking his coffee. We stood around and talked about nothing in particular for a good ten minutes.

"Okay, we should go," I whined. I'm impatient like that.

"All right." Zeke is unfazed by my impatience. "Did you bring your snow pants?"

Ah. No. I had not packed the snow pants. I ran downstairs and fumbled through my mostly unpacked suitcase to find them. I ran back upstairs and shoved them into the bag.

"There. Okay, lets go." I wanted to get started with this vacation already! To the mountains! To the pine trees!

"You can go start the car. I have to go to the bathroom," Zeke responded. I rolled my eyes inwardly. Come ON, already!  

I hugged my dad. "Make good decisions," he said. He always says that. Having four daughters will do that to a man, I guess.

I took the keys and headed out to the Tracker. Zeke drives a Geo Tracker. It's a little funny to see him get into it. I mean, a 6'5" man crouching into a sitting position and sliding in to a tiny little vehicle causes a few giggles. At least to me it does.

Anyways, I started the car and waited in the cold for Zeke. Just as my impatience was about to run over, he came out of the house. I like watching him walk. He's so confident and cute. I could watch him walk all day. I'm getting off topic here. And my computer screen is getting a little fogged up.

So away, off we went. And I was so happy to be headed out there, to be going to the place that makes my heart sing, where I feel close to God, where I saw deeply into Zeke's soul and realized that my soul is the same... I was so happy that no red flags went up in my mind when we had to stop after forty minutes because Zeke had to use the bathroom. AGAIN. Hmm. Fishy.

Zeke and I got into Rapid City just as dark was falling. We stopped in at a grocery store to get some grub before we headed up to Lead. Zeke and I walked around the store, stretching out our legs and looking around. We ended up getting hot dogs and buns, two strip steaks, two pork chops, some chips, grapefruit juice, a couple cans of green beans and a couple cans of corn. Classy. And finally, we headed to Lead and towards our little cabin.

The drive to Lead was icy. Very icy. We got to the office of the resort and I almost fell on the ice just getting out of the car. The sullen teenager in the office gave us our keys and told us the way to the cabin. It was just a little ways from the office, but was down a steep driveway. I was so scared that we were just going to slide all the way back to the road. Or hit a tree. My Hunky (Future) Husband chuckled at me for clutching the door of the car as he started down the slippery slope of death. And of course, we made it to the cabin just fine. And I only slipped once as we were getting everything out of the Tracker.

From the window in our cabin

Once we were unpacked and settled in, Zeke started cooking the steaks on the grill outside. I stayed inside where it was nice and warm. No freezing for me. The cabin was lovely. Small, but so cozy. It was just perfect for the trip, and just perfect for us. And much nicer than we were used to! I looked out the windows to get a glimpse of the mountains, but by that time it was a little too dark.

I love the Black Hills. The first time I was up there, I was twelve. My family and I did the touristy thing and saw all the sights. It was pretty. I don't remember terribly much of that trip. The second time I went up there, I went with Zeke. He'd gone up there almost every summer since he was little, and had been riding the motorcycle out there for a few years. It was my very first motorcycle trip. The entire thing was an adventure.  There's something about being two people in the wilderness, with nothing between you and the bare rock but air and a little leather.

We rode around curves together, leaning as one, smelling the fresh, clean air and pine trees and pure earth.

All we had were the bags on the back of the motorcycle. I felt truly free, for the first time in a very long time. I'm not really one for risk, for danger. Motorcycles are kind of notorious for risk and danger. But somehow, with Zeke in front of me, I didn't care about the risk. And I slowly opened up and let myself love the sharp turns, forget the worry and enjoy the excitement.

The beauty, the roughness coinciding in perfect sync with gentle, delicate wildlife-- it all gave me a little glimpse into what made Zeke tick, and I realized that I loved so much of what he loved.

He showed me so many things up in the Hills that summer- wild raspberries, glittering mica mines, beautiful streams. He wanted to share himself with me by showing me the places he loved. I knew then that Zeke was the man I wanted to be with forever.

This winter trip was my third trip to the Black Hills, and even though I couldn't see the hills and trees through the dark window, all of the memories of that first trip were there, living in the very soil.

My Hunky (Future) Husband came back inside with the steaks and corn and beans, which we cooked in the can (again, classy). We ate supper, and to be honest, I can't remember what we talked about. A lot of things, I would say. It had been a long day though, so after we finished washing the dishes, we decided to watch a movie and go to sleep. The terrible cold Zeke and I had both come down with that week meant Nighttime Theraflu. Which meant that I was fast asleep and snoring about fifteen minutes into the movie. I have no idea when Zeke went to bed, but when I woke up to cough and blow my nose (like I said, class-- class and romance. This stuff should be in a movie), he was sleeping in his room, too.

I slept pretty well, drug-induced, but well. Zeke didn't, apparently. I thought that it was the bad cold that kept him from sleeping, but I learned later that he was anxious and sleepless for a completely different reason.

