Category Archives: family

Letter to my Newlywed Self

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wedding

I’ve seen plenty of inspiring, wisdom-filled essays from people to their younger selves. They are generally uplifting and full of good advice about choices and chances—wisdom gleaned from painful years of wrong turns, shifting perceptions, and painful falls. Sure, their younger selves wouldn’t listen any better than they did, but it feels good to say it out loud, nonetheless, to acknowledge how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown. Looking back over almost 18 years of marriage now, I realized that I also have a lot to say to my younger self–specifically the self I was when I married Paul at the tender age of 22 and embarked, for better or worse, on the crazy adventure that follows the choice to spend the rest of your life with the person you love.

Dear Newlywed Katrina,

The wedding was beautiful, wasn’t it? Aside from you accidentally smashing your groom’s fingers in the car door before making your getaway, the day was sheer poetry. Looking over at your new husband, I know you can’t imagine that anyone before or since has ever had a love as profound and unique as yours. And all those people who talk about marriage being hard work full of fights and frustrations and misunderstandings clearly didn’t manage to marry their perfect soulmate, as you have cleverly done.

You might want to sit down, girl.

It turns out that the finger-smashing incident was a pretty good metaphor for marriage. Even when everything is beautiful and amazing between the two of you, blood and tears inevitably make an appearance here and there. Expect them, and learn from them (For example, you’ve already learned to check for fingers before slamming the car door. Don’t tell Paul, but there are a lot of accidental injuries in his future. Watch where you put your knees and elbows, and remember that your diamond ring can scratch.)

Anyway, here are some things I wish I could tell you before you have to learn them the hard way:

1. Guess what? You’re not your husband’s mother. I know, as the oldest child, that you have spent a lifetime assuming you know the best way to do everything and bossing around the people you love (in their own best interests, of course). But that’s a habit you need to break. Your husband needs a lover and a friend, not a nagging know-it-all correcting the way he loads the dishwasher or making sure he gets his work done. Believe it or not, he even has some things to teach you. Life will start being a lot more fun for both of you when you figure this out.

2. It’s his home, too. Sure, you’ve spent hours poring over magazine articles about decorating on a budget and combing through thrift shops for those beautifully aged shabby chic end tables. You consider your home an extension of yourself, an embodiment of your unique personality, and Paul’s framed Star Wars movie poster, as attractive as it is, just doesn’t jibe with the casual neo-Grecian vibe you’re trying to create. I mean, you’ve already given him a four foot steamer trunk in which to stuff all his unsightly computer cords and gaming paraphernalia; what more does he want? Well, I’ll tell you. He wants to feel like he lives there. He wants to be comfortable and at home in his own place. He wants to be able to see his stuff, and to use it without feeling like it’s a barbaric offense to the civilized world. He wants to meld your life and his into a new life that is better and richer than before; he wants to create a home for the two of you, one that reflects both of you and this new thing that you are together. Besides, deep inside, you are a way bigger geek than you even know right now. You’ll want to hang on to that Star Wars poster.

3. Let some things go. Right now, you think that good communication means airing your every single complaint and irritation with each other immediately and in full. You don’t want to “let things fester”, and that’s good. Festering is bad. But what you don’t know yet is that a lot of those things that bother you now just aren’t very important. They aren’t even big enough to fester. They’re more like little welts on the surface of your skin that will entirely disappear by morning. For example, it’s certainly not worth killing two hours of a precious Saturday night to wage war on his annoying habit of putting empty containers back in the fridge. Just throw them away for him. Seriously. It takes two seconds. Save your energy for the big battles, because there will be a few, and you don’t want to have spent all your emotional capital on empty Miracle Whip jars.

4. Make time for each other. I know, you think you’ll always have these late Saturday mornings to lie in bed gazing into each other’s eyes and talking about everything under the sun. You can’t imagine that a time will come when you don’t call each other at work to coo adoringly into the phone or spend evenings strolling hand in hand along downtown streets, dreaming about your future selves. But life has a way of happening, filling up the hours and days with children and projects and obligations. Before you know it, you can find yourselves falling into bed after a busy day without having said more to each other than “good morning”, “goodnight”, and “don’t forget your dentist appointment at four”. You have to fight this with all of your will! Connections are much easier to maintain than they are to rebuild. Don’t ever let busy schedules and worries make you forget what you have in each other. The back burner is no place for a marriage. Keep the heat on under it, and stir it constantly. Trust me, it will be delicious.

