Category Archives: Charleston

We Are Charleston Strong

Charleston. My beautiful home. The place I’ve written love letters to a thousand times over, the beaches I seek for mental clarity, the city I adore.

Photo credit: Abby Chamberlain

Photo credit: Abby Chamberlain

When the news broke last week about the brutal murders at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, my heart shattered. “Not here,” I thought to myself. “Not our people. There has been enough blood spilled here—please let it not be true.” But the news kept coming–nine lives lost, for no other reason than blatant hatred and racism. A grandmother, a recent college grad, a senator, a beloved librarian, more. Their faces graced my news feed and my television screen, and I mourned their loss with the rest of the country.

The Charleston Nine. Photo credit to Live 5 News

The Charleston Nine. Photo credit to Live 5 News

And then, in an outpouring of love and unity, in the wake of tragedy, my city came together. We walked together into the sunset, holding hands and waving signs, hugging each other and singing hymns. Black and white. Young and old. Man and woman and child. We, Charleston, took the hatred that had been poured through the barrel of a .45, turned it into LOVE, and multiplied it by thousands.

Photo Credit to Buzzfeed

Photo Credit to Buzzfeed

Photo Credit to Live 5 News, Charleston

Photo Credit to Live 5 News, Charleston

Through tears and with sad hearts, we spoke their names from our lips. We flew our South Carolina flags, and we donned our blue and white in honor of those we lost. And we made a vow to push for true social change.

Strides are already being made to remove the Confederate flag from the capital grounds in Columbia. That led to other states re-examining their own laws in regards to that symbol that reflects hatred as much as heritage. When rumors came about that notorious protesters from Westboro Baptist Church were on the way to Charleston to picket outside of the funerals of the dead, our local governments stepped up and banned their rallies, sending them packing. Charlestonians showed up to the events in droves anyway, standing shoulder to shoulder, refusing to let hate leech into the love we as a city have worked to hard to display over the last several days.

We cannot change our history; we can only learn from it. We cannot affect change by remaining silent; so we raise our voices to the sky. We cannot learn to love our fellow man from the pages of a history book; we must look at one another as humans, and embrace one another regardless of religious affiliations, belief systems, and the color of our skin.

And we continue to teach future generations that love will always win.

*****

Addendum: As I was working on this post–one I started days ago and have been tweaking and editing ever since–it seemed remarkable to me that EVEN MORE love came across my news feed. The Supreme Court ruled today that gay marriage is now to be legal across the nation. As I sat on my couch and watched the President deliver his eulogy at Senator Pinckney’s funeral, as I listened to him sing the first verse of ‘Amazing Grace,’ I felt that same love Charleston displayed being felt across the country. And so I came back to this post, so I could finally publish it. All in the name of love.

Graphic credited to the GLAAD Facebook page

Graphic credited to the GLAAD Facebook page

 

Summertime Woes

Going to the beach requires a lot of work.

Before you start throwing things at me through your computer screen, let me explain.

See, I live 45 minutes from the actual ocean. Yes, I’m luckier than most because I can still make it a day trip, whenever I want. But still….a lot of planning goes into a trip to the beach for me. There’s the weather watching, and the guesswork that goes into whether it’ll be worth an hour long car ride, only to get to the beach and be rained out. There’s the logistics of the thing: will I also have time to stop for groceries on the way home? Can I make it to the post office before it closes, or should I leave early and go first? I wonder if I can eat at that little cafe nearby in a swimsuit and cover-up?

Then comes the packing. Beach towels for me, an extra for a friend, and another extra because you can never have too many towels. Sunscreen: SPF 50 spray for my body, special baby formula lotion for my face, SPF 15 chapstick. Can’t forget my hat, my sunglasses (because I have to wear my real glasses while I’m driving), headphones, a book or two, maybe a magazine if I’m feeling so inclined. Oh…and the cooler. I’ve got to fill it with ice and add healthy snacks, tons of water, and a trash bag for use at the actual beach.

I load it all into my car as the sweat drips down my brow because HOLY CRAP it’s A HUNDRED FLIPPIN’ DEGREES OUT HERE.

