The Beginning

The Beginning

Once Upon a Time on June 1, 2013, I married my true love, James. We had a beautiful wedding with 200 of our closest family and friends. Even though we had so many people, to us it felt small and intimate. Having James’s uncle, a priest, as the celebrant made it all the more moving. James’s cousins were the altar servers, and our siblings, cousins, niece and nephew were the attendants. For our dedication to the Blessed Virgin, we used a rose from James’s grandfather’s funeral. My sister sang “The Servant Song” after Communion. We were surrounded by our family. It was perfect.

The Bells of St. Patrick's
The Bells of St. Patrick’s

We were so unbelievably happy on that day and we’ve been glowing ever since.

We honeymooned on St. Thomas, USVI. It was Amazing. Capital “A”. Neither of us had ever been to the Caribbean. We were more than impressed. When we weren’t lounging at the Marriott resort, we were exploring the 17th century Danish sights and hunting down postcard beaches. The day we spend on St. John was my favorite.

Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI
Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI

One more place crossed off the bucket list! I suppose I’ll have to do a travel post soon.

A few weeks after we came home, we went to Avalon, NJ with all of our aunts, uncles, and cousins on James’s side.

Our Family in Avalon, NJ
Our Family in Avalon, NJ

It was probably the best beach vacation I’ve ever had, excluding our honeymoon, of course. I love our family so much and it was such a wonderful experience to spend so much time with them.

I know we’re not even 3 months in yet, but I have to say that I feel so blessed. I have a wonderful husband and the best family in the whole wide world. 🙂

Planning Our First Adventure Together

Planning Our First Adventure Together

James and I are in the middle of planning our honeymoon. It’s so exciting! The only problem is that there are so many places I’d love to go, it’s hard to pick just one.

Of course, a honeymoon is different from a normal vacation. We want something super relaxing, preferably with nice beaches. We want someplace we’ve never been. We also want some place that’s not more than 5-6 hours away from DC in a plane. This pretty much puts us in the Caribbean. Neither of us have ever been, and I’ve always wanted to go. So what’s holding me back from booking?

First of all, for someone who’s never been to the Caribbean, picking an island is intimidating. We were leaning towards Puerto Rico, but since we’re using Marriott points and the only Marriotts are in the middle of San Juan, we decided against it. Right now we think we have narrowed down our options to St. Kitts and St. Croix (USVI). We want nature, calm beaches without huge waves, history, and great dining options (it’s not for nothing that I own TheCheeseLog.com). Also, as someone who spent many a childhood vacation in the Outer Banks, a little pirate lore is a plus.

The other problem with picking a honeymoon spot is that I keep thinking of all the other places on my travel bucket list. I definitely have a bad case of the travel bug. You might call it daydream overload. Luckily, I’m only 20-something. Hopefully I have many more trips in my future. In fact, our Tour de France excursion is already in the initial planning stages…

Dealing with Life’s Cravings

Dealing with Life’s Cravings

I remember my mother telling me when I was little that you had to love yourself first before you could love anyone else. After reading some beautiful posts by writer Sage Cohen, I started thinking about this again. Loving yourself. It goes hand in hand with knowing yourself, doesn’t it?

Sometimes I forget who I am. I forget that I learn quickly and hate it when people talk loudly in the morning. I forget that I forget to go to bed. I forget that I love reading about history and looking at art. Sometimes, when I’ve been insanely stressed for weeks at a time, it’s because I have forgotten to remember what I like.

In yesterday’s meeting with my health coach, we were talking about cravings. Sometimes, when you’re craving food, it’s a manifestation of craving for one of life’s primary foods: a stimulating job, a fulfilling relationship, a balanced spiritual and physical exercise habit. I know that for me, as I sit here dreaming of carbs at my office in the auto body shop, there are several things lacking. For one, like many under-30’s today, I have yet to find a satisfying job. More importantly, I am still in a transition period where I’m waiting to create a new home.

I’m so excited to be getting married and starting a home with James. I want a place that’s safe, a place I can fill with my books and my singing, a place where I can write. I know myself enough to know I need a home. Maybe once I finally have a sweet, loving place to live, I’ll be able to grow in other ways, too.

Cheesesteaks + Football = Love

Cheesesteaks + Football = Love

This weekend, James and I took a mini-vacation to Philadelphia. It’s one of our favorite places to visit. James is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Soul arena football team, I am a huge fan of Philadelphia’s colonial history, and neither one of us believes in setting a limit on cheesesteak consumption.