5. Be on the same team. The world is full of adversaries – people who want to tear you down or take what you have, people who only want to win, to dominate, to stand at the top of a heap of fallen opponents and bask in their victories. That’s the opposite of marriage. You and Paul are comrades in arms, shouting encouragement and sharing canteens as you take this hill of life together. You will disagree with each other; one or the other of you will fall down and lose focus; you will encounter obstacles so big they seem to block out the sun. At such times, it’s easy to turn on your teammate, but don’t. Take turns picking each other up. Forget about blame and focus on the next step. Carry each other when the need arises. To quote Malcolm Reynolds (from the show Firefly – you’re going to love it!), “You’re on my crew. Why we still talking about this?”

6. When it comes to sex, say yes as often as you can. Sex is glue for your relationship. Apply liberally. A few months after your honeymoon, when you’ve worked out all the mechanical details, you will fall back into bed one night, turn your eyes to the heavens, and ask blissfully, “Can it possibly get any better than THIS?” And the answer, I am delighted to report, is “YES!” Better and better and unbelievably better! (But now I’m just bragging.) Here’s the thing. You will be tempted to set the tempo of your sex life solely to the beat of your own desire. And, female sexual response being what it is, that desire will not come knocking on your door quite as often as it does on his. But if you say yes, even if you don’t feel like dancing at first, you will usually find yourself getting caught up in the beat. Sometimes you’ll want the seven course meal, and other times, you’ll just be in the mood for a quick burger and fries. (Wow, I’ve got like three sex metaphors going here!) Either kind of meal can be satisfying. The important thing is the nourishment it gives your relationship. It’s amazing how powerful sex is. When you’re stressed out, when he’s had a setback at work, when the argument is over but the tension isn’t — sex says, “I love you. I choose you. We are in this together.” It makes the highs higher and the lows less harrowing. Plus, it’s fun. Do it a lot.

7. Show Paul how much you admire him. You picked him for a reason — lots of reasons. Does he know what they are? When you find yourself appreciating his sense of humor, or his easy way of talking to strangers, or how good he looks in his jeans, open your mouth and tell him! Say nice things about him in front of others, and try not to share stories with your girlfriends that would embarrass him. (I admit that I still struggle with this. See if you can do something about our compulsive oversharing, will you, 22 year-old me?) Be the one in his corner, the one who cheers louder than anyone else, the one who speaks into the self-doubt and discouragement with words that build up and show him who he is in your eyes. He needs that, just like you do.

8. Do new things. Sure, you don’t like football now, and the mention of tabletop gaming makes your eyes glaze over with boredom, but don’t reject his favorite activities out of hand. Give them a chance. Yes, you’ll discover that you truly never, ever want to play Shogun again in your life, but you’ll also be surprised to find out that you quite like fantasy football and computer gaming. And the effort you put into sharing his interests will pay off in a hundred little ways, like the warm smile in his eyes when he has to crown you Queen and Champion of the Fantasy Football League in your very first season..

9. Don’t give up. There will come a time when you think about it, when the wrong turn your marriage has made takes you so far into the weeds that you can’t even see your feet. Don’t give up. You get back to the road the same way you got off of it — one step at a time. In a marriage like yours, made of two people who love and trust God, there is nothing He can’t fix.

10. Finally, I know you hate that ratty plaid flannel jacket that Paul always wears, but do not throw it away and pretend it got lost in the laundry. He will know it was you, and you will still be hearing about it 18 years later. Trust me.

You’re in for a wild ride, Katrina, but the scenery is fantastic. Hang on tight and don’t let go!

Summer Fun List

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I am blessed to have summers off from my job, so I can enjoy spending time with Katie and Caleb.  We’re saving up our family vacation time for Thanksgiving this year, so our summer adventures will have to be staged close to home.  To that end, we sat down with the kids the day after school ended to make a list of all the things we want to do this summer.  Everyone contributed, and all ideas were written down.  Here’s what we came up with.  I put little stars next to the things we’ve already done at least once this summer.  What’s on your summer fun list?