I’m all loaded up, all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s crossed. I kiss my husband goodbye, grab my keys and my wallet, and hit the pavement. Twenty minutes into my drive, I’m ignoring the giant black thunderhead that decided to pop up in the direction I’m heading. It’s July in Charleston…if there’s a thunderstorm this early in the day, it’ll be a quick one. I forge ahead, determined to get my time in the sunshine.

There’s traffic; so much traffic my nerves begin to fray. A dude driving a giant blue pickup cuts me off (because it’s always a dude in a pickup), and those nerves snap. My “Yay For Me, I’m Going To The Beach” mood begins to turn into my “If This Poo Face Doesn’t Start Driving The Speed Limit I’m Going To Scream” mood.

And then, finally, my car crests the bridge over to the Isle of Palms, and I see palm trees, and wide expanse of sand, and an even wider expanse of blue, all the way out to the horizon. My heart releases in my chest, and the smile creeps onto my face without my realizing it. I grin at the giant pelican as he flies lazily over the bridge into the marsh below. I stop at a red light, gladly waiting for a few minutes because I know I’ve almost reached my destination. I allow a tourist, then another, to merge before I cross the street, since I know they’ve probably never been here before, and I want to share this little section of my world with everyone and anyone. I greet the volunteer at the gate and happily hand him my parking fee, and we chat, momentarily, about the weather and the tides.

Parking achieved, I unload the bounty that needs to make the trek across the sand with me: my beach bag, my cooler, my lounge chair. I strap it all around my chest, all twenty pounds of it, sweat dripping down my back, but I do it all with a song in my heart. I nod and smile and speak to all I pass: people are just happier at the beach. And so am I.

And finally, I choose my spot and set up camp. There’s no better moment than this. I whip off my cover-up, douse myself in sunscreen, don my hat and sunglasses, and take a seat.

It is always worth it, in the end.

Beach 3Beach 1 Beach 2

Between you and me, friend, I probably won’t think about how much work it takes to get to the beach when I go again next week. These are the kinds of summertime woes I can deal with. And happily.

Abby Is Not Impressed

For the last few days, my various social media sites have been filling up with posts about snow. So many of those posts are photos of families happily playing in giant piles of the fluffy white stuff: sledding, making snow cream, building giant snowmen, warming up with hot chocolate and homemade cookies.

You know the photos, they’re in your timelines too (unless you live in San Diego, and if that’s the case, you suck and I want to live in your guest room.)

I’m talking about photos like this one:

Source

Source

You guys, with your adorable mittens and your matching scarves, make winter look like SO MUCH FUN!

Well, winter has come to South Carolina. And can I just say? Winter is NOT fun.

Not. At. All.

Specifically, winter sucks when it only entails of freezing rain, sleet, and ice. And with those things comes no power, downed power lines, and falling trees.

When it comes to winter, I’m not impressed.

Snow me

(Look at me, being all relevant to current events while still making jokes. Go me.)

Here’s the truth of it: yesterday, we got almost an entire inch of ice here in the land of severe humidity and tropical weather. And it was over 60 degrees in Sochi. At the WINTER Olympics. Freezing temps, for the gold.

While we only lost power for four hours yesterday, my family was electricity-less for nearly 12 hours. I have friends who live out in the country who are STILL without power. And the tree limbs just keep on fallin’.

So, Mother Nature, I’d like you to take this whole winter thing and shove it. I’ll take my 85 degrees and the sand between my toes any day.

*For those of my Northern friends dealing with feet of snow as opposed to inches, I realize you’ll read this and think, “She doesn’t know the meaning of winter.” Truth is—this is as scary as cold weather gets for us near the SC coast. So while we may not be buried beneath Mother Nature’s snowy bosom, we are frantically trying to cope after being hit with a second severe ice storm in three weeks. When you don’t have salt trucks, or winter coats, or strong and manly trees, it gets sorta hectic. So sympathize with us, even if it’s just a little. And maybe send us a snow plow, just in case.*

Snowmageddon 2014

For Southerners like me, winter typically just means we can’t wear our flip flops again till March. But this year…this year, Mother Nature seems to have a different path for those of us residing south of the Mason Dixon line.

About a week ago, meteorologists far and wide started talking about the “perfect storm” of 2014. Lots of scientific facts involving lower temperatures, cold fronts, and precipitation were tossed in our direction, and those of us who have been living in the South for most (if not all) of our lives shook it off as typical winter weather banter.

