uncle stephen

“Who wants to let Nicole drive them on the Sea-Doo?”

My dad asked the crowd lounging on lawn chairs one summer afternoon at the lake.

Crickets.

I hopefully waited for a cousin, my mom, my aunt, my uncle, my dad’s friend, my babysitter – anyone – to be brave enough to let me, roughly 8-years-old, drive them on our brand new Sea-Doo.

Finally, Uncle Stephen volunteered, “I’ll go with you, Nicolie”

My dad helped both of us to the water. He mainly helped me by reminding me how to drive. He whispered in my ear “no power-turns” as he helped Uncle Stephen get on the back of the Sea-Doo.

As Uncle Stephen held tight to the life jacket on my smaller-than-average 8-year-old body, he said “now don’t throw me off.”

I started off slowly. Gaining confidence, I went a little faster. Gaining more confidence I started following a boat to jump its wake. And gaining even more confidence and forgetting I had Uncle Stephen gripping my little life jacket for life, I did it – I did a power turn, and threw Uncle Stephen right off the back of the Sea-Doo.

I realized immediately what I had done. I wished I could go backwards and remember my dad’s advice – no power turns – and Uncle Stephen’s only wish – don’t throw me off. To my surprise, he somehow managed to climb back on to the unstable Sea-Doo. He held on to my little life jacket, trusting me again, and I sheepishly drove home as he asked, again, “don’t throw me off Nicolie.”

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Uncle Stephen and Dad, 1960s

Two of the most amazing things about Uncle Stephen was how trusting he was, and how tender he was.

Uncle Stephen was mostly blind and deaf my whole life. At the time I took him on this terrifying Sea-Doo ride, he was able to make out shapes, but couldn’t see details. No way could he tell where I was going or which way to lean before he suddenly found himself air-born. He trusted my dad to lead him from his safe lawn chair to the sandy and uneven beach, through the rocky shore line, and onto the unbalanced Sea-Doo, and he then trusted his 8-year-old niece to take him on a slow and safe Sea-Doo ride. Why? Because of love. He loved his family more than anything else, and trusted that they would care for him.

It’s a tall tale to me that Uncle Stephen had a temper. My dad told me stories about how they used to fight as kids. How one time Uncle Stephen made him so mad that my dad held his breath, passed out, and chipped his front tooth on the door. All because Stephen stole dad’s crayons (if I recall correctly). Or about the time he became so infuriated with my dad and friend mocking him in the back seat that he rear-ended and front-ended the cars on either side of his parallel parking spot trying to squeeze in. I didn’t see this side of Uncle Stephen. I remember him as soft spoken, gentle, tender, forgiving, and loving. No matter the discomfort he was in (whether on the back of a Sea-Doo with an 8-year-old driver or in deep pain at the end of his life), he never complained and always thought of others. He spent his life focused on bettering the community. He was active in many charitable causes, in church, in the Boy Scouts, and at work developing and continuing Marriott’s culture. He saw the best in everything, saw how it could be bettered, and used his sharp mind and memory to inspire others.

Uncle Stephen once said he could manage his pain with the knowledge that it would only be for a short time. In comparison to the rest of eternity, 54 years on Earth is a short time. I believe he is happily looking down on his family with all the strength and health he deserves. I’ll miss him here, but I look forward to seeing and knowing him again.

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:6-8


#marriedtoavery

“The wedding will go by so quickly. Take a moment to enjoy it”

This was the most common piece of advice leading up to my wedding. And I didn’t take just a moment to enjoy our wedding, I loved every second of it. 

“Did you remember it?”