Check back soon for Part Two!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Budget Bride- DIY Wedding Flowers- Bouquet Version

Wedding flowers are important. At first, I really didn't think that was the case, because, well, they're just flowers. Keep in mind, though, that those flowers are gonna be in your pictures for years and years to come. Important.

I knew that I wanted roses for my bouquets. The bridesmaids dresses I chose have pretty little rosettes across the bodice, and roses just fit perfectly.

I wanted roses, but I really didn't want to spend money on roses. I also didn't want my roses (the white ones) to yellow before the big day. And so I went to Martha for advice. Martha Stewart, that is. Here's the link: Martha Stewart Paper Roses. 

The tutorial details how to make roses out of coffee filters. Yep! All you need is floral wire, floral tape, and coffee filters. Cheap, cute... but here's your warning:

They. Took. Forever.

Just saying. Between the cutting and wrapping and coloring... man. Forever. But the finished project came out beautifully, and were a big hit at the wedding. As an added little bonus, I wrote small notes (in pencil, so it didn't bleed) on the inside petal of the roses. I read somewhere that the best bouquet a bride can carry are the attributes, the attitudes, of the fruits of the spirit. So, I wrote the fruits of the spirit into my bouquet. For my sisters' bouquets, I wrote traits about them that I value- like my youngest sister is always an her own person, so I wrote, "individuality" on one of her roses.

Can you believe these are made out of coffee filters???

The flowers came out great, and they look very real. I added little twisty wires with sparkly beads to add a little flair to the bouquets, and I hand-tied them myself (with the help of super glue!)

Oh, and see that boutonniere? That's fake, too! Tutorial here.

I love that I got to personalize the bouquets, that I didn't spend much money on them at all, and the best part is that I'll be able to keep my bouquet forever.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Budget Bride- DIY Invitation Tips

I've been a little behind posting about wedding stuff (I know, you miss it! You need more talk of my wedding! Even though it was more than a month ago!)- but hopefully my DIY wedding experience will help someone else out, whether or not I'm posting consistently.


Wedding invitations are ridiculously expensive lately. I don’t know about you, but I personally am not willing to spend upwards of $3.00 per invitation. The price of invitations, I think, really comes from the convenience of simply entering some information and *poof* the invitations show up in the mail!

While that convenience is really nice, I’ve found that with a little extra work, you can make your own invitations (without even purchasing an invitation kit) simply and elegantly for pennies on the dollar.

Here are some tips that I’ve learned during my invitation process:

Paper: I LOVE paperandmore.com for wonderful invitation paper. They have so many options- from linen to cardstock to vellum to metallic, and you’re sure to find your exact wedding colors among their selection. I would recommend first getting a sample of several color possibilities to make sure that the color you see on the screen is the color that you’d be getting.

Paperandmore’s prices are super competitive (I haven’t found anything cheaper), and I was very impressed by how quickly my order came in. They also have great pre-folded, pre-cut invitations, even pocket invitations!

They sell envelopes, as well. I chose to use a linen envelope, but there are also colored envelopes, envelopes with different textures, recycled envelopes… so many options to choose from!

Font: The way your wording looks on a page is a huge part of the style of the invitation. While word processing programs have a great variety of fonts that would work for any invitation style, none of the fonts on my computer were doing it for me.

I chose to download a font online, and then use that font as the “theme font” for the entire wedding. There are a lot of great sites for free fonts online, but I really have had great success with dafont.com. This site allows you to search for different styles of fonts, and even has a directory of artists. I really like Kimberely Geswein’s fonts, myself.

 You will want to make sure that the font is “True Type”- that it will print as seen on the screen. I (being not so technologically advanced) had some trouble with figuring out how to download and install the font at first, but simply searching “downloading font” gave me the steps to do it.

Consider a Watermark: My invitation paper is beautiful, but with such a simple design, the finished product was a little “blah.” I wanted to add some kind of image, but didn’t want the picture to overpower the rest of the invitation.

Microsoft Word has a watermark feature, in which you can download an image to make as a watermark. I chose a forest tree image for my watermark. The color is a muted gray, and the picture came out so subtlety that it doesn’t overshadow the text, but rather enhances it.

You can also use text as a watermark. Something like your names, a lyrics from a favorite song, an excerpt of your vows… all those things would be super sweet to include in your invitation design.

The forest tree watermark that I used

Know Your Printer: I had the good fortune of having access to an industrial laser printer, with which I printed my invitations. Well, I eventually printed my invitations.

I had every single problem in the book when it came to this printer. First, I couldn’t figure out how to change the input tray, so I printed my invitation on company letterhead rather than my card stock. Then the layout settings were wrong, so I printed only half the invitation, and sideways. Then, just when I thought things were finally working, I jammed the printer so badly that I had to call HH to pull the whole thing apart to fix it (twice).

I ended up wasting about 15 sheets of my card stock. As I told HH, it was like watching my money get torn up and destroyed by that printer. Frustrating.

Long story short: Know your printer before you put your fancy paper through it. Or you’ll end up like me- listening to your fiance try to convince you not to kick the stupid machine while you sniffle back angry tears.

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