But unlike years past, those meteorologists kept talking about that perfect storm. They got all excited and animated, and whipped up new graphics of a giant angry monster storm bearing down on us with a vengeance.

Weather map courtesy of Live 5 News, Charleston.

Weather map courtesy of Live 5 News, Charleston.
I added the angry monster face, for flair.

Now listen, after living in the mountains of North Carolina for 4 years, and experiencing the real meaning behind the word “blizzard,” I tend to balk at stories like this one. A little sleet doesn’t scare me. Snow seems like such a foreign concept that I often roll my eyes when people mention it. Temperatures dipping below 30 degrees doesn’t seem like such a huge deal to me.

That is not the case for lifelong Low Country folks. They hear the words “ice” and “snow,” and they do the “OMG BUY ALL THE BREAD AND BATTERIES WITHIN A TWENTY MILE RADIUS STAT” dance.

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There hasn’t been a single flurry, drop, or tinkle yet, and schools are already announcing closures. Businesses are sending out FB messages and tweets to let everyone know they won’t be open after 2 pm today, and probably won’t be open tomorrow, either, due to “inclement weather.” People flocked to grocery stores yesterday, stripping their shelves of bread, milk, and batteries. (Funnily enough, we didn’t have a problem finding everything on our grocery list. In fact, they had black beans on sale, buy one get one free. SCORE!)

Graphic provided by Live 5 News, Charleston.

Graphic provided by Live 5 News, Charleston.

While I understand the need to have milk and bread in the case of a storm, all I could see while looking at that photo was the one thing that patrons of the grocery stores were FAILING to buy.

Seriously, Charleston??? Wine is WAY more important during a crisis than water.

Seriously, Charleston??? Booze is WAY more important during a crisis than water.

At any rate, things are quiet around here today. The phone isn’t ringing, there aren’t many cars on the highway, and folks seem to be waiting at home, battening down the hatches, in preparation for Snowmageddon 2014.

And I have to admit–while I’m skeptical that we will actually get the 3 inches of snow predicted, I’m all set to sit back and watch the weather roll in. I’ve got everything I need…

image (1)

…a warm hat, a fuzzy scarf, and booze.

If you don’t hear from me for a few days, readers, one of three things has happened: we’ve succumbed to Snowmageddon and are currently buried in snow up to our ankles; we’ve lost power thanks to ice and are currently huddled around a kerosene heater wishing our iPhones were charged; nothing really important has happened, I’m just ensconced in another project right now. Happy Snow Day!

Animals Talk, Too…

…even if you can’t hear them. I mean, they talk to me. I can clearly hear their thoughts just by looking at their little faces. In fact, Brian and I have conversations with our pride of cats all the time.

So when we took an impromptu trip to Riverbanks Zoo yesterday, I thought I’d show you exactly what I mean by the phrase “Animals Can Talk.”

041 078 213 Untitled-1 Untitled-2

Still not convinced? Fine. Prepare for yet another AbbyGabs video. I warned you.

See? Animals can TOTALLY talk. Am I right?

I could’ve just done another “look at all the pretty pictures I took at the zoo yesterday” post, but I’ve done those at least twice. So I thought I’d show off our collective photography skills while also making you laugh. If the pictures don’t work, I’m pretty sure my goofy animal voices will do the trick. 

Happy Little Trees

Thursday was my monthly Girl’s Night Out with gal pals Jessie and Rachel. We’ve shared some hilarious moments in the past–usually at a restaurant or sitting around one of our dining room tables. But this month, we decided to get crazy. Er. Crazier. And we took our ‘we’re louder than you because we’re also having more fun than you’ attitudes and waltzed right into Bottles ‘n Brushes for a night of wine, art, and fun.

bottles and brushes logo

Click on the logo for their full website!

For those who have never heard of such a thing, let me explain exactly what it is that Bottles ‘n Brushes does so well. You show up to this lovely little art studio, beautifully decorated with tons of finished paintings from previous classes, and are immediately faced with your empty canvas. In two hours, they teach you how to paint a masterpiece–all in a step-by-step, you-can-do-it-even-if-you-can’t-draw-a-straight-line-with-a-ruler, it’s-ok-if-you-drop-a blob-of-paint-somewhere-because-we-can-totally-fix-it sort of way.

