Wedding Officiant?! Who me?

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Hello friends!

I bet a lot of you can join me in a big sigh, saying “WHEW!”  The fall + holidays were fun and crazy but I’ve been trying to write since August.  So just pretend this is coming at the end of a long, hot summer.

I got to do something really fun that I want to tell you about.  About a year and a half ago, the daughter of great friends came to me and asked if I would officiate at her wedding.  Now…my husband Jay is the resident pastor-type person in the family, so I was surprised, flattered, terrified and excited, all at once. You really can’t say no to this request so I, with secret trepidation, enthusiastically agreed.  The bride, Caroline, explained that it was really her fiancé, Kyle, who came up with the idea to ask me.  He and I had bonded over the outstanding Manhattans he makes.  Probably not the best criteria for picking the person to marry you!  Haha…

Ok, so, I had a year to prepare.  I mean how hard can it be?  I had been to weddings where friends did the officiating, even one where the friend wore a black t-shirt saying he was the “priest” in charge. Jay had officiated for one of our sons’ weddings and had co-officiated at another.  So, I thought this will be a piece of cake. From summertime to Christmas, I didn’t do much to prepare but come January, I thought I better get on the ball.

First stop: google “officiating a wedding.” I knew there were companies out there that provided “credentials” for a fee.  They are pretty goofy but make you feel a tiny bit more legit.  Just to cover my bases, I got credentialed by two companies (dumb, I know).  I also bought all the available, extra study material. One book really came in handy.  More on that later.

Next, marriage counseling.  Am I supposed to do that too?  Yes, I’ve been married almost 40 years but that definitely doesn’t qualify me to counsel!  But, I thought, I don’t want this precious young couple to miss out on an opportunity to figure some things out ahead of time. A book could work!  After perusing the options on Amazon, I hit the Christian bookstore and found Getting Ready for Marriage by Jim Burns and Doug Fields.  It was great.  All three of us read it and discussed different parts.

It’s four months until the ceremony and it is starting to burn a hole in my brain. How was I going to make this special and perfect for Caroline and Kyle?  Carrie, one of my besties and the mother of the bride had confided in me (and now I am confiding in you😊) that she honestly felt a little weird that I was the officiant instead of an ordained pastor.  You might think that would send me to my bed for a few days but I was actually glad she was honest with me and we could talk about it.  However…it did add a bit of pressure.

It was time to get serious. The first step I took was to ask people what made their weddings special and what advice they would give newlyweds about marriage.  Although it was interesting to hear, it was pretty all-over-the-board. One useful idea was to give the bride and groom questionnaires to fill out.  That was fun!  I asked things like when the couple met, their first date, who said “I love you” first, what three words would you use to describe your fiancé(e), etc.  I got some really sweet, and some funny responses.

Kyle wanted the wedding to be exactly what Caroline wanted it to be, so he was pretty chill and agreeable.  Caroline’s biggest concern and especially using me as the officiant, was that I might make it to Jesus-y, which she felt might make Kyle uncomfortable.  Kyle’s number one request was that it would be a fun ceremony, where people would get to know them, as a couple.  Hmmm…ok….

Back to google.  Typing…How to have a fun wedding?  How to officiate a wedding?  HELP! I’ve been asked to officiate!

It worked. I found this crazy, Canadian, wedding officiant who did it professionally – like four weddings every Saturday!  He has done three 20 minute videos on exactly how to do an un-boring wedding.  And they are pretty great.  I won’t bore YOU by going into it but I did a lot of what he said to do, exactly how he suggested and the service was starting to come together.

Because I can only expect you to stay with me for so long here, let’s just jump over my nervousness, my feeling of insecurity, my angst over what to wear, the rehearsal, the embarrassment of being called the “officiant,” (please say “a friend who happens to be officiating), my determination to make this the last time I ever do this - to the wedding itself. 

