Saturday, August 27, 2016

Being Married

I can't wait to tell you about being married. I have been so excited to blog about marriage from my new perspective as a wife. But I felt obligated to catch you all up on wedding details. Then I chopped all my hair off and I couldn't feel right if I didn't blog about it RIGHT AWAY! But now I have got you guys pretty much up-to-date. Let's talk marriage! 

"So. How's married life?" This is the question everyone has been asking. Some people use a lilting intonation to suggest that by asking the question they will be inducted into some of the secrets of married life. Their tone suggests, "So tell me, Lucy Rose, what's it really like?" They seem to be digging for something they suspect to be lying beneath the surface of the happily married facade. Maybe they are hoping to discover that the physical aspects of marriage are not all they are cracked up to be, or that rigid gender roles are threatening my independence. I might be taking this a little far. But so many of the people who have asked this question allow for a smidgen of smugness to tinge the phrasing that I can't help but comment on it.

So when they ask I tell them, "Marriage is awesome. I love it." I wish people had told me this before I got married. Few of the married people I know said, "Lucy Rose, being married rocks. You're going to love it." I don't know why they didn't tell me this. Perhaps this wasn't true for them. Perhaps they felt it was more important to make sure I was prepared for all of the potential hardships instead. But if I were to speak with a young woman who was engaged right now I would probably say to her, "Look, if you know this is the right guy for you, then I can't recommend marriage more highly. Do it. Get hitched. It's the bomb."

Why is being married so awesome? In order to explain I need you to picture this: You have found the guy you want to spend the rest of your life with. But you are not married. You are engaged or dating. You both live in separate apartments. Whenever you want to be together you need to arrange it by phone or ahead of time. When you are together you are always conscious of the fact that your roommates might not want you to get all couple-y in the shared living room. I am not even talking physically, but the private speaking and laughing that couples engage in together, which tends to be pretty exclusive.

You want privacy, but the only places you can be in private are the wilderness and your car. If you are in the bedroom of your apartment, which you share with another young college woman, your roommates will assume that the two of you are busy creating the next generation of college-goers.

Perhaps you want to cook a meal together. You must command the space of the kitchen during peak eating hours in the apartment. when you have finally made the food there are still people milling about and you feel obligated to offer them some. You can ask them to vacate the space for the evening so that the two of you can be together, but that is not very nice to do.

Now imagine that you have got married. Now you are finally inhabiting the same space. Spending time together is no longer a logistical puzzle. People have no right to get ticked off at you for being couple-y any more — you are legally married! Cooking dinner together is now a nightly ritual instead of a rare occurrence. Not only this but you are allowed to create a home together based upon your shared values. Your books inhabit the same bookcase. You decide together on the way you spend your money instead of feeling guilty about who pays for what.

Marriage is awesome. ButI don't mean everyone needs to get married to be happy. Nor do I mean that you should get married to the first random man who strikes your fancy. But marriage is more joyful than people make it out to be. It is far less grave than my evangelical brethren made it out to be. Yes, it is a holy union before the Lord, but it is also pretty dang sweet.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Three Things: Why I Cut Off All My Hair

I am sitting in the swivel chair of a salon here in downtown Wheaton. My computer is in my lap. Around my neck is a black cape. On my head is goopy stuff and very little hair. I just got it all cut off.  It took two hours to carve away the thick, dark hair from my head. But now it is in a short pixie cut. Except for the very top, it is as short as my husband's hair! I have never done anything this crazy with my hair. What prompted this insanity? Well, let's talk about that...

1. Curiosity
I have always wanted to know what it would feel like to have very little hair on my head. How would the wind feel when there weren't tendrils of hair flicking my cheeks? How would it be to wash a thatched head of hair and run my fingers through the close crop? Would I look good? I have never been able to pull off the "gamin" style of Audrey Hepburn, with her straight bangs and wide yes. My hair was always too wild — more "woodland creature" than "sheik Parisian". But I find that I love this look on me. My eyes pop with my darker brown hair colour and my long neck is more accentuated. I also didn't expect this, but my ears are more visible than ever. They are quite nice as ears go, if I do say so myself.

2. Convenience
Ten to twenty minutes. that is how much time I would usually spend on my hair on a given day. I would style it. Restyle it and then restyle it again. I hated to wear it down, because I hated the distraction of it brushing my face and flipping into my eyes. It took two hours to air-dry, but if I blew it dry than it was frizzy. Even then it was frizzy and out of control most of the time. Honestly, I derived more anguish than joy out of my hair. Now that my hair is so short I can wash it in no time and the only preparation I have to do in the morning is rearrange my bedhead.

