Thursday, July 31, 2014

top thirty Thursday: wedding photos.

Well, what do you know. James and I have been married a whole year.

To be perfectly honest, being married isn’t that different from being single. Since we lived together before we were engaged, we were already used to sharing space. (And when I trip over his shoes, I get just as cranky now when he’s my husband as I did when he was my boyfriend.) The only real differences are that I get to call James my husband instead of my boyfriend, we both have fancy rings to wear, and I’m expected to hurry up and have babies already. (Shudder.) Otherwise, it’s business as usual.

But then there are anniversaries! James and I started dating on July 27, 2007, so we celebrated our anniversaries each year. However, your boyfriend/girlfriend anniversary isn’t as recognized as your husband/wife anniversary. Our husband/wife anniversary is July 27, 2013, so we’ve been together for seven years and married for one. Not too shabby.

Now that we’re married, it gives us license (and maybe a responsibility) to celebrate our anniversaries in a bigger way. For this first anniversary, that meant taking my parents’ red Mustang (!!!) to Rapid City for a long weekend. (In case you’re wondering, we didn’t save any cake to eat a year later as per tradition. We chose to eat our fresh, delicious cake then instead of being disappointed by freezer-burned cake a year later.)

Our first anniversary also means (to me) that it’s time for a top ten Tuesday blog in its honor! But this is no top ten Tuesday. Hell, it's not even a Tuesday. This, my friends, is a top THIRTY Thursday. As you know, I love pictures, and in addition to our professional photographer, I had all sorts of people snapping photos all day long. I couldn’t choose a mere ten photos to show you, so I decided to make it twenty… but then I couldn’t choose just twenty. So I tripled it and we’ve got ourselves a top thirty Thursday. I put them in order from the beginning of the day to the end: getting ready, group photos, ceremony, reception. So here we go: here are my top thirty wedding photos!

My friend Ashley was my personal attendant – she and I met as interns at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 2010. Ashley was kind enough to take candid pictures of us while we were getting ready (and she took photos while our professional photographer was taking photos, and Ashley’s photos ended up being some of my absolute favorites). So Ashley took this picture of Mom helping me into my wedding dress – it had a bazillion buttons and was almost 70 years old, so I needed all the help I could get.

This picture was taken right before the big reveal – James hadn’t yet seen me in my wedding dress. The photographer was taking some glamour shots (or something) of James, and they told me to sneak up behind him. It was just the two of us (plus the photographer) in the sanctuary, but the rest of the bridal party was watching through the windows. (Note: the actual big reveal was a lot less thrilling than I had imagined – James said something like, “Oh hey Calla! You look nice!” Good try, James!)

Getting married in a church wasn’t at the top of my wedding must-have list… until I remembered Touchdown Jesus. Touchdown Jesus is a Lutheran church in Brookings, and it gained its name due to the gigantic Jesus on its face. Jesus has his arms wide open like a ref announcing a touchdown, hence the nickname. Seriously, EVERYONE in Brookings calls it the Touchdown Jesus church. Double bonus: my parents got married here in 1981!

This is a prime example of one of the candid shots being a favorite of mine. We had just gotten done taking a handful of pictures at the church, and we carpooled to McCrory Gardens. James and I parked in a different lot than the rest of the crew, and this picture was taken as they strolled across to meet us. They look like the Scandinavian Mafia.

Our photographer didn’t spend much time on pictures of me with my bridal party, but this is one of the pictures I really love from that session. We took pictures in McCrory Gardens in Brookings, which is THE most beautiful spot. Even though it was late July, we had a gorgeous 70-ish degree day. Everything was going right, everyone was happy, and our faces tell you exactly that.

This, my friends, is the Prince Face. It’s been an inside joke between Bob, Sarah, and me for years. It came about because we were in the Brookings library one day, and one of us pulled out a music book. It opened to a gigantic picture of Prince, and we all made the same face – this one. When you think about it, Prince always looks super weird in photos (and probably in real life), so this is a totally appropriate face – and we’ve been making it ever since.

You’ll notice that most of my favorite wedding pictures are those that aren’t very posed – or not posed at all. This is one of those – perfect facial expressions captured on film! Mom had just given me a kiss on the cheek, and since I am apparently still a child, I made that face. Who knew my face could contort like that?

While our professional photographer was taking pictures, my wonderful friend and personal attendant Ashley had my camera and was taking pictures of her own. She captured this photo of me with my mom and dad, and I just love our faces. We’re not too posed, but we still look great – and we’re obviously enjoying our day and each other. That, my friends, is exactly what I wanted to see in my wedding pictures and how I wanted to remember the day – and this is perfect.

This is our friend Nate. James and Nate went to high school together, and we all went to college together. Nate was James’s roommate for two years and mine for one. Nate is a great guy and one of the most loyal friends you could ever hope for. When posing for pictures, Nate is usually pretty serious, but the photographer caught him with a great big smile.

This is James’s brother Jesse, and he is one happy-go-lucky guy. I love this picture because it perfectly captures Jesse’s personality. James is one of five boys, and when we got married, Jesse said to me, “I’ve never had a sister, and you’re more like another brother anyway. So I’m going to call you my brother!” So Jesse and I are brothers now! I love this picture because it perfectly captures Jesse’s personality as well as James and Jesse’s relationship.

