Category Archives: Mark

Wedding Advice: Planning Marriage

In a new installment on The Daily Batch I will share wedding advice, tips, creative ideas and answers to some of the more difficult wedding questions that the magazines “gloss over”.  If there is an issue you want me to tackle, tell me in the comments!

You’ve planned every element of the big day, and now it’s time to plan the marriage, and prepare for what happens after “I do”.

Together Mark and I planned our wedding, he was the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and I was the CCO (Chief Creative Officer).  Together we also planned our marriage.

Prior to getting married, or even engaged, we discussed our finances, our careers, our ambitions, our faiths, our practices, our families of origin and the family we would create together, where we would live, what holidays we would celebrate and how… we planned our life. We poetically wrote those plans into our ketubah, and on our wedding day we shared sweetly simple vows from our officiant, Cantor Debbi Ballard.

Less than 9 months after we said “I do” we got our first test to vows.  On Wednesday, September 15, 2010, two days after returning from India, Mark woke up at 7am blind in one eye.  To contextualize this, he has always had weak vision in his left eye and has never relied on it, so the blindness in his right eye left him completely without vision.

Together we managed to get to the emergency room. My adrenaline and his memory of Northern Virginia is the only way we made it there.  And so began a series of questions, blood tests, and CAT Scans, when those proved inconclusive we were sent off to an eye specialist.

When that visit also proved inconclusive, we were sent back to the emergency room, with the early diagnosis of optic neuritis, the inflammation of the optic nerve, which typically has an 86% recovery rate.

The first 24 hours of any drama are the worst, because in those hours, you have no answers and only questions.  The questions come from doctors, nurses, and interns, they come from very helpful and supportive family and friends, but the loudest and scariest questions are the ones you ask yourself.

They are practical and short term: What is happening? What is the treatment?  What is the recovery?

And they are long term: Will he be able to drive, work, surf, snowboard again?  Will he ever see me again? Will he see the faces of our future children?

For the next five days we made Mark’s small hospital room at the end of the hall our home away from home.  We had visitors, homemade foods and snacks, take out from a favorite restaurant, flowers audio books, and cheerful texts, phone calls and emails.

Everyday there would be new tests, visits from a vampire between 3-4am to collect blood, scans, and visits from doctors and nurses with giant flashlights and the question, “Can you see me now?”  The answer was always “no”.

Together we were realizing the meaning of the vows, “in sickness and in health”.  When Mark and I first started dating we called ourselves “Team MC,” and in those days in the hospital, and as Mark’s vision in his left-eye strengthened, and the 8 months of doctor visits, trips to Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Mayo Clinic, that followed, our being a team and partners is what got us through.

His resilience, my perseverance. 
His calm, my questions. 
His steadiness, my ability to cry in the other room – we made the room a no cry zone.

Mark’s right eye did not recover as originally projected.  A year later the cause of this is still unknown and is somewhat of a medical fluke.  The right eye that was completely dark, now filters in some light and shadows.  His left eye has grown stronger, and he works, drives, surfs, runs, does yoga and lives his life like nothing ever happened.

This morning when I told Mark I wanted to write about the past year and what happened he said to me “make sure you write about the fun stuff…”

That is the essence of Mark, he is the most fiercely determined person I know, his energy knows no limits, and he finds the beauty, strength and purpose in every moment.

On the first night in the hospital we stepped away from his room and went outside.  It was still and quiet, and calm.  The moon was bright and high over our heads and Mark couldn’t see it.  And in that moment he recounted how everything was going so right in our world; careers, our new marriage, and exciting opportunities and until this.  It’s the only time Mark ever complained.

Reflecting back on this part of the past year sometimes gives me a lump in my throat.  However, it is an ongoing reminder that we can plan our marriages, and our lives, down to the second, but things will always happen and when they do the timing is never right.  There is no time to waste before beginning the next great challenge or adventure.  The way you overcome the surprises or struggles in life is not by planning for them but finding the right people to overcome them with.