Surprisingly, for all the times we’ve gone to Philly and checked out historic sites and football games, we’ve never really spent much time in City Center. Even more surprising is that for having lived 26 years in the Megalopolis, James had never seen a skyscraper up close. I had a feeling it would be a new thing for him. I knew he has never been to New York City, even though it’s only 4 hours from where we live. So while we were driving through the middle of Philly, I pointed through the sunroof and said, “Hey, Look up!” He peeks up through the roof and says “Holy Shit!!!” It was his first close encounter with a structure that was nearly 1,000 feet high. This was his first view:

Comcast Center, Philadelphia's tallest building

2012, the year of engagement. That was almost the title of my Facebook album for the pictures from this weekend. After years of dating and worrying that things will never fall into place for you to finally get married and start a life together, it happens. Suddenly, you have people running around worrying about caterers and guest lists, and 800,000,000 details and decisions that threaten to take the focus away from what’s most important, the relationship that is on its way to becoming indissoluble. I love the commitment and the promise of a future together that comes with engagement. I love knowing that a wedding is just a number of months away. But I do miss that, before we were engaged, every date was purely about getting to know each other. I want more of that. I’m really glad that the Catholic Church requires some marriage preparation sessions. I’m looking forward to spending more time focussing on each other, and not so much on wedding details.

So, during this year of engagement, James and I will be doing everything we can to keep our focus on us, and not our wedding. We’ll be making memories, seeing new things, and learning as much about each other as possible. Sure, we have a lot of business to attend to, with finding a place to live and picking out a cake. But I’m trying hard not to stress about wedding decisions. The most important thing we’ll be doing this year is beginning to form our new identity as a family.

Wedding Website Adventures

We finally picked a date! June 1, 2013. I can’t really even describe what a relief that is, and how happy it makes me. Next step, wedding website.

Actually, we already have one. I made something about 7 months ago when we first got engaged using WeddingChannel.com. To be honest, none of the pre-fab backgrounds and formats were really working for me. It’s a great and easy tool, especially if you have zero experience blogging or website building, but I just wasn’t happy with the appearance. None of the options were really us.

Finally, it dawned on me to make my own site using WordPress. Why did it take me 7 months to figure that one out? The great thing about putting your wedding website on WordPress is that you have way more control over the formatting, the background, and the title. Also, we can keep it going long after the big day as a blog about our life.

Recent Web Development Activities

Going along with all that, this week I’ve been crazy into site building. Right now I’m still working on a site for my mom’s painting, www.ConniesArtGallery.com. I know I need to learn a lot more about upgrading appearances, but I’m getting somewhere. I’d like to have a job writing web content soon, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the technical aspects of web development. I worked for a year in SEO, so I know a little, but I need to learn more. So that’s what I’ll be doing this week during my down-time. Does anyone know of any free online tutorials that are especially helpful?

My travel bucket list

Lately I’ve been thinking about all the places I want to go, so I decided to make my travel bucket list. Why? Because life is too short to sit around saying you wish you could do something, someday.

Me at the Acropolis in Athens

In no particular order, here are the places I am going to explore:

1. England: I want to see the sights in London, but then I want to drive around and see the countryside as well. Maybe we could take two or three weeks and make it up to the Scottish Highlands too.

2. Australia: I want to spend a night looking at the stars in the Southern Hemisphere, preferably far from city lights.

3. Florence and Tuscany hill towns: I want to see the art at the Uffizi, then check out Siena, Pisa, and little off-the-beaten-path places.

4. Switzerland: I’ve flown over the Alps during sunrise twice. Now I want to see them up close.

5. Austria: I have always wanted to see Vienna and Salzburg, since I was a young kid, mostly for the history. And, who are we kidding, there’s something about the combined forces of Mozart and the Von Trapp family.

6. Caribbean: Um, can I be there right now? Maybe we’ll make it there on our honeymoon.

7. Africa: I want to see the animals, but I’ll stay away from bush food and death by hyenas. Might take some work to convince James on this one.

8. Patagonia: penguins!!

9. France: to see Le Tour de France, of course! This is actually one of future hubby’s dreams. I’ve already been to Paris, Chatres, and Versailles, but I’ve always wanted to see more of the French countryside. I want to learn French first, though.

10. Spain: I want to see the Prado in Madrid, the Alhambra castle, the Mosque of Cordoba, and flamenco dancing in Seville. Basically, I want to make a day stop to Madrid for the art museum, then spend a week galavanting around Andalucia.

There are a few more places I could add, like medieval towns in Holland, Belgium for the chocolate, Germany for kicks… but I think these are the main ones. Not sure if I’ll ever make it out to Africa, the shots and the toilet situation might be enough to keep me away. BUT… Fiancé and I are already making plans to go to 2 of these places by 2014! Guess which!!

Dreams That Have Come True …and ones I’m still working on

Today I decided to make a list of all the dreams I’ve ever had that have come true. When everything seems to be going wrong, it’s nice to think about all the things that have gone right in your life.

Dream 1: Marry the man of my dreams

Stop gagging, I know it’s cliché. I’m engaged to my best friend and it’s the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.