For someone like me, who considers THIS to be a work of art, this is a priceless teaching concept.

Final product

An olive oil bottle I painted for Mom.

Jess and I arrived a few minutes before Rachel, and we quickly donned our cheerfully paint-splattered aprons and fancied ourselves as ar-teests.

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By the time Rachel, and our other classmates, arrived, we were in full-fledged ready-to-paint mode.

We were also in full-fledged let’s-crack-open-this-bottle-of-wine mode. Which we did. Which made the rest of the night that much more awesome.

As our lovely instructor, Carley, took to the stage, we sat at our stools, pulled out our paper plates filled with blobs of the rainbow, and dove right in. With Carley and Meg (her assistant), cheering us on, we learned how to paint a lovely hilltop scene, complete with…you know it…a happy little tree.

Before we go there, though, let me share with you the stages of achieving painting excellence.

Step One:
Paint the sky.

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Step Two:
Learn how to blend colors.

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Step Three and Four:
Have a drink, a cookie, and some bruschetta. Also, ask loud questions and cause the rest of the class to look at you like you’re a giant orange Muppet.

Step Five:
Happy tree!!

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Now that you have seen my finished product, you will understand why, all night long, I was channeling my inner Bob Ross.

 

The truth of the matter is that, at some point, each of us was unhappy with the progress we were making on our painting. Jess was unhappy with a spot of canvas she inadvertently forgot to fill in with green. Rachel didn’t like the way the grass appeared to be taking over her path. I wasn’t thrilled with the shape my path took toward the bottom of the canvas. But just like Bob Ross, Carley and Meg taught us how to shade in that white spot, to embrace the artistic nature of our natural hand, and to believe in our artist’s eye.

It was a beautiful thing, y’all.

And so, we wrapped up the evening, incredibly proud of the work we’d done, happy that we’d done it together…

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…and just a lil’ bit tipsy. Not gonna lie.

Thanks so much to Carley and Meg, for bringing out our inner painters. We will absolutely be back!! Maybe next time we could paint the TARDIS? Or perhaps a lifelike portrait of Donnie Wahlberg? Just a suggestion…

January in South Carolina

Not too long ago, I told you all about Christmas in the South. Caroling and apple cider and water-skiing in the balmy South Carolina air….

Well, winter isn’t that much different. In fact, it’s exactly the same. I know I’m not the only one here on the Eastern Seaboard who’s been enjoying the weather of late. Seventy-one, seventy-four…we even had a day recently where it got up to eighty degrees by mid-morning.

And so, Brian and I donned our flip-flops and decided to spend the day at a local park, The Boardwalk at Shem Creek, to take in the sights and the sunshine.

I would like to point out that the day started in a most-excellent manner. Not only was I super-cute in a new top from Old Navy, but I was having a good hair day AND I’d found a necklace my mother gave me back in high school, and was able to re-purpose it for present-day wearing. Score.



After much deliberation, I decided to leave my camera at home, because I wanted to focus on nature while we were there. But I wound up taking a million pictures and video with my iPhone instead. So sue me. You can take the girl out of the blogosphere for a day, but you can’t take the blogger out of the girl. Or something.

Anyway, to say that it was a gorgeous day is really an understatement. The sun was shining, the seagulls were circling, and the breeze was salt-water-y. Much to our delight, as we approached the end of the boardwalk we noticed a fishing boat just coming in from the harbor. And any good beach-goer knows—where there are fish, there is wildlife. 



So we hunkered down for the next hour and watched the gulls, pelicans, and a family of dolphins, as they all enjoyed their lunch. 

And being a TRUE blogger, I got the whole damn thing on film. So, here’s a few little snippets of our day.


I was so very pleased with myself (minus the thumb incident. That was kinda embarrassing.) I’ve been living ‘at the beach’ since 2002, and have never managed to get photographic evidence of dolphins in the Charleston waters. But to get them on video?? Unheard of. Now I know we have a spot to go dolphin-watching, and we’ll be visiting it frequently in the warmer months.


Wind-blown, smiling, and happy, I shot this “self-portrait” moments before leaving the boardwalk:


The rest of the day progressed with shopping, lunch out, and general merriment with my husband.

