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Election Day: A Blate

Excuse me while I brag. This year I had the best election day in the history of my adult life. And it had nothing to do with politics. It did, however, have everything to do with this fabulous friend of mine.

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That’s right. I went on a blate. Well, a double blate? I don’t know what you’d claim it to be. Whatever you name it, it was simply this: two friends meeting for the first time halfway between their homes, husbands in tow, for a fabulous lunch and a stroll around a historical estate. Or, in fewer words: Alex and I met Kristin and her husband at Keswick Hall.

You see, they have been going to Keswick for years and one of the first things she mentioned to me when we met through blogging is that Alex and I simply must go visit. It was something under the lines of "What? You call Charlottesville your second home but you’ve never been to KESWICK?" So, kill two birds with one stone, why don’t I?

And it was wonderful. We dined on a harvest fair fit for royalty. We ordered hot chocolate and my husband drank his weight in water. We smiled and laughed. We played billiards. No, wait, that was our husbands. We played indoors-manual-mode on our cameras. And we got to know one another. In person, that is. And, oh, I have some fabulous news for the blogging world….

Everything you imagine Kristin to be… she’s that times one hundred. This girl is the real deal. I am so happy to call her a friend (in real life, yay!) and her husband is just as genuine and amazing as she is. If you don’t follow her blog already, you need to. She’s my go-to for everything from recipes to housekeeping tips to simply just wanting to read an awesome blog post. So enjoy this photo set from our election day out.

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Now, this week’s recap:

The Sunday Currently

The First Annual Blog-iversary Giveaway (you have until Sunday to enter!!!)

A Blogiversary (some thoughts)

Blue Ridge Blues

Love Notes: Precious Time

Thanksgiving: A Lifestyle Blogger Link-Up (announced)

And my favorite posts on the blog-o-sphere this week:

Babies and Marriage

Beauty and Grace in the City (Sheila is truly an awesome photographer! Plus, I’m a sucker for ballet photography.)

The Unspoken Truth About Crying On Your Wedding Day

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Katie stayed behind after breakfast so that I could dilly dally. Best friends are good for that on your wedding day. They wait for you to shower extra carefully, shaving slow and meticulous. They talk to you while you brush your teeth for an extra few minutes. They listen to your nervous, excited, random talk about who knows what silly detail to come. And then, double checking that everything is where it should be, they notice you are about to forget your dirty underwear at the foot of the bed. When they are certain (because your head isn’t in a place to be certain about packing up and leaving a bed and breakfast right now), they throw your luggage in the trunk and say “Alright! It’s time to go!”.

We took the quick 3 minute drive from Afton Mountain Bed & Breakfast to Veritas Vineyard at about 10 in the morning. Forty-five minutes behind everyone else. Spears of sunlight beamed down over the mountains, creating a shadow of deep crimsons and burnt oranges over the landscape. The wind was howling in that “stay inside, but near a window because it’s magical out here” type of way. I was doing well.

One, maybe two, groups of visitors stood around the tasting room. Prime time to visit before the weekend rush. The fire crackled and snapped for no one but me. Everyone else was too busy to notice. Hugs, kisses, “happy wedding day!” wishes from each and every staff member as we walk through. We know them by name now. And the warm welcome was just what the doctor ordered.

The morning went slow. And fast. Time. For how planned out the day was from 2pm on, the chunk right there in the morning… well, I couldn’t figure out whether it was going too slow or too fast. I still couldn’t tell you. Until it happened.

Somewhere around 12:30. So early. “Tina. They need you in the bridal suite. It’s time for your hair and makeup.” I quicken my pace. Busy myself. Mutter something or other in the form of an excuse. I’m sure it was decent enough. But it only lasted a few minutes. Someone else. More excuses. It was Katie who finally led me upstairs to the bridal suite. Where I lost it.

Nobody warned me about this part. The part where the bulldozer runs you straight over, without looking back. It speeds up, too. Faster and faster. Once it starts running, it doesn’t stop.

“It’s okay. It happens to every bride. But he loves you so much and you will be….”

“No, it’s not that!” I am not sure how I did it- how I formulated words to describe the flooding emotions that kept me from moving forward with my day. But I did. “I don’t want it to start because once it starts, it will end. And I don’t want the day to end.”

But I let it happen. I let the day start. From here, a year later, I understand why I lost it. But I wish I could go back and tell myself that every day after that day’s “end” will be better than I thought life could ever be because that special, particular day, in fact, “ended”. And now I am my best friend’s wife. And he is my husband.

Being a bride is strange. Obsessive amounts of blood, sweat, and tears feed into that one day. When, really, it’s about the lifelong adventure that follows that one day. So, yes, I melted into a slobbering mess over the fear of October 21, 2011 coming to its inevitable close. And, yes, I am happy that it ended.

(I bet that you were wondering when the pictures would begin. Or, you just skipped down to this point and that’s okay, too.)

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P.S. Have I told you yet today how amazing Jodi & Kurt are? Yeah. They took all of these pictures. They made me look beautiful (sorry, it was my wedding day. I’m allowed to say that).

