Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: The Overwhelmed Bride

Sometimes I get social media fatigue. It's hard to describe, but I can usually tell it's coming on when the sight of a perfectly aligned gallery wall, spotless kitchen, or beautifully filtered pile of donuts on my Instagram feed makes me want to throw my phone against the wall. Don't get me wrong...I like pretty things and appreciate aesthetics, and I've been known to get just as caught up in a gorgeously curated feed as the next girl. But sometimes I have dirty dishes in my sink, and I'm two loads behind on laundry, and I have nothing clever to tweet, and I just want what's real. 

Which is why I am so beyond excited to report that The Overwhelmed Bride is real. The Instagram feed, the blog, and the book as well. You know why? Because Jenn Hallak, the instagrammer/blogger/author behind The Overwhelmed Bride, says things like this:

"What is the ultimate purpose of a wedding? To throw the most extravagant party for your friends and family? Or to display your commitment of marriage to each other in front of those who are closest to you and then celebrate this huge step in your life together? I'm pretty sure you know the answer to this question, but if not, it's the latter." (15) 


PS: Jenn and I connected and planned a book swap via social media, which is the kind of thing that keeps me logging in to all of these accounts again and again. People + relationships + community + support. Those things matter, whether they happen virtually or in the "real" world!


the overwhelmed bride totally deserves a spot on your nightstand

I think Jenn and I might be soul sisters, and I'm pretty sure I said that out loud like three times while reading her book. When I got to the planning timeline page 30 of her book, it all made sense. 
"My husband and I got married six months after we got engaged, so clearly, our timeline was a bit altered."
She was a Hitched in a Hurry bride. And while her book isn't specifically addressed to those planning in six months or less, her advice is just as relevant for brides planning in two years as it is for gals sprinting toward the aisle in two weeks.

In three words, The Overwhelmed Bride is:

1. Honest—Expect direct talk about venue visits and hidden fees (49), vendor selection (36), guest list organization (45), mama drama (23), and dealing with divorced parents on the day of the wedding (26) just to name a few.

2. Informative—Especially when it comes to establishing and maintaining a budget! Jenn's expertise as a wedding coordinator really shines when she's talking about finances. See page 38 for proof—the "Budget Breakdown" section contains an itemized list of ceremony and reception elements with suggestions about how to best distribute your dollars between each category. SO helpful.

3. Wedding Planning 101—Okay, that's not one word. But I still think it's a great way to describe The Overwhelmed Bride. At 90 pages, Jenn's book is compact and easy to read in just one sitting, ensuring that your head won't be pounding with a TMI headache afterward. It gives you all the essential information you need without any added fluff—because really, you already know the style of gown that looks best on your body, and you don't need to review a history of six different kinds of forks (and when and how they should be used). You DO, however, need to know where each member of your wedding party should stand during your ceremony (81), what items should be a part of your Wedding Day Survival Kit (86), and how to officially change your name after the party's over (88).

While Jenn's advice about budgeting, creating a photographer shot list, deciding on a cash vs. hosted bar, and other planning topics was fantastic, my favorite section of The Overwhelmed Bride came right at the very beginning.
"We live in a society that no longer values one single marriage. We all value weddings, but clearly there is not enough emphasis put on the marriage part. Yes, we all want our beautiful Pinterest weddings, but is this what really matters?" (16)
I'll say it again. PREACH. This is so right on, but the passage doesn't end there. Jenn goes on to challenge her readers to participate in 365 Days of Love, which involves creating a list of 365 things you love about your future spouse—one for each day of the year. Because, "If you can find 365 things you love about your spouse, then there is no reason to ever question if you should be together." (17)

I can't wait to take on this challenge in my own marriage—in fact, I'm planning on beginning my list in November, the month of thankfulness! I loved Jenn's suggestions for "distributing" the list items, too: Gifting my husband with a box full of the reasons why I love him, communicating each item one by one each morning (great if your guy's love language is Words of Affirmation), texting him one reason each day, or typing up the complete list and presenting it to him on a special occasion.

Finally, I'll leave you with this—a passage from The Overwhelmed Bride that completely resonates with the heartbeat of Hitched in a Hurry (and my hope for all of the future brides-to-be that come into contact with either of our books):
Just remember, the odds of something going wrong on your wedding day are actually very high. But don't let this scare you the end, you are marrying the man of your dreams, so who cares what went wrong! All of the little things, and even large things, are absolutely not the end of the world. No matter what happens, just know that you were as prepared as possible and that at the end of the day, your lifelong commitment to each other has been made and you are going to have a celebration you will never forget." (86)
If you're interested in purchasing a copy of The Overwhelmed Bride, click here. To read Jenn's review of Hitched in a Hurry, click here! 