3. Character
My hair has always been a piece of my identity. People associate me with my wild, brown hair. I think that in their minds it reinforces their perception of me as a kooky, creative person. I play this up by drawing illustrations and caricatures of myself with curly hair. But now I want to explore who I am without this defining feature. Cutting all of my hair off is a way of branching out from that persona. As a child I remember adults constantly commenting on the little girl with pretty curls. It bothered me to be talked about. I wanted people to focus more on what what coming out of my mouth and mind than out of my hair follicles. I wished that I could have hair like my brothers: short, easy to manage and non-interesting. I had to spend several minutes each day wedged between my mother's knees getting a comb wrenched through my hair. It was not an experience that helped us bond. I was mad at my mom for hurting me and my mom was mad at me for squealing and squirming.

Now that I am shorn I am beginning to reap the benefits I have always dreamed of. There are some downsides: I find that I miss the sensation pulling my hair into a ponytail at the end of the day. My head is also cold most of the time. But beyond those things, it is super fun. Sheldon is a fan, by the way. I wouldn't have done something this drastic if he was majorly opposed. Thankfully he wasn't!

Monday, August 22, 2016

How to Have a Great Wedding and Not Procrastinate Like I Did

In my last post I mentioned wedding decisions which turned out not to matter very much. I also mentioned a few decisions which were very important to me. Today I want to talk about some of the things that I was really happy with. These were some details that we did make the effort to realise and they were worth it. 

One decision I spoke about in this post was the decision to cut down the cost of the overall wedding in order to fly out three of my close friends from the Czech Republic. This was one of my number one best decisions. We made it early on in the planning process. It took a lot of time, money and effort to make it happen. But boy, was it worth it to have those women by my side for the week of the wedding. Special thanks to my parents who planned the girl’s stay in the States. More thanks to our States side friends who hosted the girls and made them feel welcome. 

Another decision I held fast to was my manicure with Lisa, my Matron of Honour. We had to re-plan that outing several times in order to coordinate her arrival in the States from the Czech republic. But that was worth it as well, because I got a few hours of time to relax with her. I know I wouldn’t have got that if we hadn’t fought for it. I still have the nail polish on my feet! 

Professional make-up and hair. This was something that I decided alone. Even though my mother hadn’t done her own and looked amazing, I felt strongly that I wanted to have mine done by a professional. I wanted to know that I looked about as good as humanly possible. I also knew that if I were to do it myself I would be nervous about it all evening. I would be tweaking it and worrying about its getting messed up. But if professionals did it I would be able to purely focus on my groom and my guests. I felt gorgeous all night. And even when I started feeling exhausted, sweaty and cranky toward the end I knew I still looked fabulous. 

Sheldon’s wardrobe. This cost both of us some sweat and tears. Sheldon is very uncomfortable in the realm of clothing and shopping. Unfortunately, the issue of his wardrobe was put off until the last couple weeks. But I am very glad we decided to spend the time and money that we did in making him look his best on the day of the wedding. The fact that he looked great meant that I didn’t have to worry about the fit of his clothes and could just enjoy him. 

We kept the ceremony brief. We cut out a few things like the lighting of unity candles. We wanted to keep it down to the basics of vows, scripture reading, a song and a brief sermon. Given that the day was terribly hot and we were outdoors this was wise. Sheldon’s father, who is a pastor, officiated and did a wonderful job. We felt very confident in his choices as the minister. 

Postcards as favours. Wedding favours were another somewhat last-minute affair. OK. Who am I kidding. A lot of this wedding erred on the side of last minute. But anyway we decided to just print up a bunch of blank postcards featuring snippets of our artwork as the favours. People could choose from a selection of them and send them off to others or keep them. 

We had a set time to leave. Sheldon and I wanted to be with our guests a lot, because we knew this would be a precious time with people we rarely see. However we also knew that we would only have so much energy to give. So we had the hard and fast deadline of leaving at 10PM. We had our guests grab some of the lanterns we had strewn about the pavilion and escort us to a nearby bridge. We walked through a tunnel of our guests and off to our honeymoon!

