Caleb's 25th

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This fall seems to have done everything it could to wear me down with long work weeks, cold weather and the never-ending head cold. But last weekend, I got to do two of my favorite things: adventure with Caleb and spoil him a little bit, too.

Caleb turned 25 last week, and we took the day off work to celebrate. After enjoying some incredible Bunk sandwiches, we headed to Wahclella Falls for a short hike.

It rained all week, but we lucked out and got a sunny day for our hike. Caleb discovered a little spot by the water, and we sat down to make some hot cocoa. 

I surprised him by stashing Tim Tams in our backpack. We bit off each end of the wafer cookies, sipped hot cocoa through them and then slammed them in our mouths just before they completely fell apart. If you haven't tried Tim Tam Slams before, you are seriously missing out.

Not trying to promote Jetboil, but seriously — there's nothing better than a hot drink on a cold hike.

When Caleb and I first got married, I remember talking about life timeline sorts of things, like when we wanted to buy our first house, get our first pet or have our first child. He said his goal was to buy a house while he was 25 — and get a dog as soon as we were settled in.

It's crazy to think that this could be that year.

Unfortunately, of the three selfies we took, this was the only non-blurry one. Caleb was so focused on making it work that he forgot to smile!

After our little hike, we met up with some friends for drinks, pizza and lemon poppyseed cake. I'm amazed by how much our friendships, careers, home and marriage have grown and changed this past year of Caleb's life. Who knows what this next year will hold!

What I learned from "Write 31 Days"

Just about every day during the month of October, I scarfed my lunch at my desk at work and then headed to the coffee shop across the street for my "break." In that 30, 45 or 60-minute period, I cranked out a blog post -- maybe even two -- drawing on my own experiences of engagement anxiety and wedding planning to advise other women in that stage of life.

I posted every day on the topic of "Preparing your heart for wedding + marriage" as part of the Write 31 Days challenge.

It was a good change of pace for me. And it was fun... at least, for the first 10 days or so. I eventually dragged myself across the finish line, writing my last post at 10 p.m. on October 31. 

While I don't think that anything I wrote during that month was particularly mind-blowing, I still learned a lot from taking part in the challenge. Here are a few reflections.

  1. It takes a painful amount of stubbornness to complete Write 31 Days. Going into this challenge, I knew it was an all-or-nothing sort of thing. You either post every day for 31 days, or you don't. As someone who hates quitting, this was dangerous for me, but it was also satisfying. I built blogging into my daily schedule and learned to enjoy it.
  2. Writing a list of post topics early on can save a ton of time. Before I started Write 31 Days, I wrote out a list of 31 potential blog titles to make sure I had enough material to fill a month of posts. This list turned out to be hugely helpful over the course of the challenge. In that past, I've sat down to blog only to discover I had nothing to say. The list helped me stick to my schedule and gave some boundaries to my writing. Each day when I pulled out my list and looked at the next topic, I thought, "okay, I can write about that."
  3. Blogging is not my "comfortable" writing style. As a journalist, I never share my opinion in writing. I never even offer advice or refer to the reader as "you." So adjusting to a blogging format felt way more awkward than I'd anticipated, because blogging -- at least the way I'm doing it -- is all about talking to the reader, sharing your heart and offering advice and opinions. Write 31 Days forced me to start adjusting to this style and forming my own writing voice. I'm still getting used to it.
  4. I had enough to say. When I initially heard about the Write 31 Days challenge, I couldn't imagine delving into one topic for an entire month. What if I run out of things to say on day 16? I wondered. But as I watched several of my close friends get married this summer and relived some of my own wedding experiences, I realized I had a lot to say -- and I wanted to get it all out before it faded from my memory. For me, the process of making my post list helped me realize that I could actually come up with 31 different things to say around my topic. And I've found that the more I blog, the more I think of topics I want to write about someday.
  5. Sometimes it doesn't matter if anyone's reading. I set out on this series with grand plans of sharing my posts on Pinterest and other social sites -- and then I discovered that just writing the posts took up all my break time at work. I didn't have time to manage social media on the side. Most days, looking at the page hits for this little site was just plain silly -- no one was reading my posts, mainly because no one knew about them. But even though this has bothered me in the past, I didn't care about it so much this time. I was writing to get these words off my chest and to prove to myself that I could complete this challenge. When my sister discovered the series about halfway through and showed it to one of her friends who's planning her own wedding, I realized that it's all worth it if even one of my posts helps just one person.
  6. It's easy to fall off the wagon. I'm wrapping this post up a full 23 days after my last Write 31 Days post. This past month I've been working hard to meet early deadlines at the paper, rearranging the furniture to make our little house more homey, scheming ways to spoil my husband on his birthday and making holiday plans. There has been little extra time for anything, and while I've thought about blogging between then and now, I haven't set aside the time. It was pretty shocking to realize how fast I could fall out of my blogging habit when I didn't make it a priority. But it also felt good to take a break -- after 31 days, I needed a bit of a blogging detox. 

Just have fun: Preparing your heart for wedding + marriage

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This post is part of a series entitled "Preparing your heart for wedding + marriage." The series will continue through the month of October as part of Write 31 Days.

Over the past month, we've talked through a lot of serious stuff on this blog.

We've covered doubt and engagement anxiety, family drama and planning woes. I've given you wedding-day-advice overload and probably shared way too many stories from my own day.

It's been so sweet for me to be able to turn some of my struggles into teachings for other brides, so that (hopefully) you won't struggle in all the same ways I did — and even if you do, you'll know you're not alone.

I hope reading some or all of these posts will bring you more peace and contentment as you move toward married life.

And at the end of it all, I really hope your wedding day is a blast. Whether it runs exactly to plan or turns out to be a beautiful mess, I hope it's a day that you'll look back on and smile about for dozens of reasons. There are so many things to be serious about on this day, but there are even more things to celebrate.

This is the launching point for your marriage, and it's probably one heck of a party — so have fun and run with it! 

Photo courtesy of Leah Banick Photography