Happy Wedding Wednesday, y'all!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Following His Lead

So, we went to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria. I’ve been meaning to write about our trip for at least a week, but then we got caught up in this little thing called packing-up-our-belongings-and-moving-across-the-country. We’ve been living out of suitcases (and backpacks) since moving out of our apartment in August, so it feels amazingly good to finally have everything in its place again. Or at least in a place. Organization is still in progress.

I have this back-burner dream of being a travel blogger that writes about fabulous locations and gives tips about how to expertly pack a backpack, book incredibly cheap-and-chic AirBnB stays, and discover hidden-gem restaurants and boutiques that only locals know about. For the moment, though, I’m going to skip all the Trip Advisor details and just talk about what really matters to me now that our first foray into backpacking has come and gone.

Pike Place Market, Seattle
Pike Place Market
original Starbucks, Seattle

I basically had no idea what was going on for the majority of our trip. I sketched a vague outline of a few things I’d like to see and do in each location, but beyond that, I was completely and entirely dependent on Taylor’s lead. He’s done substantial traveling, isn’t afraid of public transportation, and is 100% more comfortable (and attractive) wearing a backpack than me. It just made sense to turn everything over into his hands. So I did.

troll under the bridge, Seattle
space needle view

Taylor booked our airfare, our Amtrak seats, our ferry rides, and our clipper trip. Taylor bought our bus passes. He tracked each stop on Google Maps to make sure that we got off at the right location. He researched every city we visited and pre-planned day trips he knew I would enjoy. 

all scrubbed up and ready to tour Theo's Chocolate Factory in Seattle
samples galore
Granville Island, Vancouver
"enjoying" high tea at The Empress in Victoria
seal-spotting at Fisherman's Wharf, Victoria 

As for me? I didn’t know which way we were going, what method of transportation we were taking, which bus stop to wait at, or what activity we’d be doing when we arrived. I didn’t book, check in, check out, route, map, or tip. I just went. I just woke up in the morning, got dressed, did a few hours of work, and walked out the door with full confidence that good things were ahead. I trusted Taylor because he’s done this before. I trusted him because he knows me—what I like and what I don’t. I trusted him because he has my best in mind, he wants to provide for me, and he always keeps me safe no matter where we go. 

love at first sight

I was telling my mom all of these things when I saw Jesus. Not physically (I’d probably still be laid out somewhere on the side of the road), but spiritually, emotionally—with the eyes of my heart. It stopped me in my tracks, and I mean that literally, because we were in the middle of a walk around her neighborhood. If I can trust the details of so many unknowns to Taylor, how much more can I free fall into the arms of my Heavenly Father? If I can hand over the reigns of trip-planning to Taylor, how much more can I give over control of my life to my Savior? If I can follow Taylor no matter where he’s going, how much more can I walk in complete, blessed assurance no matter which direction my God and King is leading?

adventuring in Vancouver

I struggle with trusting the Lord for no good reason at all. He has provided for me in every season. He has loved me with an everlasting love. He has grasped me by the hand, pulled me out of a pit of confusion and anxiety and depression when no one else could reach me. He has comforted me, called me His own, given me the good gifts of a family who raised me to know Truth and a husband who points me to Him. And yet I fear. I grasp at control as if the future is something I can predict, hold, and manipulate. I resist giving it all up, giving it all away, and simply resting at His feet, choosing instead to lock my spine and tighten my shoulders and brace myself for continued battle with a thousand “what-if” questions that have nothing at all to do with my reality. 

city view, Vancouver

But I want to grow. I want to abide in peace. I want so badly to walk barefoot with Jesus with my hair blowing in the wind. So every dollar we spent on our trip to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria was worth it as this realization poured through me: I don’t have to know exactly where I’m going, how I’m going to get there, where to wait, or what to do. I don’t have to create an immovable five-year plan, make things happen on my own, set the pace, or plot my own course. I can just go. I can just be. I can just get up in the morning, get dressed, do a few hours of work, and walk out the door with full confidence that good things are ahead. I can trust my Father because He’s seen all of this before. He’s pre-determined every moment of my day. He knows me—what I need and what I don’t. He has my best in mind—my earthly sanctification and eternal salvation. He has provided for me, and will continue to do so no matter what unknowns are still to come on this journey. He always has and always will keep me safe, no matter where I go.  