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Yes. I remembered the whole day. I remember texting Max before I went to sleep the night before, “Can’t wait. You’re the greatest. I’ll see you tomorrow at the end of the aisle. I love you with all my heart. Tomorrow night. The best.” I remember waking up Saturday morning to a sun beam through my window. I thought of the Primary song lyrics, “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam” and had such a peace. I knew everything was right. I remember going on a run, eating a few bites of food, taking a shower, and putting on a pair of lacy white shorts (very bridal!) and a button down for easy changing after my hair and makeup were done. I remember hearing the doorbell ring as my 7 other bridesmaids bustled through the door, singing praises with chirping excitement.  I remember calmly sitting by the pool, chatting casually and acting silly. I remember my hair, my make-up, and putting on my dress. I remember putting on the veil, and the tears. The veil is the quintessential piece to the bridal ensemble. Otherwise you’re just wearing a white dress. I remember taking photos with my parents, sisters, and each bridesmaid. And also with Uncle Dick and my cousin Al as they happened to bike by at the right moment. I remember stuffing a granola bar in my mouth in the limo, and shaking the crumbs out of my dress. I remember drinking minimal amount of water so I wouldn’t have to pee, and getting gnats (dang Maryland humid spring) out of my veil. I remember realizing we were close to the Cathedral like a sleeping child knows she’s almost home by the familiar turns and slowing speed of the car. I remember taking photos in the Bishop’s Garden, and then the longest hour in the Cathedral tower where we entertained ourselves with hangman, music, and a rousing game of the Lion Game where Sarah performed with all Kreature-like abilities (if you don’t know, you don’t know). I remember Duke, the large-and-in-charge Verger carrying a Moses-like staff, coming to tell us it was time to go, stuffing our chiffon and tulle selves into the elevator, then waiting out of sight in the wings of the Nave. I remember Mom telling Max, “don’t look back” (literally so he wouldn’t see me, and figuratively looking toward our future), and the flower girls giggling, “what if someone poops?!” I remember Dad and I taking a big breath before our first step, and Dad asking if he should tell a joke to ease our nerves. He didn’t, but that helped. I remember tears brimming, but never crying. I remember seeing Max at the end of the aisle, waiting for me to come to him. I remember Dad flipping my veil, and kissing me on the cheek as he answered “her mother and I” as he put my hand in my soon-to-be husband’s. I remember Elyse fixing my veil and fluffing me up. I also remember the flower girls petting my poofy dress, and I remember looking back at them as all three peered up with guilty-as-can-be looks on their faces. I remember the service, and speaking more clearly that I thought I was capable of as I repeated my vows. I remember the peace, or the kiss, and slow and light saunter as if I were floating back down the aisle with my husband. I remember Max’s dad’s tears, and giving his brother my handkerchief – a new meaning to “something borrowed.” I remember wanting to take more and more pictures than other people were willing to. And then the laughter and relief in the limo as we left the Cathedral. 

I remember the reception too. I remember the few bites of food I managed to swallow as my dress was bustled and my veil was removed. I remember lining up to be introduced, and being introduced as “Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell Avery!” I remember our first dance, and my dance with my Dad and thinking how much better it went than when we practiced. I remember hugs and kisses and “thank you’s” and “love you’s.” I remember cutting the cake and ch-ching our flutes of ginger-ale. I remember the toasts. Elyse’s toast about meeting Max and thinking he would “give good hugs.” Michelle’s toast about how “cool” I was and realizing Max would be around for a while as he ate 10 scrambled eggs out of the skillet while wearing her pink bath robe. Andrew’s toast about “Steve’s legal pad” and Max and his lifelong friendship. And Lance’s memories of being Max’s big brother. I remember photos and singing Chi Omega’s “Shades” with my sisters. I remember seeing the horns organize and play “When the Saints go Marching in” at the end of the night as we danced our way into the yellow Jag and into the night. I remember checking into our hotel as husband and wife. 

It was all I hoped and dreamed of. I was calm, cool, and collected, and had more fun than anyone else there. I am still on cloud nine because I’m married to my best friend. I’ve dreamed of marrying Max since freshman year (yes, I was that girlfriend). I get to be on his team. A package deal. His life-long roommate. All day everyday for the rest of forever. 

I don’t have the professional photos in yet, but aren’t we all professional photographers thanks to Instagram? The morning after our wedding, Max and I were able to see an instant album of 200+ photos from the night before. I still love seeing the photos trickle in as “latergrams.” Thanks to social media, an organic and authentic scrapbook is born. 


pro, con, con, pro

If you were in a sorority, you know what “pro, con, con, pro” is. It’s the format you follow when talking $#*+ about a girl going through the already long and grueling process of recruitment.

