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13 July 2013

2 weeks out ...

The Big Day is just two weeks from today. In fact, in about exactly 2 weeks I'll be donning my wedding dress and getting ready to take those vows. Aside from feeling 100% stressed out and anxious (which is only partially due to the wedding), things are going great! I say that with all sincerity. Really!

All the major stuff is taken care of. We've got the venue and the cake (cupcakes) all taken care of. The flowers are all set but will require some work on the day of. Since we're not buying pre-arranged flowers but single stems instead, we need to put them all together in their jars on the day of the wedding. Thankfully, I've got a small army of people to help out with that. The bouquets and boutonnieres are all ready as well. Mel is doing our photography, so that's huge weight off my shoulders. My wedding dress is FINALLY taken care of, and JD's got his suit all set and ready. We've got our final meeting with our minister scheduled, and we've had our meeting with our entertainment guy. I've got all the favors to assemble and organize, but, again, I've got some worker bees coming to help me out next week. And my amazing cousin has agreed to be our wedding coordinator on The Big Day, and that is a HUGE relief for this control freak. So, all in all, things are looking good.

Of course, leaving town tomorrow for four days isn't great timing, but at least I'll get to hang out with my MOH for a few days. I agreed to go to this conference before JD and I set a date, and, looking back, it wasn't the best planning. But it is what it is, so we'll go with it. When I get back, it's my birthday and then the family starts arriving. Mom and Dad should be here Tuesday and then everyone else slowly trickles in. I'm really looking forward to it all, but I'm also stressing about all the details. But I know that when my momma gets here, she'll help a lot of that anxiety disappear.

06 July 2013

My One Month Anniversary

Exactly one month ago today, I held my new shiny blue bow (which I'm realizing needs a name) in my hands for the first time and attempted to shoot. I wasn't very good (obviously), and I had a lot of work to do to learn all about form and the mechanics and everything else that everyone else seems to have known forever.

Day 1- It begins
I've had great people helping me and giving me advice, and I've definitely made some progress. But, in all honesty, I've been mainly frustrated and annoyed that it was so hard and there was so much to do and to remember every time I drew back an arrow. And I wasn't feeling that I was making any real improvements. Everyone around me has been really supportive, and the amazing people at NC Hunter Supply have helped me to figure out the infinite number of adjustments that need to be made so that the bows shoots the way it's supposed to. Everyone keeps reminding me that the more I practice, the better I'll be, but sometimes it's slow going and daunting.

Throw in 9-day trip there when I don't even pick up my bow, and everything seems to fall apart.

I got back in the shop this week, and I could feel how out of practice I was (not that I was necessarily in practice to begin with!). My arms got tired quickly, and I could barely hit the broadside of a barn. (Okay, that's a little exaggeration, but I had definitely backslide since the last time I shot.) But I kept plugging along. Everyone is always telling me that it's not about a score, and I totally get that. Since I wasn't feeling any great improvement, I felt that I had to keep score just to give myself a gauge of how I was doing. So on Wednesday, I did just that. Started keeping score.

I had kept score just once before. On the Thursday before I left for my trip, I scored a 243 (245?) out of a possible 300 at league night. I told myself I would be happy if I scored that but felt doubtful given how long I had been away from practice. On Wednesday, I scored a 231 with 2 Xs. (Xs are essentially bulls-eyes.) Eh. Not great, but at least I broke 200, right? Most importantly, I felt more comfortable and natural with the bow than I ever had before, and that's a huge improvement.

I couldn't shoot on the 4th for obvious reasons, but I made sure to get to the bow shop on Friday the 5th. My goal was to beat Wednesday's score. Even if it was just by one point. Thankfully, I did just that. Scored a 238 with 3 Xs. Better. Improvement is what I was going for, and improvement was what I got.

The great thing about practicing at the shop is that everyone there knows SO MUCH about bows and archery and is always willing to help out. More often than not, I'll turn around and one of the guys -- Justin or Eric or anyone else for that matter -- is just watching me shoot. They know I'm new to it all, and they're always ready to offer suggestions to help me improve. Justin happened to be watching me as I wrapped things up on Friday and noticed that my arrows still weren't flying right. This was something that they noticed before and had attempted to fix. Clearly something was still amiss. They asked me to leave the bow overnight (since I was coming back today to practice some more) so they could figure it out. As it turns out, the timing in the bow was all wrong, and they got it all worked out and corrected. And what a difference it made!

When I got to the shop today, I shot a few practice rounds to warm up before I started keeping score. The difference was apparent immediately. I was shooting far more consistently and accurately. Today was also the first time that I felt 100% comfortable with the bow. I felt like I knew what I was doing, and I was calm instead of nervous/excited. I was taking less time with my shots, and I wasn't getting jumpy. It felt ... well, natural. Once I started keeping score, I was tickled pink with the results. A 260 with 2 Xs. An improvement of 22 points overnight! Of course, 99% of that improvement was adjusting the bow correctly, but still. 22 points!! I actually wanted to keep shooting after I was done. And that's definitely a first!!

So, after a month of semi-regular practice and a ton of learning, I can honestly say that I like it. I like shooting, I look forward to practice, and this is something I actually enjoy. I honestly never thought I would say (or write) those words.

So what that means for all of you is that you'll get to read a lot more about archery here in the future. I hope that doesn't turn you away!

03 July 2013

Wedding Countdown - 24 days

The wedding is in just 24 days.

24 days, people!!

All the major stuff is in order. We have a venue (which were finalizing on Monday), we have a florist, we have a musician (still need to finalize the music scheme and list), we have dessert (finalizing that on Tuesday), and we FINALLY have a wedding dress. Or, rather, I finally have a wedding dress.

