Still floundering

If you’d ask me about the second half of this winter and the spring, I could only tell you about the inconsequential moments. I made granola and let it roast too long; I took a walk; later, I watched the trees sprout leaves with aching slowness. The plants’ painstaking budding process reminded me of myself, and this was a small comfort. But what remains most vivid is the aching emptiness that grew steadily inside me as my plans for the year fell, one by one, to pieces. Of course, it’s inevitable in life to be left suddenly without the safety net of your plans—those two fickle words. Why, then, does being without them feel so miserably isolating?

In public, I laughed it off, or at least tried, and did my best to avoid the worst small talk question of them all: “so, what do you do?”. Then I came home and teetered on the edges of anxiety and hopelessness. Completing the trio of shabby feelings came shame because, after all, I still had my wonderful, supportive husband, a beautiful place to call home, money to pay the bills, bourgeoning friendships to tend, and wasn’t I being ungrateful and dramatic? Truly, life could be so much bleaker…but also, life without a specific purpose is no life at all. 

Perhaps some of the struggle stems from one of the downfalls of modern Western society—too much pressure to Become Somebody, to Be the Change You Want to See, to Just Follow Your Dream, and not in two or five or ten years, but right now. This isn’t the first time I’ve battled with wanting to do it all but being unsure of what it is, the feeling that there has to be more to life. How do you balance all the forces that tug on you without freezing from fear, or doubt, or uncertainty? Where is the point of reconciliation between it all—or is there even one? I don’t have any answers yet, only questions.

I'm in a much better place now (much of the toxic fog has lifted/I've been blessed with a job, and thank goodness for that), but damn if it doesn't hurt to get knocked off your feet, however mildly. What started as taking a semester off college has now turned into a two year break, and it’s scary. I’m frightened that I’ve lost my momentum, or that my plans will fall through again, or that I’ll never figure it out. I'm wildly grateful for the people who've stood by me through this season, who've gently reminded me that these fears belong to everyone at some point. Those beautiful people made me feel a little less alone, and it's because of them that I write this—in the hopes that I, in turn, can help someone else feel less alone. I suspect that I’m not the only one who feels a bit lost, who’s had a lot of false starts, who's tired of letting pride get in the way of being truly honest. Progress isn't made in our comfort zones, and I have a hunch that things can never get better without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. 

A deep exhalation

My opa has started calling me Frau Herzog, my new last name. It sounds too old and grown up, and I realize with a jolt that I no longer legally share a last name with the rest of my five siblings. I shock my oma by eating avocado toast (she’s “never really had much use” for avocados) and then at 11pm I stumble on both my grandparents drinking schnapps in the dark, in silence. 

A few days before, I have breakfast with all my siblings (there is a sentence I don’t often write). On a Sunday morning in northwestern Germany, all six of us were together at my grandparents’, stink-eyed glances and sly grins sandwiched between brötchen and butter. This the aftermath of a family reunion which, along with the usual suspects, miraculously welcomed my in-laws and my sister-in-law. 16 of us bicycled through the fields to get to the reunion as my grandfather threatened to buy each of us orange safety vests “to warn others.” I joked that 16 of us on bikes would be warning enough, but still he insisted on wearing one himself, the leader of a band of divinely fortuitous family. 

Does returning to a childhood world as an adult always evoke such hazy, bittersweet feeling? Yes, bittersweetness, and the deep exhalation of a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Riding down the trails I’ve known all my life, for the first time with my husband and his family, was one of the truest full circles I've ever experienced. Moments so perfect and fleeting they were hard to fully absorb; what a feeling to know and be known, to love and be loved.

Jacob and I took a trip throughout Germany—his first, and my…I’ve lost track. A second honeymoon, we called it. In Rüdesheim, a small town on the Rhine river, we walked uphill out of town into the vineyards, still and shimmering in the end-of-day heat. Marriage so far has vacillated on a spectrum with love thick and heavy on one end and pure, momentarily-blinding exasperation on the other. But thankfully, the meter swings more towards the former than the latter, and that night in Rüdesheim I felt out of my mind with adoration. We stumbled upon a heavy-laden cherry tree in the middle of a field, which immediately halted our conversation as we began the hunt for plump, crimson rubies. We ate Chinese takeout on a bench, perhaps the youngest couple in a town full of elderly tour groups; two of the four prongs of Jacob’s plastic fork broke much to our amusement; he told me in the most tender way possible that he was glad to have ended up with me. How to capture the feelings of that pink-tinged 10pm sunset in the vineyards, with his hand holding mine tight? I’m starting to realize that love cannot exist without pain.

