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Last weekend my best friend from college got married and I had the honor of being part of her wedding party as a bridesmaid. We lived together for 2 years (and the year before that had doors that opened right across the hall from each other, not to mention shared a hall communal bathroom, so it might as well count as living together) and know all of each other’s quirks. We literally re-arranged our schedules at least one semester so that we took every single class together, even winding up in one that neither of us particularly wanted to take but that kept us together. So yeah, you could say I got a little emotional at her wedding. (Uh, and by emotional I mean that after we recessed out of the sanctuary I ugly cried for a few minutes while Susanna patted my shoulder and the groomsmen looked on with baffled faces. I was a goner as soon as the pastor closed his prayer by calling the new bride and groom a family.)

ANYWAY, all the feelings aside, a couple of weeks before the wedding I shared a quiet bachelorette celebration with the bride-to-be in Birmingham. I had mentally come up with a lovely plan for a weekend getaway at a cabin in Mentone (the one I chose was on Airbnb, if you’re in the market), but given the somewhat short timeline we had and the small number of people who would be able to come, it wasn’t economically feasible. I re-grouped and planned for a spa morning, lunch at one of the bride’s favorite spots, and a bookish scavenger hunt at 2nd and Charles, an amazing used book store.

Of course every good bachelorette party needs some girlie supplies, even if you’re not going out drinking.

Supplies

(The plates and such were for a nice picnic we enjoyed at an outdoor symphony concert!)

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Completed List

We completed all the tasks, though we had to fudge a bit on a few of them. (Please note that it’s very important for your bachelorette weekend chaufferess to have a tiara of her own.) It was such a blast!

If you have a friend who’s not a big partier, doing a bookish bachelorette scavenger hunt may be just the way to celebrate her impending nuptials. Click the image below to download the list of tasks for yourself! It’s laid out so that you can print 4 on a standard 8.5 x 11 piece of paper and cut it so everyone can have their own. The only supplies you’ll need are a pen to check them off, a printed picture of the bride’s dad, and a bookstore that also sells movies and CDs.

Download the Scavenger Hunt

Have fun!! I know we did.

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You would think that traveling would be good for getting reading done, but that’s not the case when you’re the one doing a majority of the driving! June was one of those months that had loomed large on my calendar for quite some time because I knew it would be crazy. Crazy with all good things, but crazy nonetheless. I hosted a quiet bachelorette weekend in Birmingham for my best friend from college, I went to the beach with my extended family, I completed my first spring triathlon, and I participated as a bridesmaid in the aforementioned friend’s wedding. And on top of that, I accepted a job that I started on June 29, so I found myself also wrapping up work with my freelance clients in preparation for that. So, I only read 4 books. Womp womp. Two were for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, though, bringing my total left to complete on that list down to 7, one of which is well under way.

I bought this one on sale for Kindle some time ago and finally was in the frame of mind to read it. I loved Winner’s Girl Meets God, so I had high hopes for this one, but unfortunately it fell flat for me. I hoped to feel some kinship with the author on her journey through doubt, but it felt different from mine in a fundamental way: it seemed like, at the root of it all, Winner always knew faith would win out. Her struggle was more with the day to day of believing and not so much believing as a whole. A valid struggle, but I wanted meatier doubt. It felt much more disjointed than Girl Meets God, more like a journal than a cohesive book, which I supposed is why the subtitle includes the word “notes.”

I devoured this one at the beach. It was a good beach-y read: rather predictable, rather heartwarming. The premise was more creative than your typical chick lit novel, but it read much the same, and I enjoyed it well enough to stay up late one night on vacation plowing through it, but I won’t claim that it’s going to stick with me.

This was a difficult book to read because of its subject matter, not because of its writing. The writing, as one might expect from Erdrich, was extremely good. For whatever reason, I did not find myself heavily invested in this one, but I would definitely say it was a good book. Just be prepared for some intense and uncomfortable topics should you decide to pick it up. Sadly, that intensity is par for the course on many Native American reservations, and, in that sense, it’s good that this book got so much acclaim and adds to the repertoire of stories bringing the deplorable conditions many living on them face to light in the popular domain. This satisfied Task #9, a novel by or about a member of an indigenous culture.