Despite a last minute venue change, due to weather, everything was lovely and absolutely perfect.  When the stunning Caroline and happy-go-lucky Kyle came down the aisle, I greeted them and then asked them to turn and face the audience.  I proceeded to introduce the bride to the groom’s side and likewise with the groom to the bride’s side.  I had collected answers to four questions from several family members and friends from each side that I used in my introductory comments.  There were some laughs and some aww…s (at my mention of Kyle’s answer to Why do you want to get married? He said, “because I feel that every moment without Caroline as my wife is a wasted moment.”). Everyone, including the bride and groom, were relaxed and already having fun.

Then we turned to a more traditional service that the couple and I had put together from that book I mentioned earlier, called Baker’s Handbook to Weddings.  This book literally has the complete text for every wedding ceremony from Catholic to contemporary.  It has beautiful prayers and lots of suggestions for scripture readings. 

I am a Christian and it is important to me.  It’s also very important to Caroline and her family, and to a bit lesser degree, Kyle and his family so we had to include Jesus somewhere. During the time for my remarks, I used inspiration from one of our son’s weddings where the priest spoke of the wedding at Cana.  This is what I said:

As you probably know, the very first miracle Jesus performed was at a wedding, much like this.  Weddings, in those days went on for days and at the last minute on the last day, the father of the bride, ran out of wine.  It was also customary to begin the festivities with the best, maybe a fine champagne and when everyone has had plenty to drink and probably hasn’t slept much, bring out the cheap stuff.  In Jesus’ time, wine was dipped out of these huge urns, like 20 to 30 gallon size. And every urn had gone completely dry.  This was a major embarrassment.  A complete faux pas. Jesus’ mother called to Jesus and asked him to do something about the situation.  Jesus was probably surprised and unsure…  But he proceeded to get the servants to fill a bunch of the urns with water.  And then the miraculous happened.  Jesus turned the water into wine.  And not some wine usually served at the end wedding celebrations, but the finest wine anyone had ever tasted.

I tell this story to remind you that marriage is full of times of celebration and joy but there are hard times too. There are times when nothing either of you can say will make the other one feel better.  Nothing ANYone can say will make everything ok. Just like those urns, there are times you will both be empty.  This is the time when only God can fill you back up. God is the answer when there seems to be NO answer. He is the only one to fill the void. You have to remember that God is always there for you, whether He is invited or uninvited, God is ready to help.  All you have to do is ask or even just reach out your hand.  So, let God be there for you.  He really wants you to want Him. And what God is ready to give you is the very best, the finest champagne. He is in you corner.

That’s it! Whew!  I think it went well. I had fun anyway and was so honored to have been asked. My highest compliment came from Kyle, the groom, when I asked him how I did on the amount of Jesus I inserted and he said, “On the Jesus meter, it was perfect.”

WHOLE 30

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If you have never had a concern about your weight and just don’t understand why all those fat people don’t just close their mouths and order a salad (hold the dressing), then you can just go on browsing what bikini to buy for next week’s trip to the beach and skip this blogpost all together. No wait (no pun intended), read on. You might learn something.

Or….if you are like me and haven’t had a day go by without thinking about every mouthful, and worrying over what you can find to wear to ___________(your high school reunion, your daughter’s wedding, your cruise, your day at the pool, your own pool in your own backyard!!, you name it) then read on.  It started at puberty for me.  At about 12, I got very UNwanted womanly curves – ugh. As a child, I didn’t worry about what I ate and stayed a nice, normal size. Of course, puberty hit and like all tweens, the conversation with my friends turned to our weight and no matter our size, how FAT we all were.  My mother (bless her soul) fueled the fire.  She came from an entire generation that felt beauty was paramount in every respect. The roads might be icy outside but, “…honey, your sandals will look so much nicer with that dress….” – sometimes looking beautiful is uncomfortable/stupid!  No matter that people thought I was crazy to be in Pappagallo slingbacks in January.  My mother cut me to the core when she informed me that “…no man would want me looking like THAT!” Fat – that is.  Even when I really wasn't.  Now, we were getting to the real reason for being thin and “attractive.”   I adored my mother, I truly did but she messed me up – on the weight front.

Flashing forward to now, age 63, and still, I am embroiled in the battle.  I have been on every diet and plan known to man – make that woman – men don’t seem to care at all! My sister is 70 and she just sent me a bunch of Eileen Fisher tops (thank you!) – reason: they are TOO BIG for her!  What?! Nothing has been too big for me since I wore a 6X.  Please let that happen to me – I just have 7 years to wait.