To the ends of the earth: our wedding

To listen while you read

Where to start on the story of one of the biggest, most important days of our lives? January 14th was nearly two and a half months ago, simultaneously yesterday and a lifetime ago. How to describe, let alone process, a day so exhilarating, romantic, overwhelming, exhausting, joyful, sad, sacred, and incandescently wonderful? The day was such an intense high, but as incredible as it was, marriage is so much better. We truly had the wedding of our dreams, though, and it was important to me to chronicle it before the memories start to fade.

We gave ourselves one day shy of six months to plan our wedding. Coming from someone who wasn't the biggest fan of wedding planning, our engagement ended up being the perfect amount of time--long enough to have some breathers, but short enough that we couldn't allow decisions to grow into monsters. When we got engaged, we knew two things fairly quickly: one, we wanted a taco bar, and two, we wanted our wedding to be an intimate, cozy, relaxed weekend hangout with our absolute closest friends and family.

Our first requirement was satisfied when we had a taco bar at our rehearsal dinner, and the second was fulfilled by renting out The Silverpick Lodge for a weekend. The lodge was so spacious and cozy and perfectly matched our vision. All of our guests stayed on the premises for the whole weekend, and since many of our family and friends don't live in Colorado, it was extra special to have our nearest and dearest close by for longer than just the ceremony and reception.

Many people advised us to stay true to ourselves when planning our wedding, so we listened and threw many traditions to the wind. We forewent things like having a bridal party (wonderful, but too much hassle for a small wedding), a first dance (too awkward), cake (we like pies and cheesecakes better), a garter/bouquet toss (too uncomfortable). Pinterest wasn't used for inspiration and I swore off from all wedding blogs and magazines. In the midst of a world where a wedding industry exists, it was really freeing and refreshing to incorporate only the elements we wanted, instead of being pressured into silly traditions the industry says couples "should" do. I was especially thankful that both Jacob's and my families were so generous and open-minded to our non-conforming ways (especially since both of us were the first kids in the families to get married). Planning the wedding was still a lot of work, but it was bearable once we realized that there wasn't much we had to do.

In the days leading up to the wedding, it snowed and snowed and snowed in the mountains. Two days before the wedding, I began to get really anxious as friends texted me their concerns about the weather and questioned their travel plans. But thankfully, even despite the massive amounts of snow, everyone made it to the lodge safely. On that Friday night, worlds collided in the most wonderful way as everyone gathered in the lodge basement to eat tacos and meet each other...and I no longer had to have near-panic attacks about no one showing up to our wedding. ;)

The hours that followed were so magical and bittersweet and surreal. Here, sixty people who traveled all this way to watch us--us! Jacob and Carlotta!--promise our lives to each other. Here, a warm respite of pure love in the midst of the mountains of snow. Here, the ending of our single lives and the beginning of our lives as one. One of my biggest fears was that I'd be stressed and unable to enjoy any of the wedding festivities, but the Lord was kind to me, and I was more relaxed and in-the-moment that I ever thought possible. I was bracing myself for something to go horribly wrong, but somehow there was...nothing (I am forever indebted to our sweet, sweet friends and family that worked so hard to make everything run smoothly). When we weren't getting ready for the wedding, we soaked in hot tubs buried in snow, steamed in the saunas, played games, went sledding/skiing, ate without end, and reveled in each other's company. Then and now, the thing that stands out most is the incredible amount of love present that weekend. Magical is truly the only word to describe it all.

On the morning of the wedding, we woke up to a thick, fresh foot of snow, making everything extra fresh and radiant. Jacob and I ate breakfast together with our friends...and then we got ready for the rest of our lives.

Have a look into the day. *

*All of these photos are by my sweet friend Lydiah, whose praises I cannot sing highly enough (check out her post of our day). Her presence made our perfect weekend even better, and she could not have done a more beautiful job capturing the feel of our day. If you need a kind, chill, professional, above-and-beyond, and freakin' gorgeous photographer for your wedding, look no further. 

I made my bouquet the day before with the help of Jacob's mom and sister, and it was one of the most peaceful moments of the whole weekend.

After getting my hair and makeup done, I really got into bride mode by showing my sister and a few of my friends stupid youtube videos.

After getting my hair and makeup done, I really got into bride mode by showing my sister and a few of my friends stupid youtube videos.