I feel like a terrible Southerner, but I just Did. Not. Enjoy this book. I think I’ve also tried to read McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding and couldn’t get into it, either. This was the road block that led to my only finishing four books this month! I wrapped it up on the evening of June 29, and I’ve made it about a third of the way through an entire other book in the 2 days since then. This one didn’t hold my attention, I wasn’t invested in any of the characters, and I don’t understand what it was trying to do. I apologize to the Southern literary gods, but it was not my cup of sweet tea at all. Since I muddled through it, though, I can cross off Task #1 from the Book Riot challenge, a book published by an author under the age of 25.

I’m back to having a commute by train to my job, and I’m making sure to be intentional about reading during those ~40 minutes rather than piddling around on my phone. If the last two days are any indiciation, I will be back in business for getting some high numbers! The trick is just to make sure I look up long enough to get off at the correct stop…

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I have a bone to pick with some words today. These are words I hear a lot in the bubble where I live, or see posted frequently on Facebook or other blogs. I’m at the right life stage for them to top-of-mind for a lot of people in my circle. They take on a few variations.

We’re thinking about starting a family.

When are you planning to start a family?

We are excited to be starting our family!

Let’s be real: starting a family is used a euphemism for having kids. And that bothers me.

I started a family the day I said yes to Andy’s “Will you marry me?”

Marriage makes you a family.

When you’re filling out a form at the dentist’s office and it asks about your family members, you list your spouse. My parents were married for a number of years before they had me. Does that mean they weren’t family until the day they brought me home from the hospital? That they weren’t a family when they moved across the country together? Many couples are unable to have children. Does that mean they can never be a family? Or, gasp, what if they dare to choose not to have children? Are they less of a family unit in their coupledom?

You might say it’s semantic to get so hung up on the wording, but what am I if not a pedant? I know that no one is doing it on purpose, but by phrasing the decision to have children as “starting a family,” you unintentionally discount the familial-ness of the childless.

How about we say it like it is?

We’re thinking having children.

When are you planning to have kids?*

We are excited to start planning for a baby!

*Side note: How about we also stop asking anyone this presumptious question, ever?

Is “child” a bad word? Is “baby” offensive? I’m anti-euphemism in most cases, and especially here, because there’s nothing at all dirty about using the real words.

Andy and I are a family. Full stop. When you think about it that way, it makes you realize how weighty a thing marriage is, really. You were born into a family, and maybe you get along with them, or maybe you don’t. You’ll always be part of that family. But when you leave the nest and get married, you have the amazing opportunity to build the family you want.

Your family isn’t born the day your first child is. Your family is born the day you reach out to a friend and invite her into your brokenness. Your family is born the moment you welcome a displaced friend to share your home while they’re down and out. Your family is born when you vow “for better or for worse, in sickness and health.” A friend of mine used the hashtag “framily” (FRiendfAMILY) on Instagram recently. She had just opened up on her blog about her struggles to conceive, and I know how much that “framily” means to her. She is in a family, baby or no.

Sometimes when Andy gets home he says, “Hello, family!” to me and the cat, and my heart swells a little at the word. (I’m not saying my cat is like your child. It’s totally different. But in my case, she happens to be a part of what I call my family.)

We are a family.

Andy and I are both only children, and last year my parents hosted a joint Thanksgiving celebration with my in-laws. We’re probably going to do that again this year. That’s what I call my family.

I know couples that have taken on a shared name when they married, such as HerLastName hyphenated with HisLastName or a portmanteau of the two (Hartley + Draper = Harper). What a lovely idea, to make that claim in your very name. “We are a family.”

But shared name or no, your spouse is your family. You can add to it by having a baby, you can welcome a new member into it, but you HAVE a family. And that’s beautiful and important and not something to be discounted with a euphemism.