Our honeymoon was extremely low-key. We had one night in a fancy hotel and then we went back to our apartment, packed up our little truck and drove five hours to a cabin in central Wisconsin. The cabin was not near any major sights. It was just in a pretty spot. This meant that there was no pressure to see sights or travel around. We just relaxed. 

We came back a couple days early. Both of us took a week off for the honeymoon. But we came back a few days before the week was out. We kept our phones off and didn’t see anyone, just like the honeymoon. That gave us some time to settle in to our apartment. We needed that time for Sheldon to move in and for us to feel like we were established as a couple in our home. discerning 


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wedding Details That Don't Matter

In the aftermath of the wedding Sheldon and I realised that some of the things that we thought mattered didn't. What follows is an exposition of the things that, in the end, no one cared about. 

1. Napkins, Plates and Tablecloths
We talked about the colours of our disposable plates. We ordered beautiful rounded tablecloths to adorn the tables upon which the desserts were served. In the end, not only did Sheldon and I not get to eat almost any of our food, but we hardly noticed the tables or the plates. We also go the distinct impression that no one else did either. The fact that we lost the tablecloths in the craziness of the preparations and served the food off of bare folding tables? Whatever. 

2. A Playlist for Dancing
We thought that it would be super important to commission a cool friend to compile a killer playlist for our guests to dance to. We asked several people to do it, but i n the end we just played a random selection of old standbys from my former roommate's iPhone. Everyone had a blast. No biggie. 

3. The Thinness of the Ties
I have always been a fan of thin ties. I get this from my father, who only concedes to wear thin ties. He is a child of the sixties. So I pushed hard for our groomsmen (all four of Sheldon's brothers and a childhood friend) to wear thin ties. But when we were standing up front on the day of the wedding I didn't even notice their ties. They looked great, but I had no idea what kind of tie each of them was wearing. They were even primarily obscured by the vests which they wore instead of suit jackets. I mainly noticed the streams of sweat sliding down Sheldon's glowing face in heat. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Three Things: My Personal Highlights of the Wedding Day

The three best things about the day of the wedding. What follows are merely hihglights of what was an incredible day. Many people gave us their gifts and their care even though they are not mentioned. I just wanted to give you a few of the moments that stood out to me on the day.

Breakfast With My Parents
There were a handful of things concerning the day of the wedding that I really wanted. I really wanted to walk down the aisle to a specific Czech song called Křídla Motýlí sung by the 2004 Český Superstar (the Czech equivalent of American Idol). And I really wanted there to be donuts. Other details were more flexible than those. But I also wanted to spend the morning of my wedding day with my parents. I wanted a time for us to be alone together in peace, with time for them to pray with me and talk with me before the crazy of the day hit. I got the idea from Little Women, one of my favourite books of all time. In the book the oldest sister spends a time of prayer and counsel with her father in his study before her wedding. A long time ago I decided I wanted something similar. I took my mom and dad to one of my favourite cafes. We discovered that although the rest of the cafe was bustling and packed there was a tranquil, shady garden in the back. We spent two hours together. We talked over memories of my growing up. My dad shared a passage fo scripture from Ruth that he had been inspired by in relation to the wedding. I couldn’t eat much from nerves, but I loved basking in the attention of both my parents. It was the perfect way to kick off a huge day. 

Our Beloved Guests
Sheldon and I planned our wedding all by ourselves. We put in hours and hours of work envisioning what our day would be like. But one thing that we couldn’t quite envision was what it would be like to finally stand in front of all of our guests. I stumbled down the aisle in my toasty wedding dress (I am talking literally here, I literally tripped on the steps going up the aisle) and finally took my place beside Sheldon at the altar. I could now see my guests for the first time. There was my favourite Education professor standing in the back. There were the kids for youth group. There was the family that took me in during my first summer in Wheaton. Each face belonged to beloved person in our lives. Often during the process of planning the wedding we (OK, mainly me) stressed over whether we would offend the guest over various decisions. Would we offend everyone by not having a seating chart? Would the guests be offended that we did not serve alcohol? Would they be more offended if we did serve alcohol? But as I looked out on our guests I realised how foolish that had been. Perhaps those fears would have been rational had I been Princess Kate planning a royal wedding of international proportions and huge diplomatic import, but I wasn’t. The people at our wedding came because they cared about us more than they cared for formalities. 