Everything started to feel so real when I slipped into the dress that my mama MADE for me. Dress shopping was a nightmare, so we took matters into our own hands...and I'm so glad we did. It was the most comfortable dress with a simplicity and timelessness I know I won't regret.

In the morning, so many of my gal pals crowded into my friend Ellie's room, where I got ready. These girls were my unofficial bridal party and it was the most special time to share with them. I especially appreciated my friend Rachel making sure we were lint-free the entire day (I highly recommend her services).

In the morning, so many of my gal pals crowded into my friend Ellie's room, where I got ready. These girls were my unofficial bridal party and it was the most special time to share with them. I especially appreciated my friend Rachel making sure we were lint-free the entire day (I highly recommend her services).

My fidgety hands right before seeing Jacob are a tell-tale sign of the only time I got really nervous.

My fidgety hands right before seeing Jacob are a tell-tale sign of the only time I got really nervous.

Meanwhile, Jacob denied any sign of nerves and looked (looks) dang good.

Meanwhile, Jacob denied any sign of nerves and looked (looks) dang good.

The moment my nerves went away instantly. I still get butterflies remembering this moment.

Home.

We slipped outside for a few portraits before the insanity began, and I'm so glad we did. I was, rather selfishly, afraid that I'd be/look cold, but I suppose adrenaline and Jacob's velvet coat prevailed, because I wasn't the slightest bit chilly.

We slipped outside for a few portraits before the insanity began, and I'm so glad we did. I was, rather selfishly, afraid that I'd be/look cold, but I suppose adrenaline and Jacob's velvet coat prevailed, because I wasn't the slightest bit chilly.

All my siblings, in one place. I love them so much I can hardly stand it.

All my siblings, in one place. I love them so much I can hardly stand it.

After family portraits and a bit of downtime, I realized the ceremony was a few short minutes away and I had yet to put on my veil. Ellie and I found a quiet spot with a full-length mirror and she fastened on my veil for me. One of the most unplanned, sweetest moments in our friendship, to be sure. 

After family portraits and a bit of downtime, I realized the ceremony was a few short minutes away and I had yet to put on my veil. Ellie and I found a quiet spot with a full-length mirror and she fastened on my veil for me. One of the most unplanned, sweetest moments in our friendship, to be sure. 

Just like my dress, veil, and wrap, the ceremony decoration was all my mom's genius. She made the garland out of laurel from her own backyard and created a backdrop even more beautiful than I'd envisioned. Just before the ceremony, a kind soul built the coziest fire in the fireplace.

Just like my dress, veil, and wrap, the ceremony decoration was all my mom's genius. She made the garland out of laurel from her own backyard and created a backdrop even more beautiful than I'd envisioned. Just before the ceremony, a kind soul built the coziest fire in the fireplace.

My favorite flower girl in the entire world, and also our only attendant. She cared more about her binkie, but I suppose that's to be expected when you're only sixteen months old and already under so much pressure.

Heart flutters.

Heart flutters.

I walked down the aisle with my dad to January Wedding by The Avett Brothers. I've known and loved the song since I was fourteen, and it was so fitting, poignant, and tear-jerking to have it play on my wedding day.

I walked down the aisle with my dad to January Wedding by The Avett Brothers. I've known and loved the song since I was fourteen, and it was so fitting, poignant, and tear-jerking to have it play on my wedding day.

Trying to hold back the tears...and also trying not to trip.

Trying to hold back the tears...and also trying not to trip.

My sweet parents on the left, and my sweet second parents on the right. They are the reasons our wedding was so perfect.

I love looking at the pictures Lydiah took of everyone at the ceremony--I had such tunnel vision the entire time, I had almost no idea where anyone was sitting or how they looked. It is the sweetest gift to have these photos now.

I love looking at the pictures Lydiah took of everyone at the ceremony--I had such tunnel vision the entire time, I had almost no idea where anyone was sitting or how they looked. It is the sweetest gift to have these photos now.

Everything about the ceremony was so vivid at the time, I thought I couldn't possibly forget any of it...but it's already all a blur.

Everything about the ceremony was so vivid at the time, I thought I couldn't possibly forget any of it...but it's already all a blur.

Saying our vows were some of the longest, most intense seconds of my life. We chose to rely on the liturgy rather than write our own vows, and in the moment I was so glad--I didn't know how couples could manage to say, let alone write, their vows without breaking down!