Ashley took this picture, and I think it’s hilarious. Our photographer spent infinitely more time taking pictures of James’s family and his groomsmen than she did with me and my family/bridal party, so we spent a good deal of time just standing around. Like this. I can almost FEEL the attitude. Plus, Dad and Mitch's expressions just bring it all together into one great photo.

This picture was also taken while the photographer was preoccupied with James and Company. The pictures the photographer took of my bridal party and me are really stiff and awkward, so I was overjoyed to have this picture. My mom snapped it in the gardens, and I think it’s perfect. Here we have me with five of the most important people in my life, and everyone looks like they couldn’t be happier. I can’t answer for everyone else, but I can tell you that indeed – I couldn’t have been happier.

I almost didn’t get a picture with my new in-laws, but I requested this one right before we started with the bridal party group photos. Mark and Maria are so much fun, and I think that’s pretty evident in this picture. They posed themselves for this picture, and I love that it’s not your typical bride-with-the-new-in-laws picture. As a matter of fact, very few of my favorite pictures are what you might call “typical.” And that was the goal.

It’s basically a requirement that every wedding party photo session includes a cheesy jumping picture. However, I wanted something a little less standard – I wanted the guys to leap OVER us while we looked terrified. (This idea came from a photo I’d found on the internet, and it was HILARIOUS.) Our photographer decided that was a disaster waiting to happen, so we compromised and ended up with this. She had us take some where we looked scared and some where we looked annoyed, but this is my favorite. Just look at the guys’ faces and tell me this doesn’t kick ass.

This picture is very nearly perfect – everyone looks like a model except for me because I’m too busy getting my face squished by James. This is one of my two favorite group shots, and this one (along with the umbrella picture that you’ll see shortly) is at my desk at work. Nothing like a stunning picture of your wonderful family and friends to brighten up your work day.

Remember how I said that McCrory Gardens is beautiful? Here’s a prime example. Look at the lush trees and the perfect greenness of it all. I think this picture looks like something out of a dream. (Never mind that we had to take about a bazillion of these pictures because my dress was too slippery for James to hang onto.)
Seriously, McCrory Gardens is the BEST backdrop for pictures, and we were one of at least two bridal parties taking pictures there that day. Everything about the garden is picturesque, especially the little nooks and crannies like this one. It was made of lattices overgrown with flowering plants, and it was gorgeous. The sunlight shining through gave it this ethereal quality, and our faces tell you what a great day we're having. (I also really like this picture because I know I'm saying something sassy to James - our photographer had recently told me to channel my inner Kate Middleton, and I believe my delicate whispered phrasing to James was "Kate Middleton? Are you f-ing kidding me?" I've been called a lot of things in my life, but genteel is not one of them.)

This is my favorite picture of James and me from our wedding day. Sadly, we got almost NO good pictures of the two of us, but we do have this one, which almost makes up for the lack of other pictures. We had done some serious internet digging before the wedding and presented our photographer with examples of wedding pictures that we wanted. Not a lot of those wedding pictures actually materialized, but this one did. It’s just goofy – there we are in our fancy clothes, and James is flying away Mary Poppins-style with his umbrella. Awesome.

This picture was taken mere minutes before I walked down the aisle – the ceremony had already begun, and I was hiding in the church basement like the wedding coordinators had instructed. I had just put my veil on, and the photographer saw an opportunity for a picture. I like to call this my Glamour Shot – you know, like those photo studios that were really popular in the 90s where you got your picture taken with big hair and lots of makeup? Except my hair wasn’t that big, and my makeup wasn’t quite glittery enough for a true Glamour Shot. But I like it – with my birdcage veil and my 1940s dress, I look pleasantly vintage. (Side note: the photographer had me put my hand under my chin for another one of these pictures, which is totally 90s and is much more like a true Glamour Shot. That one gets to stay hidden.)

It was during the couple of months before the wedding that I came up with a brilliant/hilarious idea: I should walk down the aisle to the Imperial March: you know, Darth Vader’s theme. The bridal party was walking down the aisle to the very traditional Canon in D, so how funny would it be to play the entrance music best known for announcing the presence of one of the greatest movie villains of all time? I cleared it with James and Dad (whose brass quintet was providing the wedding music) before bringing it up to Pastor Loren – who not only enthusiastically agreed, but offered to be the one to tell the brass that they’re playing the wrong song. We kept all this a secret from the Touchdown Jesus wedding coordinators, as they were strict with the music. (I believe the phrase is “it’s easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” Besides, what were they going to do? Unmarry us?) This picture was taken just as the brass began playing the Imperial March and right before Pastor Loren told the brass that they had the wrong music and shouldn’t they be playing Canon in D? It was executed perfectly, and Dad and I laughed all the way down the aisle.

Our friend Rachel offered to be our wedding slave, and she did a great job – from decorations to paparazzi photography, she was on it. She took this picture of James and me at the altar – we were holding hands, and I couldn’t stop smiling. (Part of the reason we were holding hands was because my feet really hurt and I needed James to hold me upright, but you can’t tell that from the picture.)