By the next afternoon, we watched as a storm front moved in, covering the sky in gloom and doom. And in the span of forty-five minutes, the temperature dropped from 80° to a disappointing 51°. And by the time we went to bed, it was raining, foggy, and 45°. We actually had to set a drip last night as the temperature bottomed out at 28°.

Sad face.

But I take solace in the knowledge that the 80° weather will be back before long. And I’ll be planting my garden, smearing aloe vera on my nose, and soaking up the rays at the beach.

And not to be a brat, or anything, but you’ll probably still be shoveling snow out of your driveway. Don’t be mad. Come visit instead. ☺

If you can’t see the video above, click HERE or copy and paste the following link into your browser: http://youtu.be/r01jGK67C4Y

Christmas in the South

Hooray!! December has arrived in all its glory! Please note that I have decorated Abby Gabs in the appropriate fashion to celebrate the season. And now, share with me another celebratory “Hooray!”

There is so much to love about this time of year. Twinkly lights, gift wrapping, baking marathons, cute clothes, even cuter shoes…it really is the best time of year. 

One of my favorite December pastimes is to brew myself up a piping hot cup of coffee, and watch the birds eating at my feeders.



The picture through my window is of a chilly winter’s morning. The sky is grey and gloomy around these parts this time of year. Clouds threaten rain, the sun barely makes an appearance, and the grass gets all crinkly and dry. It’s wintertime perfection.

Except…

If you actually venture out of doors, believing the picture out your window, you’re in for a big surprise. Because in all reality, the weather in Charleston in December is less-than-snowy.


By noon, it is usually getting close to seventy degrees outside. Sure, we have had a few cold Christmases (we’re talking upper thirties here, people.) But for the most part, the nine Christmases I’ve spent here in Charleston have been relatively warm.

Don’t throw things at me, Readers From the North! Believe me when I say there are many a winters day that I miss having seasons. I miss the turning of the leaves, and the crispness in the air as summer turns to fall. I miss being able to find winter coats with substance, and ice scrapers for your car. I miss that feeling of frost “nippin’ at your nose.” I miss snuggly sweaters!!

However, I do not, in any way, shape, or form, miss snow.

So I’ll take my seventy degree weather today. I’ll still wear long sleeves and cute shoes, and just crack the windows or, in a drastic measure, turn on the air conditioning. I’ll wear my favorite knitted hat and I’ll crochet a dozen new scarves.

Because even if it is seventy degrees here today…

Photographic Evidence From My Awesome i-Phone

…it’s still the holidays in my heart.



Ok, I just gagged a little. Sorry about that last line.

An Announcement, A Rabbit That Looks Like My Cat, and A Little Disco (For Funsies)

First and foremost, the formalities…

You will notice that Abby Gabs has been magically transformed over night. That’s right—this writer is ready to jump head first into National Novel Writing Month, and I figured giving my blog (and Twitter profile, and Facebook page) a serious makeover would help keep me in the spirit all November long. For those who have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about, you can learn all about NaNoWriMo on their glorious website, or you can click on the handy-dandy tab above titled “Chasing My Dreams.”

I will try to post here as frequently as usual, and will probably not write about NaNo (much,) so if you’re curious as to my progress, you can check out the Word Count graphic to the left. It’ll tell you how many words I’ve written. May I ask, dear Reader, if it gets to be November 15, and that number hasn’t reached 5 digits yet, that you gift me a swift kick in the arse? (Or perhaps a gentle nudge, depending on your mood?) A million thanks in advance.

Now that I’ve reminded you that I’ll be hunched over my keyboard, striving for brilliance, for the next 30 days, I’d like to share with you a few highlights from our visit to the Coastal Carolina Fair last evening.

First of all, it was a night of Look Alikes. When we visited the petting zoo, I was shocked and amazed to see my cat, Scooter, there. Except….well, it wasn’t a cat. It was a bunny. But he looked JUST LIKE Scooter. See?:


Photographic proof that I’m not crazy (despite my penchant for cooing at animals and children in a weird, high-pitched voice):


Then, as if the Scooter-Look-Alike Bunny wasn’t enough, we sat down behind a young man who, I swear, looked JUST LIKE Detective Esposito (played by actor Jon Huertas) from the television show, Castle. So much so that I pulled up a picture of Huertas on my phone just so Brian could validate my claim. Throughout the entire concert (more on that in a minute) I kept elbowing Brian in the ribs, saying things like, “Holy crap, that guy looks like Espo!” and “I swear, he could be Esposito’s twin!” Finally, I got up the nerve to talk to the young man, and because he was an awesomely good sport, I also secured more Photographic Evidence to prove to you that I’m NOT crazy:

Photo of Jon Huertas courtesy of this website


I don’t know what was more surprising: that all he was missing was a tiny bit of facial hair, that he was totally cool with taking a goofy picture with me, or that he’d never seen or heard of the show Castle.