Saying our vows were some of the longest, most intense seconds of my life. We chose to rely on the liturgy rather than write our own vows, and in the moment I was so glad--I didn't know how couples could manage to say, let alone write, their vows without breaking down!

Towards the end of the ceremony, we had communion for the first time as husband and wife to the most beautiful song by Sufjan Stevens.

Towards the end of the ceremony, we had communion for the first time as husband and wife to the most beautiful song by Sufjan Stevens.

I honestly didn't remember the kiss, being pronounced husband and wife, and walking back down the aisle to Ends of the Earth by Lord Huron--all such a happy, exhilarating blur!

Signing the marriage license with my dad in newlywed bliss. 

Signing the marriage license with my dad in newlywed bliss. 

After so many group pictures indoors, we slipped outside...for more pictures ;) it was such a nice, quiet moment to catch our breath after the most intense 45 minutes.

After so many group pictures indoors, we slipped outside...for more pictures ;) it was such a nice, quiet moment to catch our breath after the most intense 45 minutes.

There are no words for how much I love these portraits; I will cherish them forever.

There are no words for how much I love these portraits; I will cherish them forever.

While I was busy getting primped in the morning, everyone else was busy getting this magic set up. I had my heart set on having long family-style tables and sketched out many layout ideas on graph paper (1 graph paper square per square foot, baby). I didn't know whether they could swing it (I'm sure I wasn't the restaurant staff's favorite)...but they did, and I am forever grateful to the Sow's Ear.

While I was busy getting primped in the morning, everyone else was busy getting this magic set up. I had my heart set on having long family-style tables and sketched out many layout ideas on graph paper (1 graph paper square per square foot, baby). I didn't know whether they could swing it (I'm sure I wasn't the restaurant staff's favorite)...but they did, and I am forever grateful to the Sow's Ear.

I designed and printed our menus a few weeks before, and all the greenery was foraged. Friends and Jacob's mom supplied the candles and lights, and it was the most simple, beautiful arrangement.

View of the alpine glow from the reception.

View of the alpine glow from the reception.

After the most amazing appetizers in the bar, there was salad, prosciutto-wrapped fontina stuffed chicken breast in sage white wine cream, roasted fingerling potatoes, and braised kale...! 

My dad started off the toasts overjoyed to have another son (you know, to balance out his five daughters).

My dad started off the toasts overjoyed to have another son (you know, to balance out his five daughters).

I managed to keep the tears mostly at bay until Jacob's sister, Gretta, gave her toast...

...and it was all downhill from there. (But in the sweetest way.)

So so so much love.

My youngest sister Lilly said that she wanted to give a toast, but started crying, so she just stood up and yelled "congrats!" instead. My heart.

My youngest sister Lilly said that she wanted to give a toast, but started crying, so she just stood up and yelled "congrats!" instead. My heart.

For dessert, six different kinds of pies and cheesecakes. I hear the leftovers were eaten for breakfast the next morning. We also had a instax guest book; I was on the fence about even having a guest book, but I'm so glad we have a photograph of everyone that was there. With the leftover film, a few friends snapped candids of the reception, and I'm thrilled to have those memories captured.

We had our good friend Jay dj the reception and he did a phenomenal job. Jacob and I were pretty picky about the type of music we wanted played (no stereotypical wedding mix) and Jay went above and beyond. It was incredibly fun to be out on the dance floor with my brand new husband and people I love so much. 

Since Jacob and I didn't do a first dance, I thought the dancing might be slow to get started, but the dance floor went from empty to packed within the first song, and lasted until we left to go home.

Since Jacob and I didn't do a first dance, I thought the dancing might be slow to get started, but the dance floor went from empty to packed within the first song, and lasted until we left to go home.

Lilly was the star of the show. I have never seen anyone dance so hard in my life.

Lilly was the star of the show. I have never seen anyone dance so hard in my life.

One of my favorite, most vivid memories of the reception is when Jay played Empire State of Mind and it seemed like everyone was groovin' and singing at the top of their lungs (or maybe that was just me...?).

One of my favorite, most vivid memories of the reception is when Jay played Empire State of Mind and it seemed like everyone was groovin' and singing at the top of their lungs (or maybe that was just me...?).

I love that all our friends got to know and have fun with each other. One of the sweetest feelings.

I love that all our friends got to know and have fun with each other. One of the sweetest feelings.

And at the end, he and I went home...together.

And at the end, he and I went home...together.