A detailed account of how we didn’t get engaged […followed by how we actually did]

A year ago today James and I were huffing it up a hill to catch a sunset in Florence, Italy [where I was absolutely certain I’d be strolling back down with a new sparkly ring on my finger.] The proposal didn’t happen exactly as I [or James…] had anticipated – but it did happen! And when it did, it was the best.

A lot’s gone on since this time last year [got married, moved to NY, made new friends, acquired a kitten, and received orders to relocate to Bangor, WA next month] but today we look back on our very own proposal story – written last spring for our wedding website, and posted below for the sake of remembering.

The Proposal Our Adventure. 

James and Emma had planned a wonderful trip to Athens, Florence and Rome to visit her parents over the holidays and to see the world. They arrived in Greece on December 23rd and spent Christmas with her family. They saw the Acropolis, ruins of Corinth, had lunch by the shore in Nafplio, and saw the sights of downtown Athens. They also enjoyed a lot of delicious Greek food before going off on their own to take a plane, a train and a train to Florence, Italy.

Florence was beautiful. Holiday lights hung in all the side streets, a man played an accordion in the afternoons outside their window—and they had a lovely view of the Arno River.

They climbed 500 steps to view Florence from Brunelleschi’s famous Duomo, and they ate the most delicious Panini’s on earth. Emma ordered Lasagna 5 times while in Italy—no apologies. They saw Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia, and had a private tour of renaissance art in the Uffizi by a half Greek, half Italian man named Leonardo. He wore plaid pants and a red jacket. James and Emma soaked up every moment in Florence.

On the last night of their stay, James noted that the sun was going to set very close to 4:30 in the afternoon. They were going to see a beautiful view! They happily strolled across the river, taking a few photos along the way. They soon started up a hill that supposedly led to the aforementioned beautiful view. Up and up they went! It was a steep hill and the sun was beginning to set, so they decided to pick up the pace a little.

And then… they FINALLY reached the top! …onlllyyy to have to walk right back down again. They had taken a wrong turn. Or, as James likes to call it—they “went on a little adventure.”

They eventually reached the bottom of the hill and saw the intended stairs to the top! The sunset was upon them. James and Emma could not have climbed the stairs / hill / hill of stairs any faster. They were almost there… they were nearly there…and then they were there!!! And it was…extremely crowded. Disappointingly crowded. Flooded with tour buses crowded! They had not expected this.

Although it was an absolutely stunning view of Florence at sunset, Emma remembers not being completely thrilled by the sight. “Eh, the view from the Duomo was just as good,” she whispered. She was happy to be there with James, but had been growing suspicious of a proposal.  And now the sun had officially set on their final night in Florence! They had plans for the next morning to meet back up with Emma’s parents and sister for New Years in Rome.

So back down the stairs / hill / hill of stairs they went. The sun had set. They crossed back over the river, had wine and cheese at their new favorite wine bar, and took a moment to rest. James had picked out a restaurant on Santa Croce Square for their final dinner in Florence. They had toured the beautiful white church on the square just the day before and loved the area for its…well, lack of popularity.

They strolled up to the nearly vacant, much more private square and lingered by an empty bench. James proceeded to say some very, very sweet things to Emma before getting down on one knee and asking her to marry him and be with him always.

She said yes! James got up to give Emma a hug…and then got back down again to give her the most beautiful, most perfect ring that has ever graced the planet earth.

YAY.

Then they went to dinner on the square. Very happy…and tired. But mostly happy.

And Emma ordered lasagna.

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View of Florence from Brunelleschi’s Duomo.

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About to set out on our view-of-Florence-at-sunset adventure.

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Piazzale Michelangelo – Florence from across the river.

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James enjoying the sunset view.

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Back down the hill, across the river, and to Piazza Santa Croce. Engaged! One year ago today.

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All pets vs. Childhood pets [Can the pets we have as adults ever live up to the ones we loved in our childhood?]

At 6 months old, Leo DiCATrio doesn’t quite understand the kitten mittens he has to fill.