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I loved recruitment probably more than the next person. I got a strange satisfaction from strategizing, recruiting, and advertising for the best pledge class this chapter has ever seen. I secretly enjoyed the hours upon hours spent in the house during work week, the silly songs and chants, the drama, and practicing rotations and logistics. I loved all this because I was with my best friends and sisters, and things got silly. Hours cooped up in a house with hundreds of girls will do that to you.

I also secretly loved slideshow. Stop me before I’ve shared too many trade-secrets, but I think my sorority is not alone in this. I think every sorority chapter below the Mason-Dixon line (at the very least) had a version of slideshow. I loved the passion and emotion slideshow drew, both positive and negative, and I loved some of the comments (just to name a few: “she’s a total butt-head” “she sparkles” “a firecracker” “not womanly always” “she showed up to a party she wasn’t invited to” “she’s kreature-like” “she’s cool, she wears vests”). I also really liked the order and organization. It was quiet (mostly), the negatives were neatly sandwiched between two positives, and people “ditto’d” and snapped to show agreement.

I am Type B. About as far away from Type A as you can be without being a total shlep. That said, I work in account management where I spend my days making and checking off to-do lists, following up with the less organized departments and delinquent clients, scheduling meetings, and managing timelines and budgets.

I sometimes try to organize my life like I am still in college. Compartmentalize work from fun. Manage my deadlines around social activities and TV shows. And look at life through a series of pro’s and con’s.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t on a wedding diet/workout regimen. I’d also be lying if I said my diet is going perfectly. I absolutely am not lying though when I say I’ve been working out about 3x more and harder than ever.

pro: my arms are more toned & my cardio is way better
con: my thighs are bigger and my pants are tighter
con: I’m always hungry
pro: I’m stronger and healthier

Same goes for other wedding preparations.

pro: biotin is making my hair longer and thicker
con: my hair is everywhere
pro: added bonus of my nails are also getting stronger

pro: my teeth are getting whiter
con: they are so sensitive
con: I have to wear a silly retainer
pro: it prevents any late night snacking

pro: plans are going swimmingly
con: I’m convinced I’m forgetting something 3 weeks out
con: I can’t focus at work
pro: I get to travel home more than normal
pro: my parents are so generous, loving, and wonderful

pro: I marry my best friend in 3 weeks
con: I have to change my name/credit cards/bank info/passport/license/social security
pro: a small price to pay for happiness forever

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Remember, when life is looking negative (even trivially negative), there is always a positive to wrap around that con. You don’t get to move onto the next girl without it, and life won’t get better without it. The con’s make the pro’s sweeter, and frankly we wouldn’t know happiness without the sorrows.


one month

My last post was over a month ago. I posted about my mom, girlfriends, and my bachelorette party. That didn’t seem that long ago, and even though my wedding is in one month, it doesn’t seem like it’s that close yet. For almost a year I’ve been planning and counting down the days (I have to admit, a count down for yourself is a lot like how I would imagine listening to your own children cry. A lot less annoying when it’s yours.)

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How long is a month? It can be measured in all sorts of ways – physical days, minutes, activities, to-do lists, parties, work meetings…

But can also be measured in emotion, anticipation, strength, and dreams.

Sounds cheesy, to measure something in these emotions. Especially to measure a month in strength and dreams. But truly, there is only one month until I become “Mrs. Maxwell Avery” and I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t be more excited. The anticipation strengthens my commitment to marry the man of my dreams.

In another measure of dreams, I have had a wedding related dream every night for the past week. Dreams are interesting. They are very telling of your current state of emotion. Obviously, this life changing event is on my mind.

I did a bit of research on the meaning of dreams, and this is what one particular website had to say about weddings:

If you are getting married and have dreams of your pending wedding, then it highlights the stress of organizing a wedding.  Conflicts over wedding details, tension with family and in-laws, fear of commitment, and loss of independence may all cause wedding anxiety dreams.  Research has shown that up to 40% of brides and grooms have dreams about their ceremony and things going perfectly.

To dream that Santa Claus is attending your wedding highlights the jolly occasion.

Most of my dreams so far have been about not completing my to-do list. Must be the account manager in me. And while Santa has not yet appeared, but I anticipate him attending this jolly occasion. Along with hundreds of my closest family and friends.