Touchdown Jesus really is a nice church – not just by virtue of the giant Touchdown Jesus on the side, but it’s pretty good looking on the inside, too. This picture was taken from up in the balcony, and it’s a great bird’s eye view of what’s going on. Plus, it’s kind of fun to look at the backs of people’s heads and try to figure out who’s who.

James and I were married by my childhood pastor. Pastor Loren came to our church in Arlington when I was not even a year old, so he has known me just a few months shy of my entire life. I was thrilled that he agreed to marry us. Pastor Loren has a great sense of humor, and he supported everything we wanted to do – from having one non-Biblical reading to being in on the Imperial March, Pastor Loren was all for our wedding being exactly what we wanted. During his sermon, in which he called us weird and talked about Nick burgers. (Best wedding sermon I’ve ever heard!) This picture was taken right after we were pronounced husband and wife, and naturally, we high-fived. Pastor Loren and James's brother Jesse look like they're about to do-si-do, and I love it.

Funny story about my flowers – HyVee forgot about them. I had spoken with the HyVee floral department about a bazillion times, and my mom’s cousin was going to pick up my bouquet and James’s boutonniere that morning. However, when she got there, it turned out that HyVee had totally forgotten about them. They quick threw some flowers together and called it a day. (Luckily, it was a small order – James’s boutonniere and my bouquet were the only things we needed.) The ribbons binding my flowers were monumentally sloppy, so the flowers were run to James, who worked his crafty magic and fixed the ribbons. I loved my flowers, and sadly, this was the only picture our photographer took of them. But on the bright side, it is a neat picture, as you can see James and me greeting our guests in the background.

I love a good generational picture, so here we are: three generations. But what makes this picture even better is that I’m the third generation to wear this wedding dress. My grandma Lorraine wore this wedding dress in 1944, Mom wore it in 1981, and I wore it in 2013. It’s not every day that a wedding dress makes it through three generations.

Rachel took this picture as James and I arrived at our reception venue – the Old Sanctuary. We pulled up in the red Mustang and were met by a cheering crowd. James wanted to arrive with flair, so this is how we did it. And no, he didn’t drop me.

If you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know that the devil is in the details. I spent months sweating over the tiny details of our wedding, and I’m glad I did – the details all came together and really made the wedding perfect. One of my favorite little details has to be our shoes. James and I wore regular fancy shoes for the ceremony, but for the reception, we changed into our All-Stars. They are in our wedding colors, and our wedding date is embroidered on the back. This was just a quick snapshot of us changing into our shoes before our grand entrance into the reception, and I just love it. And I love the shoes – I wear mine all the time.

James and I swing danced in college: we were in the swing dancing club, and we never missed an opportunity to swing dance at one of the jazz dances. So it was only fitting that our first dance would be a swing dance. And we did swing dance – to “Ring of Fire.” It was not your typical first dance song, but it was absolutely perfect. The crowd loved it, and we had a blast – we even did flips. Go ahead, be impressed. (The DJ even said, “That… was… AMAZING.”)

James’s and my wedding mixed tradition with our personalities, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Tradition: father/daughter dance. Personalities: jitterbugging to “The Way You Look Tonight.” These smiles say it all.

Our wedding dance was, hands down, the best wedding dance I’ve ever been to. (I might be biased, but that’s my honest opinion.) We had the best DJ, and I wanted to dance to every single song. The thing that made our wedding dance different from so many others is that we spent most of our time dancing in one gigantic group. Anyone and everyone could join in our big circle, and that’s exactly what happened – especially as the evening wore on. This picture was taken during our bridal party dance, which was – appropriately – “Friends in Low Places.”
James’s and my wedding was so much more than just these pictures, and there’s no way to fully capture the (forgive me for being trite) magic of the day. No picture can truly encapsulate how side-splittingly funny it was when Nate and Sara stood up to recite “Amazed” by Lonestar – a song they both knew I hated! 
Although this one comes close.
No photo can quite bring back the feeling of total happiness as James I walked down the aisle to the Olympic Fanfare. No snapshot can echo our epic entrance into the Old Sanctuary, running in slow motion to "Chariots of Fire." Though I will never be able to reproduce the day (not that I’d want to – it couldn’t have gone over better), these pictures will show me the great moments for the rest of my life.

There are so many other wonderful wedding moments that weren’t captured on film – putting James’s brother Jesse front and center to dance to “Jessie’s Girl,” hugging our parents in the reception line, us with our completely awesome dinosaur-topped cake… but pictures or not, those are memories that I’ll carry forever.

However, nothing is as good of a reminder as a picture. I have the best memories from our wedding day, and these pictures just help solidify those memories. Looking at these wedding photos just makes me smile. They conjure up all the great stories behind each picture, and I think of my wonderful family and friends and how much fun we all had that day. It was the best wedding ever, and these pictures let me relive it. One year down, forever to go!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

let's talk about Tim Hortons.