Dream 2: Graduate from The Catholic University of America

One sunny spring day when I was 5 years old, I was playing in the front yard with my big brother Ryan. He was telling me what college was: “And they have all different universities, like Maryland University, American University, Catholic University…” “There’s a Catholic univeristy???” my little self said with complete wonder and awe. “Yeah,” said Ryan, “but you’ll never go there. It’s too expensive.” 20 years later, I’m a CUA alumna.

Dream 3: Go to Italy

I went with the CUA honor’s program in 2008 and had the time of my life!

Dream 4: Become a world traveler

When I was in 7th grade, we took a field trip to the Newseum, where I got my picture on the cover of National Geographic with the headline: “Explorer of the Century”. I’ve been to 6 countries so far, which isn’t a whole lot, but I think climbing on ruins in the Aegean, haggling with a rug salesman in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, and climbing to the top of Chartres Cathedral to look out over the French countryside count as fulfilling this dream.

Dreams that sort-of happened

Dream 5: Write my own newspaper

This one was from my elementary school days. If they had blogs back then, I would have been all over it. Maybe that’s why I like blogging so much: because it makes me feel like I’m 8 years old sitting at my desk playing with the typewriter my grandfather gave me.

Dream 6: Sing with Andrea Bocelli

Ok so this didn’t exactly happen. But I did get to sing in the choir when Pope Benedict XVI visited DC, and Placido Domingo sang with us. Pretty close if you ask me.

Dreams I’m still working on:

Publish a book, go stargazing in the Southern Hemisphere, visit all the places on my travel bucket list, and have a wonderful home with James where I have a pretty place to write and a sky that is dark enough to see the stars.

I hope all of these come true someday, and that after they do, I find new ones to take their place. A girl’s always gotta dream, after all. ♥

Dealing with Writer’s Block

What do you do when you can’t think of anything to write about? There are a million topics floating through my head right now. I can’t seem to get my brain to chill out for a sec and pick one. Actually, my stomach has just now decided to join my brain and tense up in a knot, making me severely stressed and uncomfortable.

How are you supposed to be a writer when every time you get a second to sit down and write, you freeze up? I have an hour lunch break at work, and whenever the shop is slow enough, I spend the time writing. Right now I only have 15 minutes left and I’m starting to hyperventilate. The worst part is, the more time I lose, the more I think about how I’m wasting the only fun time I have every day. I like my work environment, but I don’t like what I do. Writing during lunch is the only fun thing I do during the day.

The problem right now isn’t that I can’t think of a topic. It’s that I can’t settle on just one long enough to write anything interesting about it. Does this ever happen to anyone else? What do you do when that happens?

What’s My Writing Platform?

Recently I decided that I have to be a writer. If I don’t write, I’ll never be happy with myself. My day job is completely unsatisfying from a personal standpoint, and I really want to be doing something creative. I’m trying to get to the point where I can feel comfortable calling myself a writer. I’m doing this the only way I know how: practicing my writing and reading books on the subject.

In Sage Cohen’s book, The Productive Writer, chapter 2 is all about finding and defining your platform. What does she mean by that?

Well, to be honest, I’m not 100% sure. What the heck is a platform? It seems like she means you need to decide what topic you want to be known for. Are you a how-to girl, an expert in culinary history, a poet or a political analyst? What do you want to say to the world?

What do I want to say to the world? I have a lot of interests, but I have no idea what exactly I would want to write about. I have a degree in history and I love art. Could that be the makings of my platform? I wrote my graduation thesis on Italian immigrants and the Catholic Church in the early part of the 20th century. Could that be my platform? What about all the other things I want to write, like the novel I keep thinking about? How do I know when I’ve found the right platform?

In a way, this blog started as an exercise to discover my writing niche. Maybe I could look through my posts and figure out what topics I write about the most.

Maybe there is no clear answer. Maybe I just need to keep writing about whatever I want, and see where it leads me. Sounds like a plan!

Will I Ever Be a Writer?

I have always thought I wanted to write. When I was 10, my mom gave me The Idiot’s Guide to Creative Writing for Christmas. I’ve always loved that book. I’ve always gone to it for inspiration. I have yet to write anything that I consider makes me a real writer.

I always feel like writing, but I never have the discipline to see it through. My excuse for not writing is always “I have too many stories and I can’t pick one.” So, for the millionth time, enough with excuses. It’s time for me to pursue my dreams and be a writer.

I bought a few books on Amazon. Currently, I’m reading Sage Cohen’s book The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to help you write more, stress less & create success. So far it looks great. She seems like she has a lot of great tips. I really want to go step by step with this, but even in chapter 1 she gives a long list of to-do’s that I know I won’t accomplish for a few days or weeks. And her pie chart of time made me realize that I have even less than I thought I did. Work takes up about 10 hours of my day, sleep another 8, then with my remaining 6, can I really do everything I need to do, keep my time with James, read the books I love, and STILL have enough time to have a freelance writing career? I have no idea. But I’m a big girl now, so I’m going to try.