  1. *Jamm’s yogurt
  2. Manito Park
  3. go to the movies
  4. swimming
  5. play in the sprinkler
  6. *water gun fight
  7. *playground at the park
  8. Skate Plaza
  9. *video games
  10. *library
  11. *Red Robin
  12. set up the hammock
  13. hiking with the Kleins
  14. *Fun Fridays
  15. disc golf
  16. picnic
  17. July 4th at the Rudes’
  18. *walk to PetCo and look at animals
  19. BBQ
  20. Coeur d’Alene Museum
  21. Bible sports camp
  22. boardwalk at the Resort
  23. sushi
  24. *play at the Taylors’
  25. baking day
  26. cooking day
  27. go to the beach

 

Back from the Steamy South

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Actually, it wasn’t that steamy, but 70 degrees and sunny in the middle of February was a gift to delight the heart of this North Idaho girl.  My sister and I took daily walks in the sunshine, and I could almost feel my body ramping up its vitamin D production.

I got to enjoy loving on my beautiful nieces and nephew:

Mufaro, 3-1/2 months

Riley and Seth

I ate at my much-missed Chick-Fil-A and at my favorite high school hangout, Waffle House (which one comedian famously described as a truck stop restroom that serves food.):

Chicken Biscuit

Scattered, Smothered, Covered

I did neurofeedback treatments twice a day, and, judging by how much better I feel, I’d say they were a great success in bringing down my anxiety levels and calming my poor, overstimulated brain.  Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of my sessions.  Have you seen the movie “Total Recall”?  Yeah… it was nothing like that.

Best of all, I got to hang out with my dad and mom and sister and brother and their families, and it was wonderful.

Amber, Bill, and yours truly

I might not even wait until the next time I go crazy to make a return trip.

Laughter, the Best Medicine

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Katie and Caleb have recently discovered the power of encouragement.  They are forever writing little notes to each other and to friends, and last Wednesday, they spent over an hour working on an art project to say thank you to their Wednesday night Bible class teacher for her efforts in class.

Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when Katie came home from school yesterday with one request: help making a get well card for Daddy, who is still suffering with the cold that laid all of us flat this fall.

She got out colored pencils and cardstock and went right to work.  In no time, she had the front of the card done:

Get Well card

Opening to the inside, she asked me for my contribution.  Could I write a funny poem about being sick that would make Daddy laugh and feel better?  She and Caleb would each write one, too, she explained, so the card would be from all of us.

It wasn’t easy finding a rhyme for “chest congestion”, but I did my best.  I especially love Katie’s poem and the artwork she did to go with mine.  Caleb eschewed poetry in favor of his assurance that “I love you 100%!”   Here’s the finished treasure, and I’m sure it’s one that Paul will cherish for years to come: (Transcript follows the photo.)

The Elephant Cure, by Katrina

When you’re feeling tired and ill

Take heed of my suggestion

And buy yourself an elephant

To help your chest congestion.

He’ll dangle you upside down

By your ankles in the air

And shake until the extra mucus

falls right out of there!

The Dream, by Katie

A bomb in my head just exploded;

A scorpion crashed in my tongue;

It feels like my ear has corroded;

There’s a penguin in one of my lungs.

Half of my chest has turned yellow;

My brain feels like whipped cream;

My fingers jiggle like Jell-o…

AT LEAST IT WAS A DREAM!

That’s Why the Lady Likes to Camp

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To camp out in the wilds of Idaho in the summertime is to step out of the stream of time and immerse yourself in the cool green light of a wood that hasn’t changed much since settlers first raised their stone chimneys on the banks of the Coeur d’Alene River two hundred years ago.  If the weather cooperates, you can hike on sun-dappled paths, catch out wildlife as it startles and skitters away at the sound of your approach, and toss stones into the creek chattering over its rocky bed.

We just returned from a four day camp out with Paul’s Dad and his wife, Yvie, in the beautiful Shoshone area, where we did all of those things and more.   Dad drove up on Thursday morning to set up camp ahead of our arrival.  Paul and I slept in a tent, but we were grateful for the presence of Dad and Yvie’s camper, without which we would have been digging our own latrine, a decidedly unromantic endeavor, best left unmentioned in Walden-esque rhapsodies about the beauty of the woods.  The kids slept in the camper, too, which gave the two of us some appreciated privacy and room to stretch out in our little four-man dome tent.

How I love waking up to the sound of birds calling to each other as the sun comes up!  The angry chipmunk squeaking madly at us from a perch right outside our tent?  Not so much.