All of this brings me to my most recent source of torture and desperation – Whole30.  This is a 30 day plan that seems pretty simple – eat nutrition-rich, whole foods, fruits and veggies of almost all types, animal protein of all types, some fats like avocado (yum) and olive oil and almond butter – just NO alcohol, NO sugar/sweetener/honey, NO grains, NO dairy (yes, that includes cheese).  30 days you say? Sure, I can do that. 

I’m on Day 25 and yes, I have lost about 10 of the million pounds I want to lose.  I’m questioning if it’s worth it today.  If I see another club soda with two tiny wedges of lime, I will scream (listen for it).  Eggs – ick. The Whole30 book which is really excellent, actually – very readable with humor, some great recipes with beautiful delicious pictures, extremely convincing and encouraging, says – “This plan is not hard, fighting breast cancer is hard, getting off heroin is hard, this is not hard.”  Agreed – compared to those things it’s not hard exactly, but it is boring and frustrating.  I spend a lot more time being grumpy.  My poor husband (who I’m convinced does love me despite this plague) is doing a great job of putting up with me.

I can hear you thinking, “…you only have 5 more days to go, big deal.”  But then what? I don’t want to gain the weight I lost right back which all of you who are still reading know will happen – which means, I need to live on this “plan” forever.  Hmmmm…….

My nearest and dearest know of my struggle and are probably sick to death of hearing about it.

All joking aside, here is what those of us who struggle with our weight want our naturally skinny friends to know. It is not a lack of will power.  It is not because we have “let ourselves go.”   It IS something we would do something about if it weren’t so damned hard.  We will continue to try because this is a skinny-loving culture in which we live.  But please don’t reach for a cookie and say, “oh…you can’t have that, right?” with a guilty look which means you want to be able to enjoy a cookie.  Of course! Delight in your treat. Just don’t bring me into it.  Because the answer is “YES, I CAN have that – I’m an adult – I can eat whatever I want – I might just not CHOOSE to eat that cookie right now.”  I know this will sound strange but the best thing is for you to try not to notice – what we are ordering, what we are drinking, what we are eating.  Do not ask me how my diet is going.  I know you are just trying to be supportive but trust me, just don’t.  Ugh. That’s just embarrassing for everyone.  Plus I’m trying to make this “diet” a lifestyle choice, as a grown-up. And if at all possible, don’t let what I’m doing spoil your fun.  You can drink/eat, to excess if you want, but please don’t make me feel guilty for not drinking with you or that I’m no fun. I’ve been fun for 63 years – I need a break.  And, after a big weight loss, don’t say, “OH MY GOD, you’ve lost so much weight!!”  What that means to people who struggle with this is, whoa! I didn’t know I was THAT fat!

If you run into someone or even if a family member has lost some weight and it is truly noticeable, you say, “Wow, you look great.  I’m not sure what it is – did you cut your hair?” I’m only sort of kidding here.  “Wow, you look amazing/so pretty/really happy.” Those all work too.

One of my successful weight losses happened when our son, William, was on his gap year.  He headed to China for three months which was the perfect time for me to tackle my weight issue.  It was the first time I didn’t have a child living at home for 25-ish years.  I lost a bunch of weight while he was gone.  He returned and after a few days, he hadn’t mentioned my weight loss. I asked him, “…well, do you notice anything different about me?”  He said, in true teenaged fashion, “..not really.”  I said I’ve lost weight!  He said, “Well Mom, I never thought you needed to lose weight so I guess I just didn’t notice.”  The perfect answer.  

Ed. Note: I started writing this post a month ago. I’ve debated posting it but decided – what the heck.  I am staying on Whole 30, for the most part, at the moment, and it is actually really good.  I'm feeling healthy and strong.

BETTYE BLUE, Part 2

Bettye Blue Getting Kissed by a llama!

Bettye Blue Getting Kissed by a llama!

Picking up with Bettye’s daughter and me rushing Bettye to the hospital….