It all started back when I was in first grade. My parents were moving our little unit from Poughkeepsie to Chappaqua, NY [the 2nd or so of a handful we had ahead of us…] and the consolation prize for my kindergarten heartache was a much-anticipated cat! [Okay, she was Paige & Bryan’s prize too, but the middle child in me has always fancied that she belonged to me alone. Naturally…]

Her name was Alivia [but we called her Livie. Pronunciation: LIV – EE] She was absolute perfection wrapped in a black & white calico coat. It was as smooth as silk and I loved her instantly. I was so enamored with her that I honestly can’t remember a single thing she ever did wrong. She was everything a cat should be: soft, warm, snuggly…and indisputably brave!

I’d sneak around the back yard with her and tag along on adventures. We’d hide in the tiger lilies that separated our yard from the church property and just wait for something interesting to happen. I’d sit with her in the kitchen as she ate her kitten supper, and I’d stare out the window with her on rainy days and wish I could know what she was thinking. I followed her pretty much everywhere, feeling sure that she was the best thing that would ever happen to me. [I think I even stopped talking about how much I wanted a dog for a few years due to my cat infatuation, but I really can’t be sure.]

In the following years Livie moved around with us to California, Texas, and Georgia—becoming a little more snuggly [read: chubby] and a little less heroic with each new home.

She left us the weekend before I entered 12th grade. It was hard to say goodbye to a friend who had brought us so much comfort through so many goodbyes. She was such a gift.

Nearly 19 years to the month after adopting Livie, my first NY kitten, we excitedly invited another one into our lives. This past September James and I took home Leo—a little 4 month old, throw-caution-to-the-wind [and jump straight into the door…] rambunctious orange tabby. He’s been a part of our family now for two months, and I do like him—but he definitely has some learning to do! I think he’s going to grow into a really great cat and I’m certain I’ll love him to pieces. But two months in and it’s feeling unclear whether he can live up to even the memory of my Alivia.

I can’t help that I’m no longer a wide-eyed, kitten-obsessed first grader. Well, and I wouldn’t if I could! When you get older, the things you loved like kittens, presents, living room forts, your favorite scrunchie, little felt horses, things with plastic gems on them, and all dogs that have ever lived…they kind of lose the magic they had. Its just part of growing up.

So I’ve been thinking: Can the pets we have as adults really ever live up to the idealized furry family members that we shared our childhood homes and memories with?

This past April we had to put down our 14-year-old pup, Clover. The week before we took her in I went on a walk with her and watched her old, tired body make it up the hill around our loop. So different from the young, bull-headed dog that ran us [and our roller blades] head first into thorn bushes outside our California home—who would go charging through mud puddles where we’d ride our go-kart around on Sunday afternoons in Houston—and who would bounce through snow fields endlessly and with absolute joy at our family home in Prattsville, NY. It was heartbreaking to see our once strong and fearless dog become so weak and easily frightened in her old age.

On our walk I talked to her about how great of a dog she had been, how much I loved her, and that when she was gone I would try my best to only recall her better years [you know, the ones without the creeping paranoia and lightning fast biting reflexes…]

Where Livie was our comfort, Clover had been more or less a 14-year challenge.

We loved both equally.

I do really like Leo [an “I thoroughly enjoy his company / always look forward to seeing him” kind of like…] but we haven’t exactly hit the love phase yet. However, he’s in a pretty sweet spot to make it there eventually. His future kitten duties are all lined up to bring us comfort in our moves, snuggles through deployments, and years of pure enjoyment […because cats are downright hilarious.]

And in 12–15 years I’m sure I’ll be sobbing over how much he meant to me.

As for now, he’s just sitting here eyeballing my favorite pen and plotting its theft and total destruction…

I think we just need to give it a little time.

Until then, here’s to the best darn pets in the world, Alivia Carole & Clover B. —you were 20 years of just what we needed.

His Grace is Sufficient Always.

– E

Did you have the worlds best childhood pets, too? Feel free to share in the comments – I’d love to hear about them!