With four glorious days stretched out before us, we tramped through the woods, roasted marshmallows over the campfire, and spent hours slung comfortably in camp chairs, reading or chatting while we watched the kids play with sticks and bugs.  Dad took us in turns for long rides on the ATV, which was, for me, the highlight of the trip!  We covered miles of logging roads and emerged from the tree line to a lookout point that allowed us an unfettered view of legions of mountains marching away into the horizon.  It was on one of these excursions that Dad and I ran across a family of elk crossing the trail, including a baby.  They are so big up close!  It was close to twilight, and many animals are moving around at that time of day.  We also frightened a rabbit, which ran down the road in front of us for several yards before it got its bearings and darted off into the undergrowth.  The strangest forest-dwelling creature we came across was a fat, orange tabby cat, preening and lying at leisure in a bed of leafy green plants, far from the nearest campsite.  How did he come to be there?  And how had he survived the brutality of life in the wilds without becoming a meal for a hungry cougar?  He was so clearly the ruler of his forest kingdom, I was tempted to make up stories about him.

On our second day, Dad took me out on the ATV while everyone was drowsing in the late afternoon sun.  We were on a mission: huckleberries, enough to add to the pancake batter for huckleberry flapjacks the next morning.  They grow pretty high up on the mountain, and it took us a while to locate a few bushes that had escaped the scavenging of bears and birds.  At last, however, we found a good patch, and set to picking.  When we rode back into camp with our “haul” (maybe two cups of berries, all told), it felt like we were ancient hunters, returning with a hunk of mammoth suspended between us on a pole.  The tribe cheered.

One thing we didn’t do for four days: shower.  Sweat, dust, and grime coated us in layers, and every day my hair looked more like a modern art sculpture.  On the plus side, I couldn’t feel the itching of my many mosquito bites through all of that dirt.  Also, I didn’t have to shave my legs; and isn’t that what camping is all about?

We came home Sunday afternoon and raced for the showers.  It felt SO good to get clean (even if it did cause my mosquito bites to flare into life).  I spent today washing the campfire smoke out of our clothes.  All the leftover food has been put away, and all the pictures have been downloaded from the camera.  All that’s left now is to soak in the memories.  I think they might even keep me warm this December when we’re buried under several feet of snow.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

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In movies, it usually happens right after the hero says something foolish, like: “Well, this isn’t so hard!” or “What could go wrong?”

Nothing tempts the powers of chaos like smug self-satisfaction.

This year, our first year in a home of our own, we hosted Christmas dinner for the first time ever.  I didn’t start out feeling smug, but as the finely choreographed ballet of food preparation played out on the pristine stage of my freshly scrubbed kitchen, pride swelled within me.  The turkey, stuffed with apples, was tucked tidily into its roaster pan and lovingly anointed with oil before going into the oven at 9:30 sharp.  The sweet potato casserole and Yvie’s special recipe dressing followed two hours later.  The potatoes were boiled and mashed, and the bread, the green beans, and the cranberry jello mold all took their place on the table like planets of kitchen conviviality converging miraculously on a single point.  Everything seemed to be ready at the same time.

That’s when I said it.

“Wow, I can’t believe everything is turning out so perfectly my very first time!”

The last thing left to do was to sprinkle baby marshmallows across the top of the hot sweet potatoes and heat them to a bubbly, delicious golden brown under the broiler.

Theoretically.

In actuality, I turned my back on the broiler to put the bread in the bread basket, only to hear Paul, who was carving the turkey, ask, “Why is that back burner smoking?”

He opened the oven door to check on the potatoes, and was nearly engulfed in a ball of flames.

“F-f-fire!  It’s on FIRE!” he sputtered, and looked around for something he could use to put it out.  His dad swept into the kitchen, grabbed a potholder, and quickly moved the flaming pan to the bottom rack before closing the door on it.

It turned out that I had set the top rack in the oven too high when I moved it to make room for the turkey.  As the marshmallows swelled in the heat, they made contact with the glowing red heating element and burst into flames.

When the fire finally subsided, the whole top of the casserole was charred black and crisp.

Thankfully, the fire had spent its rage on the sugary topping while leaving the potatoes themselves unharmed.  I was able to scrape off the entire barbecued top layer and start over with all new marshmallows.

Clearly realizing that I needed more supervision in the kitchen, Paul’s dad watched over the second browning attempt himself.