There were 10 very rough, touch and go days, in the hospital, where Bettye went from barely being able to get out of bed to slowly and gingerly walking the short path to the restroom and returning to bed completely exhausted. We had to call in favors to get proper communication between doctors, specialists, hospitalists, nurses, aides. We hung on every (often conflicting) word about how Bettye was actually doing.  We got used to asking about white blood cell counts, iron levels and how much Bettye ate of her scrambled egg – I knew that nursing school training would come in handy one day! I really don’t know how people in the hospital, who don’t have loved ones to crack the whip, manage. So sad. I don’t blame nurses – they have too many patients to attend to!

After several days of back and forth about rehab centers, it was decided that Bettye would go to a “nice” one that was new-ish and she would continue to improve there.  Bettye was still contagious so she was sequestered in her room for another week or so.  It didn’t really matter because Bettye was getting better only very gradually.  I felt like I was right where God wanted me.  I was blessed to be in town. I would spend my mornings cleaning out a closet (read: garage, attic, kitchen cabinet) and then coordinate with Bettye’s daughter to spread out our afternoon visits.

Here is the amazing and inspiring thing about Bettye.  She was cheerful and positive throughout the entire experience!  She was sweet to all of the nurses, aides, doctors, visitors – remembering everyone’s names, thanking each of them for caring for her.  Being with Bettye is a lesson in not only how to grow old gracefully but how to treat people – from the one picking up her trash to the chief of surgery. 

Bettye was making big decisions with total confidence. She decided that she didn’t want to live in her 3-bedroom home anymore.  She was SICK of cooking!  And would be happy never to cook another meal.  (This was of paramount importance 😊).  She also stated she would not be driving anymore.  Some years ago, Bettye had decided that when the time came she wanted to go to a small, family-owned retirement home nearby, where my step-mother lived the last part of her life. Bettye decided she was ready to go there and would just as soon go straight there when rehab released her and skip ever going back to her home where she had lived with her husband for over 50 years and raised her two daughters! At 88, Bettye was moving faster than her daughters and I could keep up but we would give it our best. It was hardest on Bettye’s daughter who lived in town. To move her Mom out of her family home and into a retirement home was a big step – one she wasn’t necessarily sure of. She worried these decisions were being made in a weak moment and things might change when Bettye started to feel better. We weren’t sure, but Bettye was.

So, Bettye’s daughter, granddaughter and I went to work.  Even her daughter, who lives in the panhandle, had her marching orders with a list of calls to make. We visited the retirement home and took videos of the available apartments and brought them back for Bettye to see on our iPhones.  We took videos of every room in her house so she could select exactly what she would like to take with her.  We contacted movers and bought boxes and carried packing supplies from my house, through the hedge, to Bettye's.

Fast forward to Bettye leaving the rehab center, taking it slowly on a walker, with her many new friends sad to see her go.  She arrived to her new home, to which - in the interim of three weeks - we had moved all her beloved belongings and set them up to reflect as much like home as possible.  To say she was bowled over is an understatement. She immediately LOVED everything about her cozy, new abode, especially her new, huge closet that was big enough to house ALL of her yarn! We toasted her homecoming with champagne and a big sigh of relief.

Several weeks went by when Bettye’s daughter called me and said that she and her sister were worried because Bettye had changed her mind about driving.  She felt a little stranded and wanted to be able to go somewhere if she felt like it.  They were concerned.  They thought maybe they could restrict what roads she should use (NOT US 41 please!).  My advice:  Bettye is of sound mind and body. It is her decision – not theirs.  Yes, if she had an accident, they would feel terrible but we all have accidents and Bettye had always been an excellent and very careful driver. Take her for a test drive and see how she does. They agreed.

After a trip around the block, she was given her keys.  What’s funny is that Bettye rarely drives.  She had already worked out having friends pick her up to go to the knit shop.  Her daughter takes her to doctor’s appointments.  She doesn’t need groceries (thank heavens!).  But just seeing her aquamarine, diesel Mercedes sitting in the first spot of the parking lot, right outside the door, is a pleasure for dear Bettye.  She knows she could go if she wanted to.  But she doesn’t want to.