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I was in the first grade here – at the height of my toothless phase and very much in love with our sweet cat, Alivia.

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Here’s a little house we made for her enjoyment. I think she was kind of “meh” about it…but no biggie. I think cats mostly enjoy their state of “meh” – which maybe means she liked her box house more than we thought 🙂

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Fast forward to 5th grade – this is the day we took home Clover! And that would be me on the right…hell hath no fury like an 11-year-old who is denied a seat next to her brand new pup. Luckily we had 14 years to make up for it.

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At 11, I literally thought this would be the happiest day of my life. But you know, then I married James. He’s much better than a puppy. Although puppies are pretty great too…

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10 years later – on one of many road-trips to the Catskills. Love that dog.

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Clover, in her happy place. Sweet Catskill freedom! Both dog and people paradise.

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And here’s Clover at 14.5 – a few weeks before she left us. In her old age I was definitely guilty of letting her sleep on the furniture. I think she was always dreaming of chasing turkeys in the Catskills…

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And now we can put away the tissues and take out the cat toys – here’s to the newbie, Leo DiCATrio – 6 months old. Lounging around and being adorable… I think we’ll keep him 😉

P.S. – Apologies to my parents if they read this in a public place! And also for making that face when I was 11. And for probably most the things I said when I was 12. Y’ALL ARE THE BEST! : )

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Meeting your goals [even when your face is so numb from the cold that you drool on yourself and don’t even notice]

So, needless to say, setting a goal to run [jog] 5 miles by the middle of November in Upstate New York may not have been the most temperature conscious decision I’ve ever made. And I’m usually pretty temperature conscious… [Or, if you’d rather, extremely weather intolerant]

Running in the high 20’s and mid 30’s wasn’t exactly part of my plan when I decided to do this thang. But alas—I set a goal, told all you good people about it via the interweb, and by golly I was really [mostly…] determined to do it!

Every time I went out for a run I thought to myself, [in kind of a loud, shouting voice…] “TODAY IS THE DAY I AM GOING TO RUN 5 MILES BECAUSE IT’S SO FREAKING COLD THAT I JUST WANT TO BE DONE SO I CAN NEVER COME BACK!”

[Side note: If I have in-the-moment feelings about anything—they’re generally strong ones. I often feel hyperbole is one of the most fun flavors of life and language. Occasionally James respectfully disagrees—but usually he’s making a lot of sense when he does, so that seems pretty fair!]

Okay, but back to the running and the cold and the goals and such…

Well, sometimes you just can’t go run 5 miles if you’ve never done it before—no matter how much you want to be done with it. So week after week, I kept going back.

That is, until yesterday.

(!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I went out to the state park around noon—it was a little cloudy and temps were in the mid 30’s. I was preeetty bundled. Runnin’ in a jacket. Because that sounds fun, right!?

Anyway, below is the account of how “Goal #1” officially met his [or her…probably a her] ultimate demise:

First, I started running. Simple enough. For the first 8 minutes I thought about how I should have gone to the bathroom before I left the apartment. After that I spent time thinking about how parts of my face were getting numb from the cold and wind.

If you weren’t aware, when you have the luxury of a partially numb face you could—potentially—drool on yourself a little. Then you might think, “Wow, that was awkward. I’m glad no one was here to see it. Hm, I wonder if I’ll include that in my blog post. Probably not, because that’s kind of gross. There’s no need to be gross…”

So I thought about things like the weather, my numb face, dinner, skin care, vitamins [why they gotta be so big!?], Christmas with family, my future genius border collie, how long I might last in a zombie apocalypse [and how I’d have to raid abandoned drug stores for contact solution…] along with my daily internal debate on long hair vs. short hair [the struggle is real.]

…and when I came up on 3 miles, I was kind of over it all. I was tired & cold, but more than that—I just wanted to be done with this dang goal. In that moment I prayed kind of a pathetic little prayer [void of any specifics, as my brain was busy wondering why I was still running in the cold…] it went as follows:

“Oh Lord, just help me out with my runnin’. this is the worst. P.S. – thanks for all the things. You’re the best. Amen.”