It’s a good thing he did.  The second try turned out just right.

Behold!   The (Almost) Perfect First Ever Notes on a Napkin Family Christmas Dinner:

My favorite Christmas gift: NOT burning down our first home less than a year after moving into it.

Now I just have to endure a lifetime of family jokes about my Twice-Baked Sweet Potato Casserole recipe.

Thanksgiving Dinner

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Not to promote sexist stereotypes, but look who's NOT in the kitchen preparing food...

That football game must be riveting!

Can we skip straight to the pies?

These two are obviously up to something. I suspect an underhanded extra bread conspiracy.

Hold on to your dinner roll, Daniel!

Katie had thirds of turkey.  It's her favorite!

Katie had third helpings of turkey. It's her favorite!

Caleb also wished to skip straight to the pie.

Mom and Dad: thirty-eight Thanksgivings together and counting...

Mmmm...I'm getting hungry again just looking at this picture!

Boxes

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“Do you still need more boxes?”

“Did you ask them for some boxes?”

“Do we have enough boxes?”

For the last two weeks, boxes have dominated my waking thoughts and dreams alike.  Where to find them, what to put in them, how to stack them so we could still access the bathroom and refrigerator and emergency exits (both of them) while we lived out our final days of residence.  For the past two days, anyone who could have watched from overhead as we navigated the boxed in paths through our tiny apartment would inevitably have been reminded of a giant game of Pac-Man.

Finally, today, it is moving day.  Wonderful friends are here beside us, loading and unloading all the pieces of our home life with a speed and precision that we could never have achieved alone.  And here I am, taking advantage of a brief respite while most of the crew is back at the apartment filling up the trailers for one last trip.

I only have a few minutes, but I just want to say how incredibly blessed I feel.  How thankful I am–for a nicer place to live, for the comfort and luxury of familiar possessions around us, and most of all, for the love and generosity of our sweet family in Christ, who turned out today in force with smiles of shared joy at our blessings and shoulders for sharing our burdens.  I can’t imagine what this would be like without them.

Thank you, Lord!

Safe Sex

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This dire statistic led the news this week: according to a recent study, 1 in 4 teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. About twice that many are sexually active. Educators are aghast, while parents are shocked and dismayed, and why shouldn’t they be? After all, this is the enlightened age of comprehensive sex education, where condoms are passed out during health class and the safe sex mantra is splashed across prime time television in funny commercials and serious public service announcements alike. Students in public schools are presented with all the facts about intercourse, conception, and STD prevention at a very young age, armed with the knowledge which proponents of such education swear will keep young people safe from the traumas of sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy.

Except it isn’t working.

May I respectfully suggest that something is broken in the way we talk to kids about sex?

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe in comprehensive sex education. I just don’t think ours is comprehensive enough.

Information about STD prevention and contraception are important, but too often our treatment of human sexuality in relation to teens stops there, light years away from finishing the picture and telling them other things they need to know about having sex–like how it can impact their emotions, their relationships, and their futures. For example, studies show that teenagers who are sexually active are almost three times as likely as their non-active peers to suffer from depression and to attempt suicide. There are correlations between teen sexual activity and a broad range of negative experiences, including increased drug use, higher dropout rates, and less successful marriages later on. In contrast, teenagers who abstain from sexual activity are 50 percent less likely to drop out of high school and twice as likely to graduate from college. They are less likely to engage in other risky behaviors and tend to form healthier, more emotionally mature relationships in adulthood. Even among teens themselves, there is a growing realization that early sexual activity is a mistake. Over half of teenage boys and nearly three-fourths of teenage girls who have engaged in sexual activity report that they wish they had waited. Sex is a whole lot more than a simple biological process; it’s also a complex mental, emotional, and spiritual act, and to ignore its far-reaching effects would be irresponsible.

There’s a pretty hot debate raging between proponents of current “safe sex” education and the “abstinence only” group, which believes that teaching kids about contraception and disease prevention is tantamount to sending them out in pairs with hotel keys in their hands. While I truly believe in teaching the whole truth of sexuality, I am concerned with the underlying anti-abstinence tone of those who tout “comprehensive” sex ed. From schools, from entertainment media, from politicians, the message a teen often hears is: “We know you’re going to have sex no matter what we say. With all those hormones swirling around, you just can’t help it. And frankly, if you don’t do it, we’ll think you’re a little weird.” It’s as if abstinence has been taken off the table as a realistic choice in today’s world. We need to challenge that assumption.