All of this was just a couple of months ago and Bettye is happy as a clam.  She has started a knitting group, attends Bible study regularly, sits in the library after lunch each day to work the crossword puzzle and has 60 new friends and neighbors. She is enjoying every new experience – even a kiss from a llama.

I hope each of you reading this has had the opportunity to have a “Bettye” in your life - maybe even your own mom or grandma -  to have a dear friend, close by, to learn from, to feel loved by and to occupy a big place in your heart. And if you haven’t, maybe you can be a Bettye to someone else.

I appreciate Bettye’s daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters for sharing with me and my family their greatest treasure.  And I thank God too.  Bettye has moved and is settled and so happy. And now there are two houses on Higel Avenue, side by side, with For Sale signs out front. Maybe someone will buy both of them. But most important to me, I didn’t have to leave Bettye after all.  And...she is just a phone call away.

 

BETTYE BLUE

Bettye + Boys (Bettye was always the first to get a Halloween visit!)

Bettye + Boys (Bettye was always the first to get a Halloween visit!)

I have talked a lot about my mother, who died when I was only 35 years old but my mother, for the 30 years since then, has been my precious next-door neighbor, Bettye.  I feel sure my actual mother had something to do with our moving to that particular Siesta Key house in 1987.  Bettye recalls the first time she saw any of her noisy, new neighbors who were just moving in and it happened to be Edward, in his stroller at the age of two, being pushed by a babysitter while I worked to get our new home in order.  She remembers his easy smile and chubby cheeks.  That is the moment the love affair began with all of us Crouses and dear Bettye.

Our time spent living next door to Bettye has been like a fairly tale.  We had to cut a hole in the hedge so we wouldn’t have to travel all the way around to get to each other. When William was born, Bettye pretended she was my Mom, so that she and my Dad could come right into my hospital room.  Bettye is exactly who Jay and I wanted to be with us to share in the birth of our newest baby boy.  She is the type person who just makes you feel like you are the best thing around.  She loves on people unsparingly and is an encourager from the get go. I would never doubt her love for me and for Madison, who cuts her hair, and for Calvin, who helps her in the yard and pretty much anyone else who crosses her path. William got lucky. Bettye and her gentle yet strong husband, Bill, agreed to be his godparents. When Bill became ill with cancer, I would make a plate for them at dinnertime and one of our boys would run it next door.  After Bettye’s girls sang their dad song after song, straight from a hymnal, around his bed, he peacefully went to heaven.  We kept sending Bettye a bite of dinner now and then.  She laughs that one night, when one of the boys passed a warm plate over her threshold, he said, “You know, Bettye, I think we’re keeping you alive.”

When Jay said he wanted to move to Charleston to do ministry work, I immediately thought, I can’t leave Bettye. She was the person I leaned on, I talked to and complained to and cried to when I needed it. There was more than one time I harrumphed next door to just get away from the noise, the mess, the testosterone!  I would sit on her cheerful blue sofa and she in her comfy chair, most likely in her nightie, with her knitting in her lap.  We talked about everything from social issues and politics (often from different sides of the aisle) to knitting patterns.

Last Thanksgiving, Jay, the boys and I made the difficult decision to put our house on the market. We have adored that house. So perfect for our family and all the visitors we’ve had over the years. I still didn’t want to leave Bettye though. And to be honest, Bettye was kind of mad at Jay for taking me away. But we kept moving forward.  I started the massive job of cleaning out the house (attics, closets, drawers – at least 30 belts the boys wore – probably one time each).  I was in town for about three months and I was loving unrestricted time with friends and with my dear neighbor who you would never guess is 88 years old, while she scoots all over town in a cool, vintage, diesel(!), aquamarine Mercedes.  On occasion, I even joined her when she went to “knitting” – where she, surrounded by a glorious rainbow of yarns, sits for several hours, multiple days a week, trading stories, recipes and curses over slipped stitches with her hilarious buddies.