My Brother’s Contributions 
This is hard to describe. But here goes. My younger brother Paul Hugh took the microphone first when the time for toasts came. He looked dapper in his grey suit and glasses. He began by saying that our choice to read have scripture read in English, Spanish and Czech was a symbol of my and Sheldon’s allegiance to several different cultures. Then he said that there was one culture left unrepresented. Extraterrestrial culture. So he thought that we needed to have the same passage of scripture read in Alien. He then placed the microphone very close to his lips and began to emit screeching noises. Some of the noises were long piercing shrieks while some were low rumbling sucking sounds like that of a plunger underwater. 

He made the noises for at least 20 seconds and then paused. Then he placed the microphone to his throat and made another 30 seconds of noises this time vibrating from deep in his throat. I died laughing. But even as I was splitting the sides of my carefully tailored dress I was looking around at the guests wondering how they were taking this. I wondered who besides me and my family thought it was funny. Some people seemed bemused. My pastor was cracking up. But the best was one of Sheldon’s little nephews who sat on the steps of the pavilion transfixed. Then he began to imitate Paul Hugh’s noises with bizarre sounds of his own. Paul Hugh’s toast hit the spot for me on a day which had a lot of stress and weightiness attached I loved abandoning myself to laughter and feeling like it was a special gift to me. 

OK. I know I said Three Things, but writing about one brother;s contribution to the wedding makes me want to write about the other two. Patrick, my older brother composed a song and sang it during the ceremony. I had asked him to play a musical piece during the ceremony two weeks before. I told him I wanted him to choose something and in the days leading up he was still deciding what to sing and rejecting every suggestion. Finally at the rehearsal dinner he asked if he could sing me part of the song he had composed for the occasion. Sheldon and I loved it. I think he finsihed writing it that day, but I might be making that up. In any event it was funny, it was sweet and it was beautiful. It recounted the history of our relationship as brother and sister and then the history of welcoming Sheldon into the family. I loved it. 

We asked my littlest brother Isaac (9) to dance down the aisle right before me. We had almost zero time to perfect this and I was busy tripping while he was doing his part during the ceremony, so I didn’t really get the full benefit of seeing it. But later on in the evening there was some dancing and that was when I really got to enjoy Isaac’s dancing skills. He bounded up to the little girl (8) who had carried the train of my dress down the aisle and begged her to dance with him. She was slightly reluctant but gave in and let herself be whisked by both hands into a fabulous dance of Isaac’s concoction. Isaac gave himself over to fabulous movements that resembled flamenco. The little girl opted for a simple side step. It was so fun to watch them. Eventually Isaac pulled a passing four-year-old into their dance. The three of them joined hands danced in a circle. Sheldon and I stopped our progression of greeting the guests for a few moments and watched them with huge smiles. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

I Am Someone's Wife

I am married. I have a husband. I am someone’s wife. These are thoughts that still baffle me when I find myself slipping phrases like “my husband” into conversation. Ever since we got back from our honeymoon a two weeks ago I have been adjusting to being married. The new terminology is just one of the things I have to get used to. 

I remember when we were still dating it was weird to start calling each other “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. Even weirder was the transition to “fiancé” that came with our engagement. But along with the weirdness was also pride. Each title denoted a slightly higher level of relationship status. People respect boyfriends and girlfriends, but they take fiancés much more seriously, especially if there is a sparkly ring to show off as well. When you are affianced to someone then people respect the fact that you have made your choice about who you will marry. When you just have a boyfriend people think “They still might break up…” but guys stop thinking they have a chance once the engagement is official. I thought the title of fiancé was pretty cool back in November, when it was fresh. 

But it is nothing compared to how awesome “husband” and “wife” are. Those are the best titles of all. They are like the PhD of relationship statuses. Boyfriend and girlfriend are like an associate’s degree: It’s great, but not as serious a commitment as Bachelor’s. Then you get your Master’s in being a fiancé and people really start to take an interest in what you have to say. But now you are have your marriage PhD and boy, you can rule the world! To inject the word “husband” into a conversation is to invoke the most sacred bond in your life. Even in our moment of history the word has power. It suggests commitment and monogamy. It says to the other person, “I risked everything and chose one person to be with for the rest of my life.” 

In the next few days and weeks I will tell you more about The Wedding and what Married Life has been like so far. But as my first post back I just wanted to revel in the newness and joy of having someone I can call “Husband”. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

In Between Stages

Do you ever feel like you are living in limbo? Like you are stuck between things and waiting for the next thing? You can't settle down. Your mind and energy is split and your belongings are also split between boxes and storage spaces. That is how I feel right now. That is why I have been bad about blogging recently. I am caught in between. 