So what advice could I give to brides-to-be?

1. Enjoy it! You and your love have something so joyous and meaningful to look forward to. And I’m not just talking about the wedding – that is trivial in comparison to the life journey you’re about to embark on together

2. Don’t stress. At the end of the day, the only thing everyone will remember is the two of you, and your love.

3. Include the in-laws. Think if your mom or dad didn’t get to be part of any of the choices – would they be sad? You marry the boy, but also marry his family.

4. Roll with it. Not all details are created equal. Pick your top 3-5 things you really care about, and then let the others be secondary. Your peace of mind and your budget will thank you.

5. Don’t try to make everyone happy. You’re the bride. It’s your day. Don’t make a decision because one bridesmaid doesn’t like the color purple (on that note, my bridesmaids have been angels).

6. Pick 2 people to help you. Be it your mom and your sister, a wedding planner and your mom, or your best friend and your mom. They help you keep you sane, and help keep track of the details. If your round table consistently includes more than two people, there will be too many cooks in the kitchen and you’ll lose your mind.

7. Recognize everyone else. It takes a village to raise a child, and to put on a wedding. Give credit where credit is due, and always say please and thank you. It’s the bride’s day, but everyone else gets you to the church on time. They deserve credit and recognition.

#marriedtoavery


girlfriends

I am lucky to have great girlfriends. How many people can say they can’t pick one best friend? How many people can say their random roommate from freshman year is now a bridesmaid? How many people are still friends with their high school friends? Better yet, how many people can say they are still friends with their elementary and middle school friends? And how many people can say their best friend moved to London in 7th grade and they are still friends and talk on a regular basis? Who has two thumbs and can say all this? This girl. 

Girlfriends can be tricky. Keeping good girlfriends isn’t hard, but making new ones can be daunting. When I first moved to Chicago, I had no friends. I had Max, and his brother & sister-in-law (who are great). I found friends of friends, reconnected with a college acquaintance, and even put myself out there. I found friends through the Chi O alumnae group, church, and work. I felt awkward and uncomfortable, but after reading MWF Seeking BFF, a documentary-style book about a married white female (MWF) who goes on 52 girl dates to find girlfriends, I realized everyone wants friends. There’s nothing to be scared of when trying to make new friends. What’s the worst that can happen? There’s no friendship spark? Then move on to the next!  

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My mom recently turned 50. I emailed her closest friends and family for some memories, letters, and photos that I could put in a scrapbook for her. Three of the most common qualities others noted in my mom were her generous spirit, her can-do attitude, and her loyalty. This woman listens, laughs, and loves. She nurtures, offers advice, and sacrifices. She would drop what she is doing for any of her friends or family members, and she never holds a grudge. Simply amazing. And as a result, she is the best friend anyone could ask for.

I hope I can be half the woman that my mom is. I hope I can always keep my girlfriends I have had forever, and I hope to always add more girlfriends. 

I’m heading to Austin this weekend for my bachelorette party. A weekend away to celebrate friendship. This is the time I am planning for my life with my man of my dreams, but my girlfriends have never played a more important role. They are sisters, bridesmaids, and close friends. They shriek, laugh, dance, and gossip with me. They are the greatest! 


strong in her girls

It’s no secret that my high school championed feminism. Every week during co-curriculum (which my parents called work release) they taught us girls to go out into the work force and be productive, strong, powerful, outspoken and inquisitive. We learned to trust and get to know ourselves and our new classmates, and learned about our history and culture freshman year. Sophomore year we learned how to give back in a meaningful way in the community. Junior year we roamed the halls of Capitol Hill with high powered senators and congressmen. And Senior year we interned in major businesses around DC. I graduated with a more full resume than most of my peers had by the end of their college years.

And thanks to my senior year internship, I had Fox News on my resume.

I was proud of that – it’s a huge cable news network. I worked behind the scenes and did meaningful things to help the news to be produced in a “fair and balanced” way.

