Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother’s Day [to me]

A few weeks ago, smack in the middle of the semester, I found myself in the Emergency Room for the first time since I was three years old (that time I lied to my mother about “swallowing a needle”—yeah, that didn’t end well). I was about halfway through the first trimester of my pregnancy when all of a sudden one evening I had a massive discharge. Brooks and I rushed to the ER. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions but I was also terrified of what might have happened to our baby. I remember sitting in the waiting room while Brooks was on the phone with his parents and thinking, “I just want my mom.” I think every daughter (and child) can relate. In the most terrifying, painful moments of our lives, we just want our mothers. I know that has been true for me. Even as a married woman and a now-expectant mother, there are so many times when I just want my mother and so many more times that I am thankful for her presence in my life. 

My mother is the strongest person I know. She has survived so much, and more than that, she has thrived under the most trying circumstances. I like to think of my mother as a healer. She is not the kind of person who necessarily makes you feel nice or good about yourself all the time. However, she is the kind of person who is not satisfied with treating symptoms while the underlying issue goes unaddressed. Whether it’s physical or emotional pain, she fights until she gets to the root of the problem. In the past, this has meant spending hours researching genetic disorders at the university library and going through doctor after doctor until she got the right diagnosis for her son. It has meant overturning her lifestyle, her diet, and some of her ideals in order to find healing for herself. She is not afraid to put her finger on the throbbing source of pain, whether that’s her own pain, my pain, or the pain of social injustice. She’s not satisfied with Band-Aids and cheap patchwork. She’s not satisfied with putting on a smile and a stiff upper lip when inside she’s suffering. If she has to uproot her entire life, execute complete demolition, and start building from the ground up again, so be it. She will. 

She doesn’t need the validation of the world or anyone else to go forward confidently in her convictions and make the decisions that are right and good for her.

My mother is one of my best friends, a fierce woman I aspire to. She is not a perfect woman. She has never pretended to be. Her flaws often speak for themselves and she’s not afraid to own them. She knows they don’t define her. She knows WHO defines her and she goes forward confidently in that assurance.

She has taught me so much about being independent, being brave, and being confident in my own skin. She never forced me or my siblings into a box. She always trusted (and she still does) that we would figure things out on our own. Sometimes this meant tough love and letting me make my own mistakes, trusting that I would learn from them. 

Back in March, my husband and I visited my brother’s cemetery on the anniversary of his birthday. It’s an annual ritual for us. At first, I worried that visiting my brother’s cemetery was like holding onto the past. However, lately I have learned that stopping by his grave every year helps me see how little the past has a hold on me. It's a beautiful contrast to come back to his grave years later, and realize how far I have come from the broken young woman who was first sitting her years ago. 

This year Brooks and I visited the cemetery with the new and happy knowledge of the life of our own baby. My brother’s grave looked different in light of recent events. I saw it through the eyes of a mother losing a baby, parents losing their son. My stomach sank like a brick and I told Brooks, “I can’t imagine losing my baby.” He reiterated my feelings, "I know. It terrifies me." Yet I know so many mothers who have and I don't know how but they continue on like warriors. For the first time I felt the enormous weight of fear and uncertainty that comes with having a child. I can’t imagine the amount of faith and courage it took for my parents to raise all of us and continue life after losing their baby. I can’t imagine the strength it takes for any mama who has lost a baby, whether through a miscarriage or otherwise. And I’m so proud and in awe of the mothers I know who have gone through this loss and come out the other side as conquerors. I hope I can be as brave as you.

We daughters take so much strength and love and encouragement from our mothers. I was so blessed that day in the ER to have the presence of my mother and mother-in-law. As always, I was amazed by the calm and confidence my mother carried herself. This was the same ER she and my father entered only to be told their son had “expired at the scene”. My dear mother has probably lost count of the times she has gone to the ER, what between all of the stitches and staples her children brought on themselves, and then the many scares of a son with a precarious genetic disorder and chronic autoimmune illness. How many times has she had to wonder, “Will my child survive this time?”

That day in the ER turned out to be the first day Brooks and I heard our baby’s heartbeat. Everything was fine. The discharge that scared us turned out to be implantation bleeding and quickly ceased. We followed through on some bloodwork to make sure all my hormone levels and everything looked good. I am well into my second trimester now, under the care of a fantastic physician, and so far baby is still thriving. I look forward to the day when I can feel him kick inside of me and the day we eventually get to meet him (or her). From the ultrasounds, we can tell he certainly loves to dance already!

Baby Carlson (we have affectionately nicknamed him our little Korok—all you legend of Zelda fans will get it!) is due to arrive early November later this year. We can’t wait to meet our baby! 

Happy mother’s day to my mother and my mother-in-law and all of the incredible mothers and mothers-to-be who I have the privilege to know and love. You all are my heroes. Keep fighting the good fight! 