In early February, I was getting in my car when my phone rang.  It was Bettye’s daughter, the one who lives in town. She said, “Mom had a rough night. I am on my way. Will you please go and check on her.” I was next door in 10 seconds. Bettye was sick, very, very sick.  She had not slept and was weak and feeling awful. Her daughter and I got her to the hospital.  The doctor gave us the news that she was a lot worse than she looked and if she hadn’t gotten to the hospital right then, she might not have made it.  Which she did, thanks be to God. He wasn’t willing to let Bettye go either.

PART II will be posted soon, which will include a favorite of Bettye's recipes!

Are you still cool?

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I always thought I was pretty cool.  Not when I was really young, like 2nd and 3rd grade – then I thought it was cool if you were a fast reader, which I definitely was not and Jay still kids me about how long it takes me to read something.  Fay was the fastest reader, so she was the coolest. Actually, she is still cool so maybe her ability to breeze through Nancy Drew was not the “it” factor anyway. By middle and high school, I started to get the swing of things.  Being the youngest in the family helps I suppose.  I got to “go to school” on everything my older sibs did.  I also learned early how to fly under the radar at home – letting the drama swirl around my sister and brother -  yet take it all in.

I had a friend whose housekeeper, Sally, liked to label us gaggle of girls, individually.  My label was “fast” and she wasn’t talking about the 50 yard dash. I didn’t even know what that meant at the time!  I was not fast!  But maybe it was close enough to “cool” that I was OK with it. 

Which brings me to the present.  I just don’t think I’m all that cool anymore.  At 63, maybe I just don’t care as much. I bet you are either cool or you have some people in your life who are the very essence of coolness.  I’m talking about those women who just look awesome all the time but also like they haven’t had to work very hard to get there.  They have the right jacket that they put with those crazy pants, or a short little boot in a color I would never look twice at in a store or maybe a scarf that is perfectly arranged in a way that looks casual yet just right and stays that way, without a fuss!  I envy others’ pocketbooks too but when I go to buy one JUST like theirs, it just doesn’t seem right for me somehow. And jewelry – like a funky, chunky necklace – I feel like a child playing dress up in anything other than my cross or a boring string of pearls.  Then you go into their homes and whoa. Everything just looks exquisite, from an adorable French country guestroom tucked under an eave with exposed wood beams harvested from an old barn, to their designer dish brush placed just so by the kitchen sink, not anything fancy yet lovely and well….just….cool.

Of my many cool friends, there are two I only really get to see in the summer.  Carrie always wants me to go to the antique show with her.  I usually decline because I’m hopeless when it comes to antiques.  What is just old and what is old and “valuable”?! – I have a hard time telling the difference.  I have been the lucky recipient of a little silver dish on one of Carrie’s ventures though 😊.  Jeannie is my other cool Michigan friend.  Whenever she suggests something to me, I run to order/buy/google it because I know it will be amazing and yes, I do feel kind of cool – by association. She suggested a TV series to me that I immediately binged on and you should too – Poldark.  I defy any red-blooded American woman NOT to love that show! The cast, the scenery, the romance….ahhh.

Last summer, Jeannie gave me the tip of all tips. SHOES!  She told me about two different kinds that have changed my life – well, one did and the other blew my kids away. Maybe they thought I was cool - for a minute.

The ones I adore are called Rothy’s (https://rothys.com/collections/women). They can be casual or kind of dressy, come in a million colors, are so, so comfy AND they are made from recycled water bottles so they are good for the planet AND you can actually throw them in the washing machine. I know. They sound weird and too good to be true.  The only drawback is they are kind of pricey.  My favorite is the flat (embarrassingly, I now have them in four colors) which is the least expensive at $125. If you have a narrow foot, you might like the pointy one. The loafer is new so I haven’t seen that one yet.

The other one that my sons and daughter-in-law wear almost every single day are All Birds: (https://www.allbirds.com/products/womens-wool-loungers?variant=42216034247 )  These are sneakers that are super comfortable and come in beautiful, earthy colors.  The Wool Runners are a traditional lace up and the Loungers are truly that.  I have the latter, in pink, and although they look and feel like bedroom slippers, I wear them out and about anyway. All Birds come in toddler sizes too!

So, if you are cool, you probably already know about these shoes.  But it you’re not, now you can be (at least your feet can).