About a minute later I came upon two middle-aged men taking a stroll in my direction. They were heavyset, dark haired, and very much from Upstate New York. They were also bundled up for the blustery day, because even the New Yorkers thought it was cold. [Which means it must have been true!]

Right as I was about to jog past, this grown man [and complete stranger] holds out his clenched, gloved hand in my direction.

I didn’t even have to think about it.

…Fist bump.

It could have been my heavy breathing that motivated him to offer some encouragement—or maybe the guy just pounds it with everybody he walks by. I’ll never know! Doesn’t really matter either way.

But what does matter is that I kept going. I jogged those last two miles and met my goal!

And then I did a little victory lap just for funzies…

KIDDING. Only kidding.

I hobbled the quarter of a mile back to the car, wheezing and coughing most of the way. But in victory! Both happy with myself and thankful for the unexpected encouragement the Lord sent my way.

People are great, God is both faithful and hilarious—and now I can move on with my life.

…my fitness goal life, that is.

Upward and onward to INDOOR activities!

His Grace is Sufficient Always.

– E

P.S. – here’s the proof! 😉

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Ode to the tiny apartment gym

Your space is small, your treadmills are few

Two, in fact—there are only two.

It’s not a big deal, I don’t usually care

Until I enter and find someone’s already there.

An athletic mid-thirties man with a beard

…and not at all likely about to disappear.

Ah, the workout buddy of my dreams—

Yes, this is just as awkward as it seems.

I would leave if I could—oh, without a doubt

But once you walk in, you can’t just walk back out.

Silence, strangers, and two of two treadmills occupied

Every aspect leaving any tiny gym-goer somewhat…unsatisfied.

Here’s to you, tiny apartment gym,

for a half hour of weirdness now checked from my list.

[A part of my day I’d rather have missed]

– E

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Quirky Turning Points [Unlikely words that changed our relationship]

James and I hadn’t been dating long [maybe a week or two] when he said something that will stick with me forever.

We were talking about snack foods we enjoy [basic getting-to-know-you stuff…you know, one of the many joys of dating!] and the conversation [which was better than it’s probably sounding…] came to peanuts.

James thoughtfully looked away from the table, paused for a moment, and stated:

“Honey roasted peanuts. You can’t have too many. Well, you can. But I never have.”

It’s clearly nothing profound, but it was obvious in that moment that I was in the presence of an expounder—someone who had a notable preference for giving more details rather than less. I mean, he could have much more easily said, “I like honey roasted peanuts,” and been done with it. But I’ve always loved that he didn’t.

14 months later we were married. [woohoo!] So I guess all that worked out pretty well for both of us!

James can be so wondrously in-depth that when giving an example of how he communicates [although I’m not really sure why that’s ever a topic of conversation…] I often use the entirely made up scenario of James going on some sort of sleepover.

Concerned sleepover attendee: Hey James, did you remember to bring your toothbrush?

James: Well, when I was in the 3rd grade…

And then [in my totally made up example] he’d go into an incredibly detailed story that would miraculously end up at why he did, in fact, remember his toothbrush. Or it could have had something to do with the fact that his father [Robert Golden, DMD!] is a dentist, and it would be poor form for the son of a dentist to forget his toothbrush when attending an overnight event. But seeing as I made this whole scenario up anyway, let’s just pretend that he told a really awesome story instead!

All that to say: James is an outstanding giver of information, and I think he’s absolutely wonderful. He doesn’t just heap it on you, or try to get rid of it all at once—he tells you a story. He respects the information as well as the information receiver, which works out pretty well for me since you tend to receive a lot of information from the person you’re married to.

And it’s fun when the stories we’re telling are about snack foods, childhood memories, history, psychology, dogs, people, God, culture etc. However, being totally honest—it tends to lose a little somethin’ somethin’ when it’s about things like paperwork, bank accounts, paying bills and other various soul-sucking activities that run alongside us in life. But no matter the subject, really fun or not fun at all, the amount of information James delivers pretty much remains the same. So I truly couldn’t be more thankful that there’s no one else on planet earth I’d rather sit with at the DMV, pay the bills with on a Sunday afternoon, or with whom I’d rather enjoy a delicious and convenient snack of honey roasted peanuts.