This week has been very busy for us  and on the East Coast, very gray, dreary and wet.

The solitude that comes with the rain welcomes the opportunity for reflection, perspective and very often gratitude.

I hope you’ll take time between your everyday activities to find gratitude for the many wonderful things we have in this universe.

Whether you find it by the ocean

In wide open spaces

In the thrill of adventure

In the company of family and friends

Or with the one you love.

Wishing you a peaceful, relaxing and wonderful weekend.

More fashion, decorating and recipes next week!

Wedding Advice: To See or Not to See

In a new weekly installment on The Daily Batch I will share wedding advice, tips, creative ideas and answers to your most difficult wedding questions based on the issues and questions I am asked about in real life. If there is an issue you want me to tackle, tell me in the comments!

You’ve lived together for two years, you’ve seen each other through everything, but you can’t quite decide if you should see each other before walking down the aisle.

Question 1: My fiance and I can’t decide whether to see each other before we get married.  My photographer suggests that we do, but I am just not sure…  I’m not really superstitious about it being bad luck, but I just wonder if it takes some of the specialness away from the moment when I walk down the aisle… – Mr. and Mrs. Surprise Love

Answer:  Today, I am fully supportive of the first look, and I admit I did not always feel that way.  When I first heard of this concept, I thought it might be a little too cheesy (even for me), or that it wasn’t quite so magical as it appeared in photos.  I was wrong. (8/10/2011 – 9:45am)

Early on, when we started planning our photography with the amazing photography wife-husband duo of  Ashley and Philip at 1313, we planned to have a first look session primarily for practicality:

  • I was pushing our ceremony until as late as possible, but before sunset – that’s about 5:58pm – leaving little time for well-lit photos after the “I-do’s”
  • We wanted to have a consistent flow from ceremony, to cocktail hour, to reception
  • The majority of our guests had traveled from out of town and we didn’t want to miss out on spending any time with while they were partying, and we were take pictures

Like most practical wedding decisions, eventually emotion crept in.

I spent the day with my mother, sister, friends and family getting ready at one hotel.  A block away, Mark was with his friends also getting ready.  Ashley and Philip arrived to take my “getting ready” photos, and then they left to take Mark’s.

Then Ashley and Philip coordinated my arrival to Mark’s hotel, via limousine, to find Mark for our first look.

He was standing at the middle of a courtyard, by himself, with his back towards me.  It seemed as if time stood still.  I didn’t hear anyone, or see anyone.

First Look: 1313 Photography

I was walking, and walking and walking…

First Look: 1313 Photography

And then, I arrived.

First Look: 1313 Photography

I touched his shoulder, he turned around, and then it was all shock and awe(some)…

First Look: 1313 Photography

What was the most special about the first look moment for me, was that as soon as it happened it became “our wedding day”.  The planning was over.  The license was signed.  We were going to be moving forward from that moment, through the rest of the day, and our lives as partners, as a team and as husband and wife.

That may seem like a lot to capture in a photograph, but that’s how I feel.  That look in our faces is as much of “I can’t believe today is the day” as it is “I can’t believe how lucky I am.”

In the planning of a wedding there are lots of opportunities to lose sight of each other, the intimacy of moments, and the magnitude of the marriage versus the wedding.  By securing those first few moments, just for us, without our friends and family I feel like we were able to connect, release any lingering stomach butterflies, and smile like husband and wife.

Also, to calm any fears that this moment, the first look, lessens the significance of the second “first look” your partner has when they see you walk down the aisle, I will say that’s simply not the case.   When you walk down the aisle it is music, theatrics, flowers, families, flash bulbs, and ironically, you won’t hear a beat, see a face you recognize, again you will only see the face at the end of the aisle.

Do you agree or disagree with this advice? Let me know. And, if there a wedding related issue you want advice on or just some tips – leave a note in the comments.