Crazy pants.

Anyhoo, the only reason we ventured out to the fair last night was because of a change in their scheduled entertainment. You see, The Village People were supposed to play. You know…these guys:


Yes, they still tour. And yes, they still dress up. Awesome. (Photo)


But unfortunately, due to Sandy, The Village People were stuck in New Jersey and would not be able to make it to their scheduled performance. <Insert “Aw Shucks” here.> And so, the very smart people in charge of the Coastal Carolina Fair put out feelers for a last minute replacement, and our hero, Edwin McCain, came to the rescue.


I’ve told you, without mincing words, that I’m absolutely in love with Edwin McCain. I’ve been following him since I was a sophomore in high school, and I’ve been to tons of concerts, and even a breast cancer awareness benefit. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, the author of my life’s soundtrack. (Seriously, if you’ve never heard of him, find him on iTunes. You’ve probably heard the song “I’ll Be” and don’t even know it.) So naturally, when we caught wind that Edwin was going to perform in lieu of the People, we beat feet to the fairgrounds and took our seats front and center (behind Espo.)

About halfway through the show, there was a quiet moment when Edwin switched from an electric to an acoustic guitar. A gentleman in the audience took the opportunity to shout “PLAY YMCA!!!!” Edwin, always a good sport, laughed and started to make a joke. That’s when his bass player, Jason Pomar, began free-styling the bass line of the popular 70s song. By the time drummer “Tez,” saxophonist Craig and lead guitarist Larry has figured out the tune (which took less than 2 minutes), Edwin launched into the song, completely unrehearsed. And naturally, I got it ALL on tape:


So. Much. Fun. 

We’ve been to a ton of Edwin shows over the past 13 years, and this is, hands down, the funniest thing we’ve ever witnessed. (Sorry for the blip in the middle…blame the new iPhone user who accidentally hit the “stop” button. My bad.)

To recap: today marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo (if you’d like to donate coffee, email me here); I saw a rabbit that looked my cat, and a dude who looked like an actor; and Edwin McCain knows how to rock, disco style.

Happy Thursday!

Eight Years Later

Sunlight streamed in through the window, pooling on the faded bedspread. I could hear the low rumble of conversation coming from outside, and the sound of a child laughing. I opened my eyes from a mostly sleepless night and looked at the clock on the night stand beside me. The neon letters read 6:13 a.m. I rolled over, a smile already beginning to form, and caught a glimpse of long blonde hair peeking up from beneath the covers. The other bed in the hotel room was already empty.

I shook my long time friend, Tifany, awake from her slumber. “Good morning,” she said, grinning. “You’re getting married today!”

A few minutes later, two more of my friends and bridesmaids came in the door, bearing coffee and pastries. Becca handed me an apple fritter, and Trish sat on the bed, blowing steam from her brown paper cup. Each of them gave me a knowing smile, and it was understood. They were excited for me, the first of four to head down the aisle.

After breakfast, and a confusing episode of Iron Chef (the Japanese version,) the day officially began. Becca, ever efficient, came up with a shower schedule. We dressed, and primped, and swapped lipsticks and mascara. “Does this feel like prom night to anyone else but me?” Trish joked. By 10, we were all packed up and ready for checkout.

“Let’s go, ladies!” Tifany exclaimed. “We’ve got a TON of stuff to do today!!”

The morning bled into afternoon, and a whirlwind of activity. First thing was first—we headed back to the beach house, where the rest of the bridal party, Brian’s family, and most importantly, Brian, had slept the night before. There were bouquets to be made, pies to be baked, lights to be strung, and Hors d’œuvres to create. But when we arrived, the house was already bustling with activity. Brian’s Uncle Paul and my Dad had taken command of the kitchen, and we were promptly shooed away. Blake, Deepak, Drew, and the other groomsmen had taken it upon themselves to be in charge of set up (“just as soon as this last game of Madden is over.”) Aunt Tina and Walt had taken over kid duty, and were busy talking, drinking coffee, and keeping 4 year-old Rosie occupied.