As a Christian, I’m teaching my children, as I was taught, that sex is wonderful, exciting, fun, and intended to be fully expressed only within the boundaries of a loving marriage. I knew, when I was growing up, that I was expected to wait, and though I sometimes struggled to honor that expectation, I did wait. Believe me, I experienced the same desires, the same passions, the same hormonal surges that teens everywhere experience, but I knew that I wasn’t a puppet of those forces.  I always believed, because it was what I’d been taught, that I was capable of controlling myself. I made choices, I drew hard lines in my relationships with the opposite sex, and I didn’t step outside of those lines, though the temptation was definitely there. At age 22, I came to the marriage bed a virgin, and twelve years of great sex later, I don’t have a single thing to regret in the experiences I passed up as a teenager. I truly hope that my daughter and my son will be able to say the same.

I realize I’m in the minority. And maybe you don’t agree with me that sex is meant for marriage, but can we at least agree to stop setting teens up for the fall with our message of helplessness and victimhood? Let’s empower them to make their own decisions about sex–first, by acknowledging that the impact of human sexuality reaches far beyond the physical to touch the very emotional center of a person; like a pebble dropped into a pond, it ripples out to effect every other part of a person’s life. And second, we can empower teens by showing our confidence in their ability to choose abstinence and self-control, even in the face of physical and societal pressures. Sure, they should know all the facts about protecting their bodies from pregnancy and disease, but they should also know that in the end, having sex is a choice, and not a biological inevitability.

Wedding Drums

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Well, Amber is a married woman now.

DA Wedding 2DA Wedding 3

I know she’s 29 years old, but she’s still my baby sister, and seeing her in a wedding dress was every bit as surreal as the first time I witnessed my brother (the one who used to give me Indian rug burns and wrestle with me for control of the TV remote) changing diapers and answering to the name of “Daddy.” Still, the look on her face was beyond description. I suppose I could say that she was glowing, but it doesn’t seem to do her justice. When that kind of happiness, so deep and transforming, shines out from someone’s eyes, it’s almost too beautiful to look at. Seeing it radiating from my beloved sister warmed me straight through.

DA Wedding 1

The wedding was lovely. It was a perfect reflection of the two hearts being joined together that day. Daniel’s twin brother and best man, Samuel, sang a song in Shona, and Amber walked down the aisle to the sound of African drumbeats. Then she and Daniel faced each other before a crowd of smiling witnesses and promised to love each other always, to build their lives on God’s truth, and to be home to one another forever. After their first kiss (which was heralded by Daniel’s sincere “Woohooo!” of glee and the onlookers’ appreciative chuckles), the newly married couple a-wimoweh-ed back down the aisle together to the strains of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens, grinning from ear to ear.

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DA Wedding 5

Thanks to the round-the-clock food preparation and decorating efforts of some very dedicated extended family, the reception was a vision of candlelight and white tablecloths, filled with the aromas of delicious Italian meatballs and skewered chicken. Our Aunt Linette made the wedding cake, a delectable Italian Cream cake festooned with red roses. Samuel made a sweet toast to the happy couple, and the bride and groom entertained the guests with their own harmonic performance, singing an array of songs, accompanied by their musical friends, Butch and Linda. A few brave souls even jumped up to strut their stuff on the dance floor; mostly the kids, who found it an excellent way to burn off their sugar high from the cream cheese frosting.

DA Wedding 6

DA Wedding 7

Finally, the cake was eaten, the bouquet was flung, and Daniel and Amber were ready to exchange the noisy wedding festivities for the quiet refuge of their reserved room at a nearby bed-and-breakfast. Instead of birdseed to hurl at the bride and groom (possibly causing grievous injury or inviting freak bird swarm attacks) the guests received glowsticks to wave around and light the path through the dark parking lot to Amber’s well-decorated car. With one last run through the cheering crowd, the freshly joined pair jumped into their escape vehicle and drove away to begin their new life.

DA Wedding 8

Just like that, the wedding was over.

The cleanup, however, was just beginning.

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DA Wedding

Congratulations, Daniel and Amber. May God bless you with true friendship, self-sacrificing love, and more mountains than valleys. I wish you both very happy!

(Final photo courtesy of Mike McElhatton)