Sometimes Things Work Out

Gerry had investigated marriage licenses in Rutherford County, Tennessee, months before. The website is pretty clear:

The Groom (male) and Bride (female) must be at least eighteen (18) years of age to obtain a marriage license. The Groom (male) and the Bride (female) are required to apply for the marriage license together in person and submit one of the following forms of identification:

  • Valid Driver’s License
  • Valid State Identification Card
  • Military Identification Card
  • Passport
  • Social Security Number

No problem.

And look at this:

A Civil Ceremony is available in the Clerk’s Office. There is no additional cost for this service and no appointment is required.

Score! It’s a one-stop shop.

We called my brother and his wife, told them our plans and asked them to come with. Done.

Then Gerry suggested to his mother—who would have loved to be here except for that arduous trip across the Pond—that he could Skype her in. She was all over it. We “practiced” for weeks. She learned how to sign on and wait for my call.

And then Gerry began to worry. What if they only do the weddings at certain times of the day? What if they only do them in the morning? What if they take off for lunch?

So I walked in to the court clerk’s office to ask a few questions. The week before my computer had died and I was still in a bit of a daze. I was behind on work, had a hundred things to do to prepare for Gerry’s arrival, and my stress level was through the roof.

The gentleman who spoke to me that day was Rick Spence. I asked him all the What If questions, and we had nothing to worry about. It would all be fine.

One more question though: Where, exactly, do they marry you? Is it private? I’d heard stories about folks who got married with inmates of the county jail as witnesses (because it all happened in the same room: arraignments, weddings, hey!), who got married next to people buying car tags (making smart-ass remarks), who got married with the county sheriff’s deputy looking on (who might or might not roll his eyes), and so on. They are funny stories but … I wasn’t so sure about it. So I asked. I started to ask. Where—?

“No, let me back up,” I said. “Would it be possible for us to walk down to the courthouse? Get married on the steps?” You can see the historic Rutherford County courthouse from the clerk’s office; it’s about a block away. I’ve lived in Murfreesboro for a long time and I love our downtown with the courthouse square and the antebellum courthouse. It’s beautiful.

Rutherford County (Tennessee) Courthouse on 23 October 2014.

Rutherford County (Tennessee) Courthouse on 23 October 2014.

Rick was leaning on the counter. When I asked that last question, he sighed audibly, lowered his head and closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Seconds ticked by. “We get asked that a lot,” he said, eyes still closed.

I knew immediately the answer was no. And that was OK. It never hurts to ask, right? That’s what I said: “I understand—you can’t leave this office. No problem. Just thought I’d ask.”

And then he did something extraordinary and unexpected. (I don’t know why. I am a chubby middle-aged woman, not a sweet-faced twentysomething who’d look good in white.) “I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he said. “Our office closes at four o’clock. I’m out of here around four-fifteen. If you’ll come buy your license at three-thirty, I’ll meet you at the courthouse when I’m off work.”

I teared up, thanked him profusely. We looked at my daybook calendar and I wrote his name on the day. “I won’t forget,” he said.

And he didn’t. :)

And he didn’t. 🙂


I Wanted Something Sentimental

Believe it or not, this is a travel story. It starts with some friends of my parents, who were in the air force. (Technically, my dad was in the air force, but in actuality, we all were.) That story—of my parents and their friends—is connected to a coin, among a lot of coins given to me by those people. It ends up with a piece of jewelry I wore when I got married … because I wanted something sentimental. Let me tell you about it.

Jim & Doris and Hank & Shirley

My parents always made a lot of friends wherever they went, and early in Daddy’s air force career they became friends with a couple who were probably ten or fifteen years older than they were. I can’t remember their names, so I’ll call them Hank and Shirley.

Hank was also in the air force, but his career path separated from my dad’s. I suspect he was in military intelligence, because they were stationed all over the world. They had no children.

Hank & Shirley. I have no idea where this was taken. Someplace where they have camels. :) My guess is late ’60s, early ’70s.

Hank & Shirley. I have no idea where this was taken. Someplace where they have camels. 🙂 My guess is late ’60s, early ’70s.

Eventually he finished his career in Washington DC. (Military intelligence and the diplomatic corps are a natural fit.) They lived in Arlington, Virginia, which is right across the Potomac from DC and, more significantly, the location of the Pentagon.

When I was a freshman in high school, my parents drove me to San Francisco and put me on an airplane (possibly my first commercial flight, though I’d flown in small aircraft all my life) all by myself, and I flew to Washington (Dulles National Airport) for my spring break week. April 1969.