And so, all that was left was bouquet making. Heather arrived with buckets of pink roses and Gerber daisies, and the five of us sat at the huge dining room table and began assembling. I sat there, hands full of roses, and looked around at my friends. My family. And my heart filled.



By 2, it was time for the ladies to hit the road for hair and nails. I kissed my soon-to-be husband, gave him a few last instructions, and we piled into Becca’s car and headed for town.




The next three hours are a blur. Nails were painted, hair was twisted up and pinned. Each lovely bridesmaid was sporting her own unique style. Brian’s cousin, Shelby, and the fifth bridesmaid, kept the rest of us laughing with her antics. Funny high school stories were told, my lifelong friends got to know my newest friend, and we had an absolute ball.

Before we knew it, my stylist was asking for my veil. And the room instantly got quiet. I watched my friends watching me, each one with her own reaction. Shelby was excited, Trish and Becca smiled from ear to ear, Tifany and Heather each wiped tears away. And then it was official. I was a bride.

An hour later, we were back at the beach house holed up into the biggest bedroom we could find. Make-up bags, perfume bottles, and lint rollers littered the bed. Two or three bridesmaids shared the mirror, applying mascara or lip gloss, or fastening earrings or necklaces in place. I sat, hands in my lap, as Trish swiped eye shadow over my eye lids. “We’re just about done here,” she said over her shoulder. “It’s DRESS time!!” The holy grail for any bride–that all-white garment bag–was passed from one set of hands to another until it hung before me from the closet door. 

I took the dress from its hanger, stepped in, and felt the satin slide up and over my body. Heather zipped up the back and, voila…I was ready. And the girls…well, they were the loveliest bridesmaids I’ve ever seen.




More tears were shed (but carefully! Don’t smudge her mascara!), hugs were exchanged, pictures were taken, and then I finally got to see my parents. Dad beamed with pride, Mom fussed with the skirt of my gown, careful to keep any tears shed from my sight. We lined up as the sun began to set, ready to traipse across the street to the beach, where my family and friends waited.

What a sight we must have been–bridesmaids all donned in celadon, groomsmen in slacks and flip flops, a bride and her parents–dodging cars to parade down the public beach access. Shrubs and weeds snatched at my dress and veil. My foot snagged on a vine and only my Dad kept me from falling. And then we crested the dunes, and the small ceremony space came into view.

And there he stood, feet in the sand, beneath a canopy of flowers. 




I felt my heart rise up, and the tears prick my eyes. I felt my Mom squeeze my hand, and a tear escaped. And we began our walk to the alter.

My ears buzzed, filled with the sound of the waves crashing, and suddenly my Dad was handing me over. I hugged him, and then my mother, and I felt the dam loosen further. I was going to burst into tears and it was going to be ugly. “I will NOT cry, I will NOT cry,” I began thinking to myself, a mantra that didn’t seem to be working. Then I turned to face Brian, face crumpled, ready to boo hoo. But he took my hand, and looked into my eyes. And the overwhelming need to cry dissipated. 

We stood beneath a purple sky, sand between our toes,  and the rest of the world fell away. I was completely unaware when a surfer walked behind the alter. I had no idea when Rosie’s hat blew away in an errant gust of wind. For me, in that moment, there was Brian and nothing else. We shared our vows, we exchanged rings, we sealed the deal with a kiss.



And finally, finally, we were man and wife.

♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥
 
Eight years have passed since that sunset ceremony on the beach, and I still get the same feeling each time I remember it. The overwhelming need to cry, the rush of love, the sense of absolute joy. There are bits and pieces of that weekend that have started to become fuzzy over time, cobwebs gathering in my memory. But the moments that mattered most–a quiet moment with each of my bridesmaids; gut-busting laughter filling that little beach house; watching with wonder as two families so easily became one; Brian as he stood, legs akimbo, as he watched me cross the sand–those are the memories I’ll carry with me always. And I would do it all again in a heart beat, just exactly the same way. 
 
Happy Anniversary, Brian. I’m so glad I said yes.