At this time last year, my life was pretty hectic. I was just about to get married, James and I had just bought a house and were packing up the old apartment, I was preparing for an interview for a promotion, and we were working out the details of our international honeymoon.

To Winnipeg.

Say what you will, but we went out of the country on our honeymoon, so that means I get to call it an international honeymoon.

Neither James nor I had been to Canada before our honeymoon, and I have to tell you that it far exceeded our expectations. Not only did the people there ACTUALLY say “eh,” but Canadians were every bit as friendly as they are stereotyped to be. (They claimed to love Americans! nobody loves Americans!) Whenever a Canadian heard that we were Americans on our honeymoon, they would congratulate us like it was the best news they’d ever heard, and then they’d give us a laundry list of things to see and do while we were there.

Most of our stay was in Winnipeg, which we found to be absolutely charming. We spent a lot of our time walking around and taking it all in. We walked by the river, saw tons of great architecture, and were greeted by friendly Canadians all along the way. Winnipeg had all sorts of neat little neighborhoods for us to explore and plenty of good food to eat. (It was in Winnipeg that I had the best gelato of my life: chocolate cheesecake gelato at Eva’s. Oh, so good.)

But do you know what my favorite part of our Canadian honeymoon was?

Tim Hortons.
Ohhhh, how I miss Tim Hortons.

Neither of us really knew what Tim Hortons was when we got to Canada, but we knew that it was a thing. On a whim, James and I decided to try it for breakfast one day. Best decision EVER.

Tim Hortons is the Starbucks of Canada: there’s one on every corner. But Tim Hortons is far superior to Starbucks. While both establishments sell coffee, Tim Hortons sells coffee for dirt cheap. Sure, the sizes are smaller (I got the most adorable teeny-tiny mocha for a DOLLAR), but then again, so are Canadians. And Canadian espresso is deee-licous.

Tim Hortons also sells a variety of breakfast sandwiches and lunch-y things, but their main draw is the doughnuts. Yeast doughnuts, my friends. You haven’t truly had a doughnut until you’ve had a yeast doughnut. They’re hard to describe, but the best I can do is “heavenly.” Yeast doughnuts smell like bread, and they’ve got a rich density to them that normal doughnuts don’t – plus, they’re way less greasy. After eating a yeast doughnut, you feel less “ugh, I’m going to die” and more “another doughnut, please!”
Or, in James's case, "another scone, please!"
We were only in Canada for three days, and we had Tim Hortons three times. The last time was when we were about to cross back into the US and knew that we wouldn’t have Tim Hortons again for a long time. That last Tim Hortons doughnut tasted like Canadian heaven.

My brother Mitch was in northern Michigan doing some work on wind turbines, and he mentioned that he was going to drive to Canada during one of his weekends off. I gave him a list of places to go, one of them being Tim Hortons. He LOVED it. During his time in the northern United States, Mitch kept an eye open for any Tim Hortons that may have crossed the border and – YAY! – he found one in Michigan! Shortly thereafter, I saw a news article saying that Tim Hortons would be coming to Fargo. Tim Hortons is slowly infiltrating the US, and I couldn’t be happier. Come to Minnesota already!

So if you ever find yourself in Canada (or northern Michigan, or eventually Fargo), do yourself a favor and stop by a Tim Hortons. Seriously, I dream of Tim Hortons. I suffer from Tim Hortons withdrawals. Winnipeg is high on my list for another road trip, and it’s mostly because of Tim Hortons.

Paradise, thy name is Tim Hortons.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

childhood obsessions: Claire's.

When I was in third grade, I asked my parents for an allowance. I was nine years old, and I understood the joys of spending money – and I wanted to somehow acquire more money so I could buy more things. (Mostly candy.)

A friend of mine received one dollar per week as her allowance, and I asked for as much during my allowance negotiations. My parents came back with a counter offer: three dollars a week, but with a catch: I would need to sign a contract stating that my chores would get done and that I would try to be nicer to my siblings. (This may have been my first experience with loopholes: I would “try” to be nicer.) I signed the contract, it was locked away in the safe, and I started earning allowance.

With said allowance came the great freedom to buy things, but many difficult decisions were ahead: do I blow it all on sticky hands from the grocery store vending machine, or do I save up for the next trip to the mall?

More often than not, I chose the mall… mainly because I was obsessed with Claire’s.
Yes, the tweeny glittery fluffy pink costume jewelry store. I LOVED every last bit of it.

I spent a great deal of time in the Brookings mall, thanks mostly to my grandparents being willing to take us there when we came to visit. The Brookings mall was not (and still isn’t) anything to write home about, but as a kid with nowhere else to go, it seemed like paradise.

At the time, the Brookings mall held such pre-adolescent favorites as Maurices, Vanity, and Claire’s, in addition to more adult-geared stores like JCPenney and Cover to Cover. It was the Brookings mall that first introduced me to the wonders of Claire’s – though I couldn’t afford anything in the store, I could always window-shop and make mental notes for my Christmas list.  

I didn’t actually start buying stuff at Claire’s until I started frequenting the Claire’s in the Watertown mall. I told you about the Watertown mall last week, so you know that while it was no Empire Mall, it had a lot more to offer than the Brookings mall.