I was there to see my country’s monuments. And Hank and Shirley took me everywhere!

This is a view of the Washington Monument taken from across the Tidal Basin; we’re standing at the base of the Jefferson Memorial.

This is a view of the Washington Monument taken from across the Tidal Basin; we’re standing at the base of the Jefferson Memorial. I felt very smart in that suit, which I’d made myself in a home ec class.

We parked ’round back at the Capitol Building. I imagine Hank had a special parking situation.

We parked ’round back at the Capitol Building. I imagine Hank had a special parking situation.

And I do mean everywhere. The Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Mint, the Smithsonian Institution,* the White House, the Washington Monument, the National Mall, the Pentagon, Ford’s Theatre, the home in Georgetown where the Kennedys lived when he was a senator, Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon, the US Naval Academy at Annapolis (Maryland), and many other places I can no longer remember. (I wish I’d journaled my trip then, as I do my trips now.)

In 1868 the figurehead from the USS Delaware (1817–1861) was installed at the Naval Academy; in 1930 a bronze replica replaced the deteriorating wooden bust. I was told they called it Tecumseh, though I’ve since learned that it is really Tamanend, the Delaware chief who welcomed William Penn to his land on 2 October 1682.

In 1868 the figurehead from the USS Delaware (1817–1861) was installed at the Naval Academy; in 1930 a bronze replica replaced the deteriorating wooden bust. I was told they called it Tecumseh, though I’ve since learned that it is really Tamanend, the Delaware chief who welcomed William Penn to his land on 2 October 1682. As you can see, it’s huge.

I was even allowed to flirt with some naval cadets, which is why I’m laughing in the photo above. 🙂

Former president Dwight Eisenhower had just died right before I got there, so all of my photos show flags flown at half-staff.

Washington Monument on a rainy day in April 1969.

Washington Monument on a rainy day in April 1969.

This is the Marine Corps War Memorial, which stands outside Arlington National Cemetery.

This is the Marine Corps War Memorial, which stands outside Arlington National Cemetery.

I remember all the tourism. I don’t remember anything, really, of my evenings with Hank and Shirley. We must’ve talked a lot about history and their travels, though, because a few years later they visited my parents and brought me a box full of foreign coins. Mostly from Europe.

A Coin From Ireland

Among those coins were several from Ireland, a place that had always held a fascination for me. There’s a silver coin with a salmon on it, but it’s very worn. There are three copper one-penny coins (1942, 1942, and 1949) with a chubby hen drooping her wings and holding her tail high—really delightful artwork. On the reverse, of course, the harp, which is the national symbol of Ireland.

My favorite, though, was a newer coin, a copper two pence coin issued in 1971, the first year of minting for this design. It’s called “ornamental bird” and is a Celtic design. It’s beautiful. And since 1971 is the year I graduated from high school, it’s a meaningful date for me personally.

Fast-forward a few decades, and I meet the Irishman. Fast-forward a few more years, and I’m planning to marry him, so I think I’d like to wear that coin on a necklace. For that you need a coin bezel, and if you want something nice you probably need to involve a jeweler. I started looking for such a bezel on a trip to Ireland, because I figured even though they use euro-coinage now, local jewelers might have stock bezels for historic coins.

Well, no. And jewelers in the United States were going to have to custom-make something. I set the idea aside for awhile.

Then I remembered I have a friend who makes jewelry. (Her name is Rebecca Cole, and you should have a look at her website. She does beautiful work.) I wrote her a note and told her a shorter version of this story. I told her I’d like a gold bezel, because I mostly wear gold jewelry. I left out the part about the marriage, mostly because we were keeping this information on the down-low.

As you undoubtedly know. 🙂

She said, “I only work in silver. But I think I have an idea.” We discussed price—“If you like it”—it was reasonable, and I sent her the coin right away. I figured I’d hang the coin from my bouquet and wear it later at my reception in Ireland.

The Princess Dress

In the meantime, I bought a dress. I spent more on it than I’ve ever spent on a dress, ever. From Nordstrum’s. Online. It was perfect in every way, but when it arrived, I noticed the beadwork along that princess neckline had some silver in it. The jewelry I’d planned to wear—gold—wasn’t going to work. Hmpf.

A few weeks went by, and Rebecca emailed. “I haven’t forgotten,” she said. “I had to order something for the project and when it came it was the wrong thing, so I had to order the right thing.”

I wasn’t worried, but more days went by, and now it was getting close. So I broke down and told her why in an email. She answered that she was about to send it off—and that she wasn’t going to send me a photo. It would be a surprise. Watch the mail, she said.

I love surprises.