Yoga that Starts with a Hug

Prior to planning our trip to California I decided we had to visit San Luis Obispo (SLO) – it had been featured on an Oprah episode as the Happiest Place on Earth.  I expected a small town with a farmer’s market, local food, organic food and genuinely nice people.  We found all of those things and more.

The week before we left for California I learned that our favorite yogi and blissologist*, Eoin Finn, would be offering a workshop in San Luis Obispo.   Knowing that this was a road trip, we signed up for the Friday evening class with the plan to roll out on Saturday morning.  By the end of Friday’s class we were hooked and also signed up for the two classes on Saturday.

Me, Eoin and Mark - ready for blissology

This past year we, but Mark especially, really moved forward in the practice of yoga.  At a time when our lives were experiencing a lot of transition; new work, new house, new challenges and triumphs it became abundantly important to find a center ground.  We found that in the practice of yoga.  We typically practice in our living room and always with a Blissology disc led by Eoin and featuring his wife, Insiya.

The workshop took place at m.Body a yoga studio in SLO.  The studio was fantastic, free of mirrors, filled with light and energized by the positive intention of their owners Peter and Tawny Sterios.  If you’re able to “zen-out”  you can do it just about anywhere, but doing it in this space with their garden in view and with some very genuinely awesome people elevated the experience to something really special.

Studio at m.Body in SLO

It is very difficult to explain, even for me, the magnitude of those two days of yoga.  It is very much a you had to have been there to understand it. But I will try…

Yoga started with a hug.

In a room of mostly strangers we hugged each other.  I will admit it was sort of that half-hearted, one armed hug, where you’re not totally comfortable but you do it anyway.

Then for the next two days we bent forward and back, leaned on each other, stumbled, fell, helped each other back up, literally practiced the idea of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”.

We talked about philosophy and diet,  our physical, mental and emotional limitations.  We talked about family, and love and priorities.  And then it ended.

And then we hugged again.  But this time, with real warmth, two arms wrapped tightly around friends who were strangers.  With wishes of support, for their progress, their ability to accomplish their goals.


* Blissology (TM) (blis-ol-uh-jee) – noun; the art of consciously finding the balance between one’s personal desires and our impact on the web of life.  It is not just a brand but a way of being.  It is a path of interconnectedness and love.

[Origin: 1990 a.d. ; Various conversations with Eoin and his good friends over tasty merlot]

Many, many thanks to Peter and Tawny and Eoin, Insiya and Ananda for being so welcoming and illustrating why even tourists find SLO to be the happiest place on Earth.

A New Sunrise

Two years ago this morning Mark and I got into a  white Jeep Wrangler and set out to drive to the top of Maui’s most majestic mountain, Mt. Haleakala.  At 10,000 feet it seems to kiss the sun good morning and goodnight and is a must do for anyone traveling to Maui.  When we were there it was so cold and sleeting, so we stayed bundled in the car. 

And, then we got engaged.  In a space that seems as wide open as the universe, it was a magical place to begin a life together that offers as many opportunities as the universe.

This video shares a bit of that Aloha spirit and the beauty of Hawaii.

In Maui it is not uncommon for people to skip the wild celebrations of New Year’s Eve and instead head to bed early in an effort to beat the sunrise on top of Mt. Haleakala.  

It is powerful concept to start the year off on top of the world.

I hope you have an amazing view today, too!

Something to Think About

A few months ago BrideTide tweeted on a Saturday morning, “Someone, somewhere is getting married today.”  It has stuck with me ever since.  

Obviously someone, somewhere is getting married all hours of the day and everyday of the week (Hello, Vegas!) but generally speaking in the United States wedding day is a Saturday.  Not too long ago I drove past a beautiful old church just as the bride and her bridesmaids got out of the car and began to climb up the steps.  
I was overjoyed. I didn’t know that bride, I had never been inside of that church, but I truly felt so excited for her and them.  I mentioned that tweet from many months ago in an effort to get everyone to share my joy.  Mark nodded along, and then my sister pointed out other major life things happen all the time too: people die and babies are born.

That is true.  Check for the little sister.