I’ve been a bargain hunter all my life, and one of the things that first drew me to Claire’s was their fabulous clearance rack. Every so often, Claire’s would mark a ton of things down so that they were 10 for $5. That’s right: fifty cents per item. My mom – a fellow bargain shopper, and probably the reason I am the way I am – could usually be convinced to go halfsies with me, so we’d each get five items for $2.50. That was something I could totally handle – five things from Claire’s, and I’d still have enough left from my three dollar allowance to buy a can of pop. That’s my idea of power shopping.

As I grew older and my allowance increased, I no longer had to limit my Claire’s purchases to the super clearance rack. I shifted my sights to the REGULAR clearance rack – I was moving up in the world! One of the first purchases I remember buying from Claire’s was an iridescent purple zipper wallet thing that I bought in Watertown for $5. I had that thing for YEARS – until the iridescent covering peeled off and the zipper broke. Sigh.

Claire’s was my go-to place for all my ridiculous childhood purses. Yep: not only did my first wallet come from Claire’s, but so did my first purse. It was made of the same kind of material as those jelly shoes, and it couldn’t hold anything more than a handful of change and my Dr Pepper flavored LipSmackers. I bought it on a rainy day in Watertown – my parents and I had just come from my clarinet solo at the Watertown high school, and my reward for a superior rating (go ahead, be impressed) was a five dollar contribution to my Claire’s purchase. I unearthed that purse: it was made of an translucent grey-ish jelly material with sparkles and stars melted right in. It was a whopping $11, but with my parents’ $5, it only cost me two weeks’ allowance. (Plus tax.)

It wasn’t just the Claire’s stores in South Dakota where I blew my hard-earned allowance. I visited my aunt and uncle in Denver for two weeks one summer (the summer after sixth grade? maybe?), and they were kind enough to take me to one of the malls near Denver – the likes of which I’d never seen before. Of course, I made a beeline for their (much more impressively stocked) Claire’s, where I purchased a Chinese symbol for my birth year (the year of the rabbit, if you were curious). I felt awfully worldly when I came back to South Dakota with my fancy Chinese symbol necklace. I’m sure everyone was very impressed.
Aren't you impressed at how cultured I was?
My family knew full well about how much I loved Claire’s, so it was a safe bet that they could do their Christmas/birthday shopping there. I’ve told you (time and time again) about my fake Heart of the Ocean necklace – it came in my stocking after I had not-so-subtly hinted that I wanted it for Christmas. That came from Claire’s – where else? My brother and sister each gave me earrings from Claire’s when they were young – Darrah bought me a pair of heart earrings with lime green stones in the middle (Claire’s served me well during my obsession with the color lime green), and Mitch gave me some little silver flowers with pink stones. All these years later, I still have those earrings.

Speaking of earrings, it was at Claire’s where I got my ears pierced. I was in seventh grade, and it had taken me YEARS to work up the courage to do it. When I finally made my decision, Mom hauled me to Watertown, where two teenagers at Claire’s pierced my ears. Years later, when I was soon to be a college sophomore, I got second holes in my ears at the very same Claire’s. (True story: the second holes in my ears are UNEVEN because the girl had no idea what she was doing). My final Claire’s ear piercing was a cartilage piercing about a year later. My friend Meagan and I went to the Brookings Claire’s because Meagan (who had just started working there) knew of a piercer who need to practice – therefore, our cartilage piercings would be half off. (After my “buy one get one free” tattoo stories, it can’t be much of a surprise that I’d apply the same logic to ear piercing.)

Nowadays, the general consensus is that ear piercing guns (which is what they use at Claire’s) are horrible. Their sterility is questionable, and the guns tend to cause more trauma to your skin than a piercing needle. Plus, the people doing the piercings at Claire’s are usually just kids themselves – and kids without much practice, as my half-off practice piercing experience should tell you. But I had no idea at the time, so Claire’s was just where you went if you wanted your ears pierced.

Like getting your ears pierced, there was only one place you considered for your prom jewelry – and that was Claire’s. Tiaras, rhinestony bracelets, gigantic and shiny necklaces – whatever blingy tackiness you wanted for prom, Claire’s was happy to provide. I never went too overboard – Claire’s prom jewelry was rather expensive ($15 a necklace? WHAT??) for my sensibilities. After all, I was probably only going to wear this stuff once – why break the bank? (I probably don’t need to tell you this, but I was not your average teenage girl.) But come prom time, Claire’s did not fail me. I went to three proms, and I was decked out in Claire’s jewelry for each one of them.
Prom #1.
Prom #2.
Prom #3.
After my final prom, Claire’s lost its usefulness. I’ve bought a couple pairs of earrings there in the years since (T-Rex earrings, no less), but my days of anxiously awaiting my next trip to Claire’s are far behind me. Clearly, I have some fond memories of that ridiculous place – and even a few pieces of jewelry left to remind me of the good times I had at Claire’s.
I bought this in 1997 and still wear it to this day.
And then there's this. Thanks for helping
feed my Titanic obsession, Claire's.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

let's talk about my middle name.