Monday, April 30, 2018

An Eggshell Wedding Dress || My Vintage Wedding Dress

At first I considered including these details into my last post about our special destination wedding and how we were blessed with the perfect wedding day. However, I did not want to break up the flow of the narrative and I thought the story behind my wedding dress deserved a post all to itself. 

Like I mentioned before, I wore my mother’s wedding dress to my wedding. Those of you who have seen my parents’ wedding pictures (or were blessed enough to witness their wedding) know that my dress looks a little different than my mother’s. I had the dress fitted and modified a little for my own wedding. 

The moment I tried on my mother’s wedding dress, I knew I wanted to wear it on my wedding day! Ever since my sister Ruth’s wedding last summer, my mother kept dropping hints to me that if any of her daughters wore her wedding dress, it would be me. Fortunately my body build and size is very close to my mother’s at my age, so fitting into her dress was really easy. 

Taking my mother’s dress out of the ‘80s was a slightly more trying task.

I took my dress to a local formal gown and wedding dress store to have it fitted and altered. Fortunately, the seamstress who worked here had a lot of experience in preserving and altering vintage wedding gowns. I tried to keep the alterations minimal. I wanted the dress to still look like my mother’s dress. I have seen too many alterations that were difficult to believe were alterations (like, did you use the fabric from your mother’s dress to make a whole new dress?)

Here is a list of the changes I had made. 

-         removed the sheer chiffon and the high-collar from the neckline and the back, creating an elegant low-back.
-         removed the large thick sash from the back of the dress.
-         added lace from the collar to the neckline to contribute a little more modesty.
-         removed the puff sleeves (Anne Shirley would be so disappointed) and added elegant cap sleeves.

And…that is about the gist of it! The dress turned out to be the perfect dress for me, a princess a-line cut with a vintage classic look to it. It made me feel like royalty, but at the same time it was not overkill. 

In total, my dress cost $125 for the alterations and $75 to have it professionally pressed. Not only was it cheap, but it was extra special and sentimental to wear my mother’s dress! 

Let me know what you think of the dress and the changes I made! Do you think my Steve Madden boots matched the dress or not? ;)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Our Perfect Destination Wedding || Story + Photos

These photos have been long in coming. But I am so excited to finally share some of my favorite shots from our perfect wedding day with you! Our wedding was simple and small, but our photographer still managed to overwhelm us with 600+ beautiful photos from this perfect day. We were so satisfied with how she captured so many perfect moments, colors, expressions, and joy! 

One of Brooks’ concerns with planning a short engagement and a small destination wedding was that it would ruin the romance for me. He wanted this day to be a special one, to be a day we could both look back on with no regret. 

Not every wedding day turns out perfectly. Some wedding days are really miserable for the bride and groom involved. There are so many variables, even with a small destination wedding, that can make it a rough day! What if your plans fall through? What if you’re sick? What if you get zero sleep the night before? What if you are ultimately disappointed with everything?

Our wedding day was perfect to me. It was not necessarily the kind of wedding I envisioned for myself. I always imagined a traditional ceremony in a traditional chapel with a traditional program and the traditional following reception. But I am so happy I married a man who is not afraid to break tradition for authenticity, a man who puts our well-being and our relationship first, who conscientiously and carefully thinks about “what is best for us?” instead of “what does everyone expect of us?” While my wedding day was not the traditional program I thought it would be, it turned out to be the happiest day of my life hands down and if any detail of that day had been different, I don’t think it would have been such a happy day. 

What ultimately made our wedding day so happy, special, and wildly romantic was that I married the love of my life. 

We were married on Gulf Shores beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on December 30, 2017. Our parents were present to witness our marriage union (and help us celebrate afterwards!) 

I woke up the morning of December 30, enjoyed a lovely cup of matcha green tea and (gluten free) peanut butter banana toast prepared by my mother. I got dressed, leisurely put on my make-up and fixed my hair, and then waited for our photographer to arrive. The rest of the morning was quiet and relaxed, set against the backdrop of the ocean waves gently landing on the shore just beyond the confines of our lovely beach cabin.
Our photographer was an absolute gem. It was a complete providential god-send that we managed to find such a good photographer on short notice and within our budget range. She had shot many destination weddings before, so she was totally cool with rolling with whatever happened. She kept things laid back and relaxed while also helping us stay to our schedule. 

After the photographer arrived, I put on my mother's wedding dress, and we took some "getting ready" photos as well as some "first look" photos. The photos taken before the wedding are some of my favorites because the anticipation and love on our faces is so apparent. 

Around noon we met up with our minister and his wife on the beach. We found a lovely vacant spot and got married. Like our photographer, our minister was providentially perfect for our ceremony. Even though he had just met us via phone a month before, he quickly and intuitively knew what kind of sermon and ceremony would fit us. 

After getting married, Brooks and I checked into our hotel, changed, and then joined my parents to celebrate together over the best seafood the Alabama gulf coast has to offer. Many oysters were consumed. Many laughs and fun stories were shared. A lot of wine and liquor might have also been consumed. In short, it was a beautiful conclusion to a beautiful day.

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