I guess I lucked out!

His Grace is Sufficient Always. 

– E

P.S. — Along with getting an A++ on all things detail-oriented…he’s also extremely good looking. Like, what!? I know…it’s almost too much. #snatchedthatup

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Photo credit: Katherine Birkbeck Photography

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“Who, me!?” [Thoughts on being, becoming & being surprised about who you’re becoming]

When James and I were engaged I was continuously accepting congratulatory remarks from pretty much everyone at all times—and it was 100% fabulous. It was so fun to see everyone so happy for us! Anyway, the same question would always follow all celebratory statements. If they didn’t already know, they’d ask, ”…well, what’s his last name??”

I’ll be honest; I was always kind of a ham about it. The scenario would proceed as follows:

Me: GOLDEN! [Insert sassy / excited / can you believe it!? face here]

Congratulatory Person: OH! His last name is Golden!?!

Me: YES!

Congratulatory Person: You’re going to be Emma GOLDEN?!!”

Me: YES!!!

Squealing, jumping, clapping & shouting ensued, with a few embarrassing and probably uncalled for random dance moves thrown in here and there as well…

I was a just a little [a lot] excited [out of my mind] about marrying James.

Following that I’d prance back to my office with my head in the clouds all over becoming EMMA GOLDEN.

Fast-forward a few months to happily wedded and living in New York. It’s a Saturday in August. On our way out of the apartment we check the mail…and look! My new social security card had arrived to officially declare me “Emma Golden” and finally kick off the process of changing my name.

And somehow in that moment—after all the squealing, jumping and clapping I’d done just a few months before—it all the sudden caught me by surprise.

[Side note—you know, I’m not really very good with surprises. Okay, well gifts as surprises are the bomb, but situations that involve surprise feelings, or surprise change of plans…or, “Surprise! The plane just landed but your connecting flight leaves in 2 minutes. Hope you ran track in high school!”  …these are the kind that aren’t exactly on my VIP guest list. I like to be a little more prepared than they tend to allow for]

Anyway, back to that Saturday in August. I know the whole scenario seems goofy since I’m totally the one that submitted the name change forms. I knew this was coming and had been looking forward to it for weeks! But when I held that little piece of paper in my hands [which is unreasonably destructible in light of its significance] I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t totally sure who that card belonged to. James was excited—he thought [for good reason!] that I was going to be happy to see it. Instead, I cried. …Surprise!

[Confession: he’s a lot better with surprises than I am…]

After all that commotion over changing my name I started thinking about the process of becoming

There are a good number of things I’ve already become and accomplished in life that I’m proud of—but of course there are buckets full of lists with characteristics, habits, contributions and qualities that I still hope to develop, dream up, and maintain. [I mean, let’s be real—I’m only 25. We’ve got a ways to go, people!] Life is such a cycle of celebrating what we’ve done while still looking forward to what we’re working to do. [And learning from the things that didn’t work so well along the way.]

And since so much of what you become is based on the things you do [and given my last post about forward movement of sorts] I thought I’d share some goals [with verbs and all!] that I have for the remainder of 2013. Nothin’ crazy, just a few things to keep me on the right track…

So yes. Goals! Here they are. For the world to read.

#1. Run 5 miles without stopping by 11/15/13 – 3 down as of last week, so that seems pretty doable! Let it be known that never have I ever run 5 miles. Thus its significance…

#2. Prepare at least 3 full dinners weekly. We can totes have leftovers for the rest. Baby steps, y’all…

#3. Two new blog posts // month. Because, why not?

#4. Pay all the bills solo by end of 2013. And then make a whole new system. James tends to favor the overly complicated, but I forgive him because he’s SUPER cute.