There is a certain beauty in a middle name. Some parents give their children family middle names, and others choose a middle name simply because it sounds good with the first name they’ve chosen. Still others use the middle name to create a pun, which I find a little bit awesome. (Example: my friend Allison’s parents almost named her Allison Wonderland. How great would that have been?)

On the whole, though, middle names tend to be family affairs, which is exactly what mine was.

(I say “was” because when I got married, my maiden name became my middle name. More on that later.)

And what was my middle name?


I know what you’re thinking. I said that my middle name was a family name, and we are a bunch of fish-belly white Scandinavian/Germans. What kind of Norwegian ancestor names their child Shelaine? Answer: no Norwegian.

My two grandmothers are named Sheila and Lorraine. Smash those two names together, and you’ve got yourself a Shelaine.

I was born in 1987: well before crazy made-up names became as commonplace as they are today. My first name is also out of the ordinary, so my parents must’ve been way ahead of their time when they named their firstborn Calla Shelaine.

Growing up, I longed for a nice normal name that no one could screw up. My first name often became Kayla, along with the fairly frequent Call-a (first syllable being pronounced as “call” rather than the actual “cal”) and occasional Carla. (Nope. No ‘r’ in my first name, thank you.) Believe me when I tell you that going to restaurants where you have to give your first name is the WORST.

My last name – Bjorklund – was no better. Even in a land of Scandinavians, everyone had a tough time equating the “Bj” in my first name to be a soft j. So while my last name is pronounced as Byorklund, I usually ended up as Kayla Buhjorkland or Call-uh Borkland. And you should’ve seen how the spelling my last name got butchered on junk mail.

And then there was Shelaine. While Shelaine was not especially difficult to pronounce, it was just as odd as my first and last names. But until Calla (which is pretty easy to get used to) and Bjorklund (which is charmingly Scandinavian), Shelaine just didn’t seem to fit. I’m just too white for the name Shelaine.

(Side note: I later found out that I REALLY dodged a bullet with the name Shelaine. My parents had seriously considered making Shelaine my FIRST name – but they knew that I’d inevitably be nicknamed Shelly. Neither of them liked the name Shelly, so Shelaine was out. WHEW.)

While I thought that Shelaine was fairly ridiculous, watching people react to said ridiculous name was always fun for me. Whenever I’d tell someone my middle name, I’d get a funny look followed by a slightly incredulous “She-LAINE?” Never failed.

Even better were the mutations of Shelaine that my friends assigned me over the years. My friend Sue could not remember my middle name, so for the longest time, she thought it was Loraila. My friend Bob preferred to call me Calla Shaniqua. My friend Nate could not remember my middle name one day while yelling at me for something (a common occurrence in college; it was a sign of affection!), so he said, “Calla Shaquandra!” That one stuck.

While I eventually came to embrace my less-than-normal first and last names, I never saw eye-to-eye with Shelaine. Before I got married, I thought long and hard about what to do with my names. One thing was certain: there was no way I was getting rid of Bjorklund. I thought about not changing my name at all, but I knew James would be awfully disappointed. Hyphenating was not for me, so something had to go. Bjorklund would become my new middle name, and Shelaine would get the boot.

No one was more disappointed to hear this than James’s brother Jesse. Jesse had grown attached to Shelaine over the years and practically begged me to keep it. “Long live Shelaine!” he cried. When I showed Jesse my new driver’s license – no Shelaine to be found – it didn’t phase him. Since then, he’s taken to calling me Shelaine. And the worst part? I’ve begun to answer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

the time I went camping.

Everybody’s had one: a vacation during which everything that could possibly go wrong does, and when you think it can’t get any worse, sure enough, it gets worse.

This is the story of one such vacation.

Now, I love the outdoors. I didn’t always – I went through a several-year span beginning with my preteens where I was loath to set foot out into the sunshine, and you wouldn’t catch me wearing shorts if my life depended on it. Thankfully, that period was only temporary.

With the exception of a.) winter, and b.) doing yardwork, I love to be outside. James recently set up a hammock in the backyard, which is my new favorite place. I love going to the lake, I love bike rides, and I love exploring things like state parks, gardens, and rivers.

It’s also important to note that while I love the outdoors, I love the indoors, too. Sometimes, you just can’t beat lazing around on the couch watching Netflix. I am not as outdoorsy as some, and even though I’d like to be, it’s just not in my DNA.

But really, I do love the outdoors. However, when it comes to sleeping, I love the indoors more.

This past May, I went on a trip to Arizona with my mom and brother. My sister lives there, so we went to visit her. It was blazing hot, and one of the things I wanted to do was tube down the Salt River. We did just that – we rented black rubber inner tubes, brought a cooler, and spent a few hours floating down the river. It was a BLAST – most of the time, it was a perfectly relaxing lazy river, but there were some rapids that really sent you flying. Those were the best part, even if I did bang my tailbone on the riverbed more than once.