One reason I am in limbo is that I am not married yet. In about 30 days I will be married to the man I love. We will live together and make a home. We will create habits of daily life and make dinner together and stuff. But for now I am a single woman living in a bedroom of someone else's house. My boxes are in their basement. I use their kitchen and put my food on a designated shelf in the fridge. I don't go to the kitchen in the night to get a cup of milk, because I am afraid I will wake them up and bother them. I don't cook very many meals, because I don't want to make a mess. I am so grateful for a place to stay, but it is hard to be somewhere that is not really your own home. I am just waiting until Sheldon and I have an apartment, which we can decorate and inhabit together.

It is hard on my relationship with Sheldon to be in limbo like this. He works mornings and afternoons and I work afternoons and evenings. When he picks me up from work at 8 or 9 we only have a couple hours of time together before he needs to go to bed and prepare for his work day. In that time I am usually exhausted from work. It is annoying to not live together, because he has to drive me home and say goodnight after a few measly hours. I am looking forward to not having to do that. I know that when we are married it will still be hard to find time together, but at least we won't have to live in different houses and consistently cut the conversation short.

I am living in limbo between normal life and my wedding. The wedding looms ever larger over my life. It is this huge event in the distance that keeps coming closer, but still nothing tangible has happened yet. We are still making phone calls, scheduling things and drawing up plans. But each days slips by and we are a little bit closer. It feels like that time before a thunder storm, where the air is tense and the sky is silent.

I am looking forward to when the storm has settled. The wedding is exciting. I can't wait to see old friends and be together. But I also can't wait for us to be able to discover normal life as a married couple, where we can be together without offending people. Where we don't have to pack everything up at 9:30 and say goodbye, but we can brush our teeth at the same sink and wake up in the morning to have breakfast together in our very own kitchen.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Wedding Update #9

I have known what my wedding dress would be for a little over a year. Even before Sheldon proposed, my grandmother and I had talked it over and I even tried it on. I am going to wear her wedding dress from 1959. My mother also wore her dress, so this will be its third outing and likely its last. For several weeks I toyed with the idea of wearing a different dress and just using my mother’s veil, but in the back of my mind I was still pretty certain that I would wear my grandmother’s dress. 

When my grandmother was getting married she and her mother (my great-grandmother Ruby Lee) went shopping. Ruby Lee told my grandmother that she was allowed to spend 150$ on her dress. The two of them walked into a store and my grandmother saw a beautiful dress. “I want that one,” she said. The salesperson let her try it on. A perfect fit. But the price? Also a perfect fit. It cost exactly 150$. 

Many years later my mother and father were getting married. My mother wanted to use the dress. It was eggshell white with a delicate lace collar and sleeves. The bodice is satin-y and cut with princess seams. The sleeves taper into points that look like a medieval ball gown. There are tiny white buttons all down the back. The train spreads out far in the back, but it is not crazy voluminous. My mother has a smaller, more boyish build than my hour-glass grandmother, so she had the dress taken in. 

Now it is my turn. I learned that the dress was still in tact and in pretty good condition. My grandmother and I unpacked it from her lovely, cedar hope chest in my grandparents bedroom. We lifted stacks of photo albums and keepsake baby clothes to find the big, poofy white parcel at the bottom. Inside the body-bag-like case was the dress—rumpled but in good condition. I tried it on. It was to narrow at the chest and ribcage. I couldn’t button it all the way, but in my grandmother’s bathroom mirror I could see how it would be lovely if it were fixed to fit me.

A few days ago I tried the dress on again. This time it had been altered by my tailor to fit my waist and chest. My friend Joanna helped me to button all the tiny buttons down the back. I held my breath hoping they would close all the way. “Is it going to be OK?” I asked Jo. “It is going to be perfect.” All done. I lifted the swaths of fabric to walk toward the three-way-mirror in the tailor’s shop. I saw myself. Tiny waist. Hands delicate and white in the tapering sleeves. Hair in a sloppy ponytail. Neck long and graceful emerging from the lacy collar. The perfect dress. 

I am skeptical of the emphasis American culture has on finding the “perfect dress”. It is almost as misleading as the idea that each person has a single soul mate whom they must locate. There are countless scenes in films aimed at female audiences that rhapsodise over the search for The Dress. I am glad that I didn’t have to search. I am glad that I didn’t have to go on an exhausting search through retail outlets and shops in order to find something that was supposed to be perfect. I didn’t have to sort through stacks of fabric and consort with elegant salespeople, who make me feel inferior and clunky. 