Here’s is how I explained it is different.  Marriage is a birth of a new chapter for two people.  In some ways it is the death of their single lifestyles.  But, more than that, marriage (not the wedding) is an active choice.  It is the moment of “I choose you and I choose to go through life by your side.  Literally, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer – when you look around, that’s me, right by your side.” 
That moment that I caught that bride in, the excitement with girlfriends before the ceremony, the dress shopping, the registry, the ring, the proposal, that is nothing compared to that moment when you make the choice.  Getting married is not being married.  Being married is all that much better.

Check mate for the big sister.

Halloween is Full of Surprises

Four Years Ago Today I met Mark.  Let me tell you how we got there.

In high school my fall midterms always conveniently fell right on Halloween, so my teenage Halloweens were spent at the dining table in my parent’s house with text books and loose leaf paper.  
Then I went to college.

I was very lucky to be matched (fate has a weird way of finding you the right roommates) with girls who would plan, and seek out the most perfect Halloween/Holiday/Tuesday night.  Freshman year we were all still getting our footing and typically went out in a pack of 8+ girls, so the costumes were a bit “home sewn” as Tim Gunn might say.  That year I was a flapper, with a top from Loehmann’s, a skirt borrowed from a girl on dorm floor, and a boa that I was magnetically pulled towards.

Sophomore year I was home for a wedding, no costume, but a great dress none the less.

Junior year.  This is is where it really begins.  There were just the four of us (Jaci, Cara, Liz) and we decided we’d make more impact together than we would apart.  We all had our own motives for a Halloween costume; and I won’t out anyone else, but I personally set out to look cute in a costume, the scary and funny is not for me.

We bought this:
Ghostbuster Costume via Dressy Costumes
We made this: 
You can’t tell but those jumpsuits were taken apart, taken in, and hemmed into very chic Halloween Couture dresses.

It’s Senior Year.  Time to go out strong.  We all four live together for the first time.  We have become more than just roommates and friends, we became a troupe.
A troupe with a friend who is a Disco Alien
We went out for a bar crawl starting at Ozio, a bar I had never been to before and have only since been back during my bachelorette party).
And that’s where I met Mark.  I was with my best friends, in costume, in a bar that I would never normally go to.  He was with his best friend, in costume, in a bar that he had never been to before. I think looking back we were both a bit anti-Halloween that year.  I definitely put up a fight on the costume, and the plans.  But, again, fate has a funny way of making the right matches.

I asked him what he was supposed to be.  (He looked like Tony Montana (Scarface) but was actually dressed as Pablo Eskobar, if you do a little research you’ll see the costume is fairly universal.)  He asked me if I was dressed as Winnie Cooper (Wonder Years).  
I told him I was a “rock star” – and that was the “hook”.   He left his friends and joined our party and that night we changed numbers, shared dances and shared a kiss.

Since then we have dressed up as the Dukes of Hazzard and Olympians, (last year we were in South Beach for wedding planning).

I am lucky for friends who pushed me to embrace the night, and I am very lucky for a partner, best friend and husband who pushes me to embrace everything in life.

I hope your Halloween provides as many treats as mine did, and continues to do.

Happy Halloween and Happy Anniversary to my Husband, I love you.

Leaving Virginia

As I have mentioned in previous posts, this previous weekend we moved from Virginia to DC. I think no matter the reason or the location, moving is always a triple punch: emotional, exhausting and exciting.

I am so excited to be back in DC, but will definitely miss Virginia – more on that in a very soon to be released post. I came to the DC metro area for the allure of big city DC and for college at American University. I met some of my closest friends. I found a major. I grew up. I found my husband and best friend in DC. We fell in love in Virginia.

As I was packing up and getting wistful Meet Virginia by Train kept looping through my brain. I loved this song when it came out. I think the line about “she wears high heels when she exercises,” really resonated with me. It certainly wasn’t the coffee or cigarettes.

Anyway, if you haven’t yet, you really ought to meet Virginia.