A couple days later, a small box arrived. Three little bags, two business cards, a necklace, and a note.This is what it looked like when I opened it.

It’s a wedding gift. A beautiful, one-of-a-kind gift. I cried.

It’s a wedding gift. A beautiful, one-of-a-kind gift. I cried.

The “part” Rebecca had to buy was another, identical coin, so she could clean it and make molds from it. Because if you clean an antique coin, you destroy its value (who knew?) and she didn’t want to clean the coin I’d sent her. From these molds, she made two pendants. Then she returned the coins and the molds to me, which means what I have is one-of-a-kind.

Here’s what the pendants look like on one side: like an Irish coin.

Here’s what the pendants look like on one side: like an Irish coin.

Here’s the reverse.

Here’s the reverse.

One pendant reads May the road rise up; the other, May the sun shine. You know these lines from what is often called an anonymous Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rains fall soft upon your fields, and,
until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

So through what feels like a little miracle, I ended up with a gorgeous silver necklace that was perfect with my wedding dress (I layered it with my pearl necklace and wore my pearl earrings) and was personal and meaningful for both of us. What a beautiful gift! (’Becca, I can’t express how much this meant to me. Love you, sister-friend.)

* The Spirit of St. Louis—the airplane flown from New York to Paris by Charles Lindbergh in 1927—was a highlight. Lindbergh was a hero in our house. And Daddy, a pilot himself, was born and raised in St. Louis.

Because You’re Not Married If You Don’t Have Cake

A while back (May 2014) I read a book by journalist Gary Taubes called Why We Get Fat, and it’s changed the way I eat. The book was so convincing, I gave up sugar and bread cold turkey, and started eating according to the precepts presented by Taubes. And because I also want to lose weight—a long-term strategy—I got pretty serious about it.

Interestingly, I have lost some weight. More importantly, I feel fantastic. Taubes’s succinct suggestion is to eat meat and a lot of green, leafy vegetables—there’s much more to it than that, of course—and I’ve found that temptation isn’t a problem because I am never hungry (because I’m not cutting calories, just carbs).*

But every once in awhile, a girl’s thoughts turn to cake. Like when she’s planning to get married. Because, you know, the wedding’s not official if there isn’t cake. 🙂

So I googled “low-carb cake” and I found this. Hel-lo, Gorgeous. It stopped me in my tracks, and I looked no further. I printed off the recipe, bought the ingredients, and baked the cake.

It’s not as pretty as the author’s photo. But she bakes a lot more cakes that me.

It’s not as pretty as the author’s photo. But she bakes a lot more cakes than me.

However, the thing was DELICIOUS. Oh yeah. It was good.

However, the thing was DELICIOUS. Oh yeah. It was good.

But Gerry’s not a fan of chocolate, so I went back to the website, which is called All Day I Dream About Food. The woman who is blogging it is a diabetic; as soon as I read that, I knew her recipes would fit right in with my new way of eating. On the about page, she says:

I didn’t choose the low carb lifestyle, it chose me. After being diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my third pregnancy, I began watching my carb intake. And when the diabetes decided to stick around, I refused to give up my lifelong passion for baking and cooking. I just had to find new ways to do it. To my delight, I have discovered that with a little ingenuity and some perseverance, many high carb recipes can be made over into low carb treats without sacrificing flavor.

I started posting links to her cake recipes on Facebook, and Gerry picked out one.

It’s always good to read the entire recipe before you start. That’s how I learned that this one only makes one eight-inch layer, which you slice in half horizontally. I wanted a more substantial cake than that. And I wanted it to be entirely iced. So some adjustment was necessary. My variation was to double the batter recipe and split it between three nine-inch pans, so the layers would be naturally thin (each is about ¾ of an inch). I doubled-plus-a-third the icing recipe.

It was, I don’t mind saying, delicious.

It was, I don’t mind saying, delicious.

A last tip for either of the recipes I’ve linked here: the cake tends to be a little dry if you just try it by itself. So bake and frost the cake the day before you want to serve it; the icing moistens the cake and the flavors meld nicely in that twenty-four hours.

*If you’re interested, here is one of the websites I refer to. This is another one.

Our Immigration Attorney Laughed at Us

(Or, Because Why Shouldn’t We Make Three Different Plans and Change Them?)

I’ve been planning a wedding. Gerry and I got engaged in 2008, six years after we met, and then endured years of questions about when we were going to get married. Well, we were waiting for Gerry to retire, because, you know, we’d actually like to live together when we’re married. (And because, interestingly, Uncle Sam frowns on married couples living apart when one of them is a foreign national. We might be up to no good, you see.)