To see more of our wedding, go here. :)

The Great American Dream

I suppose nothing about my thought process is new. I’ve contemplated these topics, and how they are interwoven into one great, big, puzzling conundrum that takes over my life for years. I believe there is no wrong answer, and there are many different paths to take, but that is the biggest trouble of all. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, we only have one life to live and what is the best way to go about living?

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My ponderings and dichotomies rear their heads every time I get away. That’s the thing about the I-95 corridor: it sucks you in. It makes you believe there is no other way. Surely, it must be like that because as far as your mind can travel, you come across overpopulation, traffic, hustle and bustle, outrageous housing prices and Jones’. Oh, to keep up with the Jones’. It’s so damn hard. Especially in the humidity of 95 degree, muggy, sweat-sticks-to-your-bones summers. Who honestly enjoys that?

Surely, as my mind begins to delve deeper, always playing devil’s advocate with myself, why wouldn’t you want to live here? We have 3 international airports within a 30 minute drive. It’s a short drive to NYC, Philly, Richmond, you name it. We live and breathe our nation’s Capital. We have mountains and oceans and everything in between. We have deep-rooted, colonial history and the brick roads to prove it.

People we love live here. Our friends. Family. All keeping up with the Jones’, or trying. The desperate need and forced lifestyle of blowing all of your earnings on metro access, beltway proximity, decent schools, the right zip code, the pompousness of certain town names, and the newest and brightest shopping centers. You know what that all equals? Super-inflation, mega-traffic, depleted savings accounts, ridiculous commutes, and unfriendly communities. And what is it all for?

My theory is rather simple. Some people don’t know any better. They grew up here. Their parent’s grew up here or in a place rather similar somewhere up and down this I-95 gridlock. They went to school around here. And for all they know, this is paradise. It must be like this everywhere, and if it isn’t like this everywhere else, it mustn’t be worth living there. It’s probably crap.

You know what’s crap? Spending a quarter of a million dollars on a 3 bedroom townhome with a tiny deck for a back yard, one parking spot, and 1.5 bathrooms. It’s crap paying said mortgage knowing that there is no way you would ever raise a family in a townhome without a backyard to run wild and loose, without a driveway to hang an obligatory basketball hoop, and without a tree to build a fort. But who has 500k to buy the aforementioned American Dream?

Government employees and contractors, that’s who. Overpaid, beltway bandits who stay put because this is where the jobs are. Sadly, this American Dream is difficult to maintain for even them.

So, what in the world is a couple living on two teacher salaries doing in the Washington, DC area? Good question. I’ve got an answer for you.

We are stupid. We know better. But, this is where we grew up. This is where our friends, who are working their government and contractor jobs to cover their cost of living, have chosen to reside. We have family nearby. We’ve already surrendered to calling this place, this ugly, busy, crowded, expensive place home.

Until, we get away. I’ve spent my entire life driving the turnpikes through the absolute hideousness of Pennsylvania, the supremely boring flatlands of Ohio and up into Michigan. To the clear waters of Lake Michigan. To the friendly Midwestern accents that great you at every corner. To where “rush hour” is having to wait through one light cycle in the middle of town. No, this has always been home to me.

And so, as we are driving back to our overpriced townhouse, to see Baci and Misha because we miss them dearly, Alex asks me something I thought I’d never live to hear.

“Do you want to move to Michigan?”

“I’ve always wanted to move to Michigan.” Duh.

And our conversation begins. The most common cause of divorce among marriages? Stress about finances. Every single argument, stress, and hiccup Alex and I have in our relationship is directly related to money. Working too long, too hard to make more of it. Being stressed to the point where we need to spend it in order to relax (in the form of everything from happy hours to massages to weekend getaways). Then, the guilt and remorse of realizing that we spent money we couldn’t really afford to spend. Never having enough of it, and knowing that we will never make enough money to keep up with the Jones’ here in DC. But, because that’s what you do in DC, you spend your money on an overpriced lifestyle, we do it. Hamsters on a wheel; around and around we run.

We know that if we choose to stay here, there will be sacrifices. For example, the rate things are going, we will never be able to afford to take our children to Disney World. We won’t be able to afford to take our kids on a plane, let alone travel in the sense that makes them worldly, with vacations around the country and Europe. We won’t be able to offer them too much money for college. And playing sports will require a chokehold on our spending money. We’ll have credit card debt, because, let’s face it, our paychecks won’t cover it. But look at everything we get in return. (I’m being sarcastic, here).

So there’s that. The ultimate, impossible to digest, heartbreaking truth of the matter. If we decide to stay here, living off of the I-95 corridor, we will never have a family. Because we refuse to raise a family under the above circumstances.

Leading me full circle to my great, overarching concern. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, we only have one life to live and what is the best way to go about living? I care more about raising a family, the right way, than I do having the social hierarchy status of living the Mid-Atlantic nightmare of the nation’s Capital… childless.  We’re better off searching for a more affordable American Dream.

*Filed under Personal Life*