After the great time we had on the Salt River, I was on the lookout for river tubing closer to home. James suggested Lanesboro, Minnesota: it’s in the southeastern part of the state, and he told me grand tales of not only tubing down the Root River, but spelunking, kayaking, and interactions with the Amish population.
I was in! I’d never been to Lanesboro, and it sounded like the perfect way to spend a summer weekend. Double bonus? James (and all the Lanesboro websites) claimed that they had no bugs. NO BUGS. In summertime in the Midwest, that’s unheard of. It’s the Holy Grail.

Lanesboro sounded great to me… until James insisted that the only way to visit Lanesboro was to camp there. Excuse me… camp?! I hadn’t been “camping” for at least twenty years – and I say “camping” because we were in a camper at Lake Poinsett. Camper camping isn’t real camping. James said it was a tent or nothing.

I won’t say that I’ll try anything once, but I was willing to give tent camping a shot. After all, how bad could it be? My parents had both a tent and an air mattress for us to use, so our equipment costs were minimal. All we had to do was buy campy food (hot dogs and s’more stuff, obviously), and we’d be good to go.

Before we left for Lanesboro, James took the tent and the air mattress on a test run. Neither of them had been used in years, but the tent stood up like a champ, and the air mattress inflated in seven minutes flat.

James booked us a tent spot in the only campground with spaces still available. We had a spot by the river, and our nearest neighbors were several hundred feet away. It sounded great.

On Saturday morning, we headed east. Lanesboro is about three and a half hours from Luverne, so we got there in the early afternoon. Minnesota had been suffering from torrential rains for the past few weeks, so James called the campground to make sure that we’d still be able to tube down the river. “Oh yeah,” they said. “No problem!” Famous last words.

We arrived in Lanesboro, and it was blazing hot: perfect tubing weather. We checked into our campsite and asked the rangers when the next tubing shuttle was leaving. “Oh, there’s no tubing,” they said. “We haven’t been sending people out at all today.” The river was too high and was flowing too fast, so nobody was allowed out that day.

I was crushed. I had been looking forward to river tubing for weeks, and it was the number one reason I’d wanted to come to Lanesboro. James, ever the optimist, did his best to cheer me up. “Well, now we have more time to explore the town!” he said. “Maybe the river will go down and we can go tubing tomorrow!”

We wandered around downtown Lanesboro for a bit before deciding to try out the bike trail. It had gotten muggy by this point, and we quickly discovered that Lanesboro’s claim of no bugs was total bullshit. We were just a few feet onto the bike trail when we promptly were eaten alive by ravenous mosquitoes.
We did pause to take a picture in between bug bites.
James and I rode about seven miles of the bike trail before giving up. By that point, we were sweaty and covered in angry red bug bites, and we had been inundated with a gang of small children who liked to swerve in front of us as we were cruising down hills. We had felt a few rain sprinkles on the trail, so we thought we’d better head back to the campsite and pitch our tent. The SECOND we pulled into the campground, the skies opened up and it POURED. The universe has great comedic timing.

Dressed for warm weather, James and I were wearing shorts and t-shirts – it was mere minutes before we were soaked to the skin. (My sneakers would remain waterlogged for the remainder of the trip.) The wind was gusting, and James held onto the tent’s rain cover for dear life. The rain was coming down so hard that it blinded me, and the ground was rapidly turning into a swamp. We struggled and cursed, but finally the tent was standing – filled with water, but standing.
The tent is standing, but see
how sad and damp we are?
The rain showed no signs of letting up, so we had to change our dinner plans. We’d bought firewood and hotdogs and had every intention of roasting them over a campfire – which was obviously not in the cards. We changed into dry clothes (thankfully, we’d had the foresight to pack extra) and went back into Lanesboro to kill some time.
During the brief breaks in the rain, the sky looked like this.
Not very promising.
We killed enough time to last us until 9:30 (among other things, we accidentally crashed a gallery opening, made a townsperson angry by taking pictures of their rustic Jeep, and had the best shaved ice EVER), by which time the rain had not stopped. However, it had slowed, so we decided we might as well brave it and work on inflating the air mattress.

That damn air mattress.

The air mattress saw it fit to inflate within seven minutes at home during its test run. However, the air mattress didn’t show us the same consideration when we really could’ve used it. The air mattress flat-out (see what I did there?) refused to inflate. It would blow up to a certain squishy point… and then start deflating. Had the air mattress somehow sprung a leak in the last twenty-four hours? Did we have air mattress demons?

Whatever the cause, we never got the air mattress to inflate all the way. After thirty minutes and much wailing and gnashing of teeth, we cried uncle. It’s important to note that the air mattress took up the entire tent, and as it was still down pouring, James and I both wanted to be inside the tent. Of course, you don’t want to put any additional weight on the air mattress while it’s inflating, so we had to contort ourselves into the few spare inches of space around the edges of the tent. Inevitably, we stumbled, impeding our inflating process even further.

As we crouched around the air mattress, we drank our sad cans of summer shandy. Summer shandy is far superior when drunk out of a glass bottle, but assuming we’d be taking these in a cooler down the river, we’d bought cans. Anyway, we were drinking our summer shandy cans while trying to inflate the air mattress, and of course, I kicked mine over. Our sleeping bags, already soaked with rainwater, absorbed a lot of the beer, while the rest sloshed around in the tent.