But the time got close, and we started talking about how we wanted to do this thing. I can show you the exact spot in the backyard where we were standing when Gerry said, “I want to get married in our backyard,” and I, like a fool, said, “OK, honey!” (Because who wouldn’t want to be a bride and hostess of a party in her own home? Doesn’t that sound like just. So. Much. Fun?)

It is a nice yard.

It is a nice yard.

So this was the plan: in 2015, we’d throw a little wedding-slash-backyard barbeque for a hundred or so of our closest friends, then get on a plane and fly to Dublin, where, one week later, we’d throw a second reception at a nice hotel for Gerry’s friends and family and any Yanks who cared to follow us across the Pond.

Then I started working on the wedding planning. And OMG. It was a lot of work. (Not to mention a lot of expense.) So after much discussion, we decided to have, instead, a courthouse wedding. We’d let people know, if anyone wanted to come, and we’d go out to dinner afterwards. The rest of the plan would remain the same: we’d fly to Ireland for the reception. Gerry and I would have a little honeymoon in Ireland, and then we’d come home, Gerry on a one-way flight, because he’d be staying.

This past spring (2014), we visited with our immigration attorney, the wonderful and lovely Katja Hedding. And … well, she laughed at us. 🙂 He wouldn’t be able to come home with me at all, she said. That one-way ticket was part of the problem, and he’d have to have a different visa. All his immigration paperwork would have to be completed and processed in order for him to enter and stay.

After much discussion (there was more than one way to approach the issue, none of them inexpensive) we learned the best way for us to have our party in Dublin—because of the way the marriage industry works in Ireland, wedding venues get booked a couple years in advance, so six months earlier we’d booked a location I’d fallen in love with—would be to get married about a year out. Once married, we’d petition the government to get permanent status for Gerry on the basis of his having married an American. This would give us plenty of time for the paperwork and approvals to come through, with no nail-biting and worrying up to the last minute about whether he’s be admitted to the country on that one-way ticket.

The plan was for us to “elope” on Gerry’s fall 2014 visit. In the meantime, I created the “immigration scrapbook,” documenting twelve years of our relationship with photos of us together, emails exchanged, travel itineraries documenting visits, and so on … while keeping the elopement plan on the down-low.

This has been a difficult proposition for a woman who has two blogs and loves Facebook. (As you can imagine, this is killing me.) But I have some good stories to tell, so stick around. 🙂

A Little Setback

I have another blog. My “professional blog.” (I’m a book editor. That blog is called Read Play Edit. This one is, simply, for fun.) A few days ago I ran the following post:

A Temporary Change of Plans

Two days ago my computer died intestate. I did all the things the troubleshooting booklet said to do and still couldn’t raise the dead, so I texted I’M SCARED to the brilliant fixit consultant who has taken care of my computer issues for years.

He called me immediately.

I drove the corpse to him later that day and he spent several hours working on it. When he called me—“It’s bad news”—I cried. In Cracker Barrel, y’all. The waitress didn’t know what to do with me.

My consultant referred me to a data recovery expert, one of those places that put your hard drive in a sterile cleanroom and go over it, line by line, to see if anything can be saved. It’s expensive. I hope to be able to avail myself of this before the end of the year, but at the moment it’s not in progress, and I am … well, in the early stages of grief.

What this means for this blog:

  • I had several posts (about a month’s worth) written. They’re gone. So there was nothing ready to go, even for a Short Saturday post.
  • I had a few hundred pages of notes (ideas) for posts, and a list of items for Short Saturday posts, and they’re gone. I’m still in shock, and when I try to think about it, I just draw a blank.
  • I’ve lost some editorial work, too, so I need to play catch-up.
  • I’m going to drop back to one post per week (Mondays) for a while—perhaps until the new year—while I work on crafting the sort of posts I like to write. (You know I write for myself, don’t you? That you like them is a happy byproduct.)

It’s going to take some time—the kind of relaxed, creative time I don’t currently have—to replenish the well, kids. Fortunately, many of my friends—authors, editors, other publishing industry professionals—have volunteered to write guest posts. You’re going to love them. I am so very blessed.

Thank you for sticking around during the rebuilding process. I promise it will be worth the wait.

• • •

This, my fun blog, is similarly affected. I lost a lot of work (you know, the income-generating kind of work) that I’m currently trying to make up. But I lost a lot of research and posts I’d already written for this blog too. I’ve always tried to keep something fresh on the front page while I continued to post to the archives—I still mostly have all the archival material—but please bear with me. I’m still a bit under the technological weather. 🙂