#5. Have résumé updated & online // all other job search prep stuff done by 12/01/13. The real question: what do I want to do next?? Exciting! [And intimidating] But mostly exciting…

I’m also working on becoming the kind of person who takes her nail polish off when it starts to chip, who has a certain level of clarity about all the clothes she actually owns—and gets rid of the ones she really doesn’t ever wear. Someone who effortlessly obtains the prized paper towel upon her first hand wave in front of the automatic dispenser in the women’s restrooms of Panera—and someone who listens a little more, talks a little less, and never has a second thought about if she should brush her teeth before bed.

…so wish me luck!

His Grace is Sufficient Always. 

– E

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Movement, Repose & All Things New

I once was a pretty big fan of a band called mewithoutYou. I mean, I kind of still am, but my fervor for them has [as with most things I loved in my teens…] somewhat waned over the years. All you really need to know is that they have some really insane [the incredible kind, not actually mentally loopy…] lyrics. One source — and by “one source” I totally mean Wikipedia — describes their music as “dominated by dramatic spoken-word vocals” …a lot cooler than it sounds. Promise!

They once wrote / sang / dramatically sang-spoke the following:

If they ask you for the sign of the Father in you
tell them, it’s movement, movement, movement (and repose).

I’ve always loved those lyrics. They just popped back into my head recently, perhaps for somewhat different reasons, when I sat down to do some writing. God, movement and rest…it’s all pretty relevant.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that the last 80 days haven’t at all been the whirlwind [movement x a million!] that was the preceding 6 months.

Don’t get me wrong – the blur of activities that made up my engagement to James Golden was nothing short of remarkable. It can’t be denied that there were a tremendous number of moving pieces that, if spoken of all at once, would wind me up tightly into a ball of excitement, joy, anxiety, discomfort, happiness, hopefulness and even a hint of sadness here and there. Needless to say, that particular ball of emotions was kind of an exhausting one.

In those 6 months [with the help of some truly amazing people] a heck of a lot got done. We moved our things, moved our cars & eventually moved our selves. I kept doing my job, trained someone new to take over my job, and eventually left my job. We said goodbye to my totally ancient dog [and good friend], Clover. It felt significant and overwhelming, as a huge symbol of my childhood passed away while a great mark of adulthood approached.

We went to showers and parties and celebrated with family and friends while we anxiously awaited the big day. And then we had [what we perceived to be] the most awesome wedding of all time. I mean – there were fireworks, people. Fireworks!

We honeymooned, honeymoved, and finally arrived at our new home in Saratoga Springs, New York on July 13th.

…And then came the repose.

I welcomed it joyfully and wholeheartedly for about – oh, let’s say – 6 whole days. The reality quickly set in that it is much [immensely & tremendously] more fun to plan on quitting your job than it is to actually no longer have a job. Crazy, right!? Right. Well, kind of…

In such a situation you might, for example, end up watching all the episodes of How I Met Your Mother that are currently available on Netflix. 

You might do a thing like that…until you realize that a season of resting isn’t actually meant to last for 6 months. And that maybe the goals you set of “update your resume” and “cook something for dinner,” aren’t hardly ambitious or challenging enough to be satisfying, even if only for a short time. [Also, watching that much TV in such a small amount of time unfortunately won’t ever be any sort of “LEGEN …wait for it… DARY.” …probably. I mean definitely.]

So I’ve made some new goals [coming soon to this blog! woohoo], plan on forcing a few of my new friends to hold me accountable to them [shout out to Lindsay & Michelle!!], and started this blog to serve as some sort of writing // creative // idea outlet while I’m currently not seeking full time employment during our stay in Saratoga Springs. So many new things have happened, keep happening, and will continue to happen that it’d be a shame to not document them anywhere. The pieces of our now shared life keep changing & moving around and I’m very interested in monitoring their patterns, existence, and God’s ultimate faithfulness in our lives.

His Grace is Sufficient Always.

– E

p.s. — 

Q: how cute are my parents in this photo!?? A: TOO CUTE. Can’t hardly stand it.

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photo credit: Katherine Birkbeck Photography. 

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