By some miracle, the rain broke long enough for us to start a fire. We had paid six dollars for our firewood bundle, and by God, we were going to use it. We quickly roasted s’mores and wolfed them down before the rain began again.

You’ll remember that our campsite was located right on the edge of the Root River.
Looks nice, doesn't it? Looks can be deceiving.
With this new influx of rain, it was flowing fast and furious. James started to get a little paranoid and convinced himself that the river was going to flood and we were going to get washed away. I had enough faith in the campground staff that they wouldn’t let us camp by the river if that was a legitimate danger. Nonetheless, James checked with the staff, who assured him that they were checking the river every hour and would wake us up if it started to look suspicious.

But nooooooooo! That wasn’t good enough for James! It was after midnight when we finally decided to try and get some sleep – huddled under wet sleeping bags and doing a balancing act on a deflating air mattress, I wanted to just go to sleep and try and forget that day ever happened. James, however, had other ideas. He got up at least three times that night to check the river himself. Let it be noted that in order to get out of the tent, he had to climb over me – so whenever he got up to check the river, I was also awake. And remember how the air mattress was fairly flat? Well, when James was on the air mattress with me, his body weight inflated it enough so that I was on some decently inflated mattress. However, when he got up, that body weight vanished, and I came crashing to the ground. When James would come back into the tent, he’d have to climb over me again, and he also brought plenty of rainwater back in with him.

(James claims he doesn’t remember this, but twice during the night, he woke up and yelled, “That’s IT! I’m finding us a hotel!”)

Once James finally settled down, the quiet rush of the Root River was actually quite peaceful. The rain eventually did stop, and as the sun began to emerge, the tent became blazing hot. But that wasn’t what woke us up: it was the very loud, very Minnesotan fishermen looking for trout at 5am.

Around 7, we finally gave up on sleep and climbed out of our tent. The sun was shining, and it looked to be a beautiful day. We made our way to the bathhouse to take showers. I was the only one in the women’s bathroom, so I had the place to myself. As I am not at all a fan of community showers, this was ideal. This would prove to be my first (and, God willing, my last) experience with coin-operated showers. Yes: you had to pay for your shower with quarters: four minutes for twenty-five cents. I put in my two quarters and showered quickly. The lights in the women’s bathroom are motion sensitive, but it turns out that they don’t quite reach the shower. The lights went off on me in the middle of my shower, and for a second, I thought I was going to be murdered. (Because that’s what ALWAYS happens in horror movies. And this weekend was a horror movie.) I had to grope around in the dark for my towel and then wave my arms about until the lights came back on.

And when I left the bathroom, it had begun to rain.


James and I had planned to tear down the tent ASAP and get the hell out of Dodge, but since it was raining and checkout wasn’t until noon, we headed into town for breakfast. Our hopes of tubing that day were dashed, so we wandered around the shops and spent the money I’d brought for tubing – might as well support the local economy, right? Once again, the rain did not let up, so we took down our tent in the rain. And got soaked. Again.

After twenty profanity-laden minutes, the car was loaded up and we were ready to hit the road. We never did get to roast our hotdogs, so lunch had to be purchased in Lanesboro.

Our final order of business was to visit a cave. Lanesboro and the surrounding area have some caves to explore, so we stopped at the Niagara Cave. Its main selling point was its 95-foot waterfall, and that sounded like a sight to see. We bought our tickets to the cave… only to find out that the passage to the waterfall was flooded, so we would not be seeing that. Go figure.

Waterfall or not, the Niagara Cave was something to behold. 
It was discovered more than eighty years ago when some pigs fell through a sinkhole. It has 100-foot ceilings in places, and there’s even a wedding chapel inside. We saw fossils, stalactites, and stalagmites. 
See the super long stalactite? It's
estimated to be around 500,000
years old. They call him Gramps.
HOWEVER – the cave was 48 degrees. My only pair of jeans was thoroughly soaked, so I wore shorts. There was water POURING from the ceilings of the cave, and you could only dodge so much if it. By the end of our hour-long cave tour, I was a drowned rat once again.

This was the third set of clothing that had been drenched. In hopes of tubing, I had brought my swimming suit along. In a magnificent show of irony, that was the only thing that stayed dry.

On the way home, we saw a winery and stopped on a fluke.
This ended up being the best decision of the trip. The winery is called Four Daughters, and they have the best wine I’ve ever tasted. James and I shared a white wine tasting, and of the five wines, there wasn’t a single one I didn’t like. Four Daughters is not just a winery, but a restaurant as well: they employ seven chefs who make everything from scratch, including the crackers they serve. They have fancy dinners in the vineyard, along with yoga (while you drink wine, of course). James and I bought a bottle of white wine (La Crescent - SO GOOD) and are already trying to find reasons to go back there for more.

So even though camping was a total bust, there were a few bright spots: we saw a neat cave, got to ride our bikes, tasted some delicious wine, and I bought a skirt with bikes on it in downtown Lanesboro.
Just doing my part to support
the local economy.
But you know what?

I could’ve done all of these things while staying dry in a hotel.

Camping sucks.