Out of all the things that could potentially cause stress for this wedding, I didn't think it would be the dress. It's actually one of the smallest budget items, and I thought it would be relatively hassle-free. And it started that way. I set a small budget for the dress -- absolutely no more than $500 for everything including alterations -- and was confident that I would come in under budget. The first dress I set my heart on didn't quite work, but the second was perfect. Unfortunately, the dress was made by a small boutique in New Jersey and the only way to get it was to communicate via email and send along my measurements. All was going very smoothly until I received it in the mail. It was a little heartbreaking. There was a small dirt mark on the bodice and, worst of all, the hemming was COMPLETELY wrong. And the petticoat was too long! I sent it back for repairs and alterations, and it came back on Monday. Unfortunately, it was STILL wrong. The hem was now uneven in a whole new way, and the petticoat was a disaster. I finally got them to call me and told them that they needed to pay for in-town alterations because I can't rely on them fixing it incorrectly again and waiting for them to mail it back and forth. Thankfully, my soon-to-be-sister-in-law knew a great tailor, and the dress is already fixed! The petticoat will be done after the holiday weekend, and I'll pick them up Wednesday. That's a huge weight off my shoulders.

Everything else is coming together nicely. There are still small details that need my attention -- putting together favors, wrapping ribbon around our mason jars, deciding on the details of the ceremony -- but, all in all, the major stuff is done. With the exception of our final meeting with the minister to nail down the ceremony, we're ready to get married.

Except for the marriage license! Damn! We need to get that!!

Flowers along the way

A few stops along the way had gorgeous flowers, namely the Jackson homesite (Andrew, not Michael) in Nashville, and the Biltmore. I couldn't resist snapping pics ... of course. 

Tiger Lillies always make me think of the house I grew up in. 

The purple in this clematis is gorgeous. 

The Great Trek Westward

Each year I'm lucky enough to act as a chaperone for one of the school-sponsored history trips. I've been on quite a few over the past four years ... two revolutionary-era focused trips, one civil-war focused, and even a quick jaunt to to Charleston/Savannah/Atlanta. Each of the trips generally lasts for four days and three nights. But each year there is the BIG trip. And, when I say BIG, I mean, 9 days with two van-fulls of teenagers. This year I was lucky to be asked to chaperone, and, long before we had a wedding date set, I said "yes." The trip itinerary included all places that I had never been before, so, even though it was only three weeks before the wedding, I followed through with my commitment  Plus, I'll get paid and that will make for some decent honeymoon cash when we get to California. Rather than run down the trip day-by-day, I'l provide a photographic journal. 

Our first stop (other than gas and pee/stretch our legs breaks) was at the Forbidden Caverns just outside of Chattanooga, TN.

There's a very cool Trail of Tears memorial in Chattanooga ... which the kids played in. As did every one else that was there. It definitely felt good to kick off our shoes and get our feet wet .. literally.

The not-so-motley crew.

Near the memorial there was a great hill that was clearly set up for cardboard-box sledding. Which our teenagers eagerly joined.

After Chattanooga, we stopped in Georgia to see the Chickamauga (spelling?) battleground and then drove to Birmingham, Alabama to see the Civil Rights Institute. After a sweltering Sunday in the deep south, we headed to Memphis, stopping along the way to see Tupelo and Elvis' birthplace. Less than 12 hours later, we saw Graceland, and those two homes were certainly a juxtaposition. (We also stayed in the Heartbreak Hotel which was quite humorous.)

Elvis' living room. 
Lots of monkeys in Graceland. It's a little weird. 
Where the Presley's enjoyed dinner. 
Elvis had a lot of cars. 
Including a pink caddy. 
While in Memphis, we toured Sun Studios (SOOOO cool) as well as the Rock and Soul museum. I can't wait to get back there in another week to visit LL (and present at a conference, of course).

After Graceland, we headed to St. Louis.

I love the little dragonfly that photobombed me!
The city is pretty small from so high up. 
Seeing our own shadow. A little unsettling. 

After St. Louis, we headed to my favorite stop: Hannibal, Missouri. The birthplace of Mark Twain.

Coolest thing ever. For an Americanist-nerd like me. 
Mr. Twain, himself. Or, rather, a statue of him.
Finally got to dip my feet in the Mississippi. I was careful to avoid swift currents and catfish bites. 
 A few hours of geeking out in a literary mecca, we headed to Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln's home.

Our greatest president's house as it was when he was assassinated. 
His writing desk. Imagine all the amazing ideas that were recorded here. 
His shaving mirror. Look how high it was!
Lincoln's tomb. 
 Heading east out of Springfield, we drove to Indianapolis. We made two stops there. First was to this really cool art museum (the name escapes me) and they had over 200 historically-significant guitars on display.
Buddy Holly's guitar and case!
Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Sr. How cool is that?
Even Gene Autry's!
 After the very cool museum, we visited President Benjamin Harrison's home (of which I have no photos. Sadly. It was a pretty cool house.)

Nashville was the next stop on our midwestern tour. We visited this really cool but odd scale replica of the Parthenon. It was cool. But odd.

And I got to see the Ryman Auditorium! 

After visiting downtown proper (which I certainly want to visit again!!), we went over to Andrew Jackson's homesite. 

Oreo Cookie Cows!!!

We finally hit our home state!! We stopped in Asheville to tour the Biltmore before making the rest of the long drive home.

The gardens are always pretty, no matter what time of year it is. 

The long stretch homeward. 

2800 miles.
48 total hours driving.
9 kids, 2 adults, 2 minivans. 
4 wicked cool music history sites. 
3 presidential sites. 
1 author history site.
Average daily temperature = 91. 

All in all, a very good time. 


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