I’m a little less impressed now, however, that I read this article by Suzanne Venker that has been circulating: the war on men

So I started writing this blog with a strong opinion and point of view on everything this contradictory woman had to say. But then I realized, enough people had already said enough and she wrote a follow up article explaining herself: let’s call a truce

Well, phwew. Glad I didn’t have to sort through all that talk about how the rise of feminism and the rise of gender equality is resulting in promiscuous, power hungry, man eating women. Glad I didn’t have to comment on men’s emasculation and slacking enthusiasm in the office/home/society that is all women’s fault. Glad I didn’t have to make all those comments, because let me tell you, I just deleted a whole lot of writing.

In April I’m getting married. I went to college and have an ad executive job that I am succeeding in. I am succeeding but I am not competing to be more powerful than he is (which Venker’s second article explains). I am learning to be independent, to be respected, trusted, and taken seriously. In April when we marry, I am planning on taking his name. I am planning on spending time at home with our children, when that time comes. I am letting him “protect” me, but I’m not letting him overpower me, which I want to point out is the difference between man-eaters and feminists.

photoI am woman, hear me roar!


half my life

I started writing a post around my birthday about my sentiments on aging, but never ended up posting it. 24  is a fairly insignificant age. It’s not a milestone like 10, 16, 18, 21, 25 or any other 0 or 5 number in the future. It’s an awkward age to be grown up enough to have a job and responsibilities but young enough for it to still be acceptable to assume your parents will pay for dinner when you go out. But 24 is special to me. 

I was born on April 24th, so turning 24 on the 24th made this year my golden birthday

24 is my lucky number. Fun fact, my roommate Caitlin and I share this as our favorite number

My two favorite days of the year fall on the 24th – Christmas Eve and my Birthday

24 is the age that I got engaged, and I will be 3 days older than 24 when I get married 

A side effect of aging is nostalgia. Only recently am I able to remember “the good ol’ days” of “childhood” when I talked about “what I want to be when I grow up.” When I was in pre school and early elementary school I wanted to be a Mom, just like my Mom. Then when I started playing MASH in 3rd grade I wanted to be someone famous, like an actress or, more realistically because I was not dramatically driven, a star athlete. When I started playing sports more competitively beyond Saturday basketball (in which I never scored a point) in 5th and 6th grade, I wanted to be a pro field hockey player, whatever that meant. Then my gears switched and I remembered fondly spying on my neighbors in 1st and 2nd grade with my childhood best friend and thought, “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if I could spy for a living?” and that’s when my dreams of being a CIA agent came into play. High school drama, listening to and sharing gossip, and providing advice made me think I would be a great psychologist, then I realized I’d have to keep the gossip to myself. Then I started noticing the impact of great advertising campaigns, and decided I’d look into that when I got to college, and that is a life-long summary of “what I want to be when I grow up.” 

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back right in my favorite yellow shirt, age 12

Half my age ago I was 12. I was an awkward 6th grader trying to seem cool with my braces and butterfly clips. Acutely aware of myself from noticing my pants that were just a touch too short (maybe if I keep pulling them down they’ll cover the tops of my sneakers) to trying to manage my was-straight hair to why-is-it-starting-to-get-frizzy-and-wavy that I kept in a low bun with ample clips to keep all wispies and frizzies back. I maneuvered through crushes and the cool crowd. I did my homework and fantasized about what my life would be like when I was twice my age, when I was 24. I was married and had a kid (the first of 5 more to come). I was a professional field hockey player (still in that phase) and my husband – my then crush – was a business man (how generic). We lived in Potomac, and had all our best friends from 6th grade around us (because, duh, who leaves home?). I know all this because I obviously wrote it down and kept it in a box my BFF Hannah and I discovered in my closet when my family moved. 

Now I think about my life. I’m not married to my 12-year-old crush, I’m not a pro field hockey player, and I don’t have a kid. I’m engaged to the man of my dreams. I work in advertising, he works at a hotel, and we dream of traveling the world, getting a dog, and having kids. 

Now I think about my future life – my life with Max at the point where I will have known him for half my life. We were 18 when we met and fell in love, and we’ll be 36 when we reach the half our life point. 

When I’m 36, I hope to have traveled and lived around the world, and to be settled with a simple life. I hope to have two kids and one or two dogs. I hope to be healthy and active and involved. I hope to have good friends and a happy family and love life. Just perfect.