. . .

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him…It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.” Psalm 18:30-33 (read the entire psalm here)

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children…” Psalm 103:13-17 (read the entire psalm here)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity…” Jeremiah 29:11-14 (read the entire passage here)

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

So you want to be a backpacker

Y'all, I'm a backpacker. It's not something I ever dreamed about, or pictured myself doing, or made space for on my non-existant bucket list. But it's happening anyway, and I'm really excited about it. Despite what my face looks like in the following picture.

attempting the impossible

Let me give you a little context here. I am a serial over-packer. Been doing it since way back when. Like, when I moved to Southern France to work as an au pair for three months, I took multiple suitcases...and my parents still had to ship boxes of my belongings across the ocean. I'm ashamed to admit that publicly, but there it is. Now that my confession has been made and the scene has been set, I hope everyone can fully appreciate the following photo.

fashion + function = love

I'm sitting in LAX and spying on potential celebs while on a three-hour layover to Seattle right now. My backpack is at my feet. It's carrying everything in the above photo. The content total:
  • 3 tanks
  • 2 basic tees (1 black, 1 white)
  • 4 sweaters (1 camel, 1 black/gray combo, 1 plum, 1 orange)
  • 1 raincoat (my first ever Patagonia purchase, and I feel super outdoorsy about it)
  • 1 pair of Timberland boots (see above description of my new backwoods credentials) 
  • 2 pairs of pants (1 black stretchy pair from Anthropologie, 1 pair of leggings-slash-jeans…leans?)
  • 3 tops
  • 1 leather jacket 
Considering my husband only packed three shirts to be worn in rotation throughout our 10-day work-cation, it looks like I still overpacked. But STILL. It all fits into this and it's really not THAT heavy, so I feel like I should get the backpacking world's equivalent of an Oscar.  

my osprey farpoint 40

Assuming you agree, I would like to thank the Academy for this honor, as well as my husband for carrying my laptop in his bag, as well as the extremely helpful travel blog Travel Fashion Girl. Had I not discovered Alex's blog, I would probably be wearing convertible zip-off pants right now along with a sign on my forehead that says TOURIST in all caps. Thankfully, her posts taught me that as long as the items I take are fold-able, breathable, and walk-for-long-distances-able, I don't actually need to buy "travel" gear. For instance, I learned that rayon/polyester blends work really well when it comes to pants. Hence the excuse for my new Anthropologie skinnies. 

at the airport, via @karleykiker on Instagram

Another thing I picked up from Alex's blog: the importance of packing cubes. Prior to our spur-of-the-moment, we-found-really-cheap-tickets trip to Seattle, I had never even heard of packing cubes. Now I wonder what I ever did without them. Remember all of those clothes I showed you earlier? This is what happened to them.

ebags packing cubes

And this is how it happened.

We're on the ground in Seattle now and already having adventures. We've ridden buses, checked into our Airbnb location, and watched the Seahawks game in a local pub. Our plan for the rest of our stay is that we have no definite plans other than working in the mornings and exploring in the afternoons. 

Other notes: Had you gone to my high school, you would know that I wore high heels and a blazer almost every day. Basically I was a 16-year-old who dressed like a sophisticated mom (and absolutely loved it). I like clothes. I like fashion. I like getting dressed up and looking cute. Which is probably why I got reactions like this when I mentioned our backpacking trip:

"Ten days with only a backpack? You're not even going to be able to fit all of your underwear in there!"
"Are you sleeping on the ground?"
"Are you sure you're ready for this?"

I know I didn't mention the underwear thing earlier, but for the record, all of my, um, essentials did fit into my backpack along with the other aforementioned items. We are not sleeping on the ground. It's important to note that when I say "backpacking," I mean that I'm literally carrying a backpack, not that I'm setting up a tent, wearing bug spray, and/or singing campfire songs. And finally, no, I'm not sure that I was ready for this. But we're doing it anyway, and I'm having so much fun with this new experience. And by so much fun, I mean I'm so glad I married a guy who actually knows what he's doing, and that I'm basically claiming his knowledge and confidence as my own and going with the flow.

If you're interested in following our journey, check back for additional blogs and follow us via hashtag on Twitter (@karleykiker) and Instagram (@karleykiker): #kikersenroute. 

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu
Karley with a K. Todos los derechos reservados. © Maira Gall.