I am grateful for my dress. I love that it has a history. It was the beginning of two beautiful marriages before mine. The two ladies in my life that are closest to me in love and blood wore it. In about 40 days I will too. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Three Things: What I Miss About the Czech Republic

At my new job my supervisor is often appalled that I don't pick up on a lot of pop-culture references. I tried to explain that I had spent the majority of my young adulthood in Europe. Unfortunately, he continues to be completely aghast when I do not recognise the names of bands and hit songs. But it all got me to thinking about how I have become so enveloped in the American culture around me that when little cultural clashes pop up, they really surprise me. Today I will talk about a few things that I have been noticing lately. They are mostly things that I miss about the Czech Republic, which I still consider to be my home. 

1. Walking
People walk. They walk for fun and for transportation. Getting around by foot is normal and everybody does it. Here in suburban US I only see people walking in the evening wiht their dogs aorund the block or along designated "walking trails". At 7:30 in th emroning in my town in the Czech Republic you will see dozens of people walking to work, walking to the store or the train. When I recently walked to the college campus from my summer residence one morning I was shocked to be the only person out. I miss that culture of walking. That is why I am glad that living a few miles from the gym, my campus mailbox and my job means that I have to walk more. I have missed that time of reflection. I often pray during my walks and the steady pace of stepping over and over helps me to keep focused on my conversation with God.

2. Greetings
In the Czech Republic greetings are very important. Saying "Dobrý den" or "Good day" to anyone you meet on the sidewalk is considered polite. It is also imperitive to say this whenever you enter a building or room. If I were to walk into a doctor's office I would open the door and announce "Dobrý den" to the whole waiting room. When I left the office I would say "Nashledanou" or "Goodbye" to everyone. I would do the same thing in the grocery store or the mall. I miss that here in the US because it makes transactions easier when there is such a clear-cut formula. At the smoothie bar, where I work, I am often slightly taken aback when customers approach me to make an order and do not offer any greeting.

3. Beer
For those of you who don't know, I like beer. I am not a crazy beer drinker, by any means, but I enjoy a cold glass of beer on a hot day. One thing I miss about the Czech Republic is the amazing beer. It is inexpensive and so good. You can go for a hike and stop at the tiny pub at the top of your climb for a chilly beer. Here in the States there are a lot of options for good beer. Craft brewing is a big fad, but the culture around drinking is different. With young people my age drinking is more about the thrill of having alcohol than relaxing and spending time together. I miss that freedom to enjoy beer with friends without there being an aura of rebellion surrounding it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Weekend Wedding Update #8

Last week it hit me: I have been preparing for the wedding as though it is the only thing that matters, but in reality the wedding is actually just the start of something much bigger: our marriage. I have been getting increasingly caught up in dresses, registries, dates, times, themes and venues, when the wedding day is actually pretty minor compared to what we are embarking on together. A lifetime. We want to be faithful to one another for a whole lifetime, Lord willing. It has only just now begun to sink in for me. 

One of my favourite novel is Anna Karenina. I love it because it is like getting to watch your favourite period drama, like Downton Abbey or Little Dorrit, in book form. You are given the private thoughts and motives of each character and allowed to see everything from their eyes. But one of my favourite things about the novel is the way that Tolstoy writes about marriage, in particular the marriage of Levin and Katya.

Half the novel is devoted to the courtship of Katya by the woefully awkward and idealistic Levin, but rather than stop the novel with the wedding, we watch the relationship continue to unfold as they become parents and deepen their love for one another. I adore Jane Austen, but each novel ends with the wedding. We are never allowed the pleasure of watching the rest of the journey.

So as I consider our impending marriage I look to Tolstoy, not Austen, for my literary guide to marriage. I have decided that I need to be preparing my heart and my soul as well as my dress for the next several decades of being with this guy. We have started our premarital counselling with our pastor and his wife. I am hoping this will be one way to prepare. I have also been treating my engagement ring as a reminder.

I know that it symbolises a promise by Sheldon to marry me, but I have been training myself to think, "This is a commitment to Sheldon for our whole lives. This is real and it has to last." whenever I find myself looking at my ring.

In short, we have moved forward with some of the wedding planning. We have rented chairs. We have contacted a photographer. We are working on food and invitations. But the wedding is just the beginning.

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