Wedding wishes

As you might recall, Luffy and I went on a little trip recently. I think I mentioned it, once or twice. I think I also mentioned this previously, but we were there for our wedding anniversary. Our fifth one in fact. (Quick! Get us something wooden!)

Five years since we said I do.

It was a big year for us, really. I had started a new job just a few months before. We traveled abroad for the first time (together). We bought a house. We got married. We moved into said house. We had a small flood in said house. Fun stuff like that.

Anyway – fifth anniversary! Big thing!

One of the things that I set up for our wedding was a wedding wishes – er – thing. I collected five wine bottles (lol – like that was hard), cleaned them up and labeled them with 1, 5, 10, 15, and 25. The numbers represented a year and I provided our guests with sharpies and slips of paper. The idea was for them to write us a little wish or note and slip it into a bottle. The number on the bottle corresponded to the anniversary on which we would open the bottle. I’m sure this is by no means ground-breaking as far as Pinterest-worthy wedding ideas go, but I was pretty proud of myself. And it’s been fun! The one-year bottle was enjoyable but the five-year bottle was even more fun.

Luffy and I dug all of the scraps of paper out of the five-year bottle over the weekend. It was entertaining reading the notes. Some were applicable (I bet you’ll have at least one kid by this point!), some were a sweet surprise (the one from my paternal grandmother, who almost didn’t even get to come to the wedding). We got one with a piece of advice from a now divorced couple. We had one that was signed with a reminder as to who on earth this person was (the intern!). We had one that left Luffy and I scratching our heads as to who on earth this person was. But mostly, we read a lot of love from our friends and family, wishing us the best on our fifth anniversary.

I need to figure out what to do with the slips of paper. The ones from our one-year bottle are still sitting in a decorative bowl on our computer table. I put the fifth-year ones in a plastic bag and added them to the heap as well. However, I feel like these little wisps of paper are only going to get more precious as the years go by. I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like to read these little well-wishes from our friends in ANOTHER five years or ten years or twenty years. I want to figure out a way to display them or keep them, though it’s challenging because they’ve all been folded and twisted to get them into the bottles in the first place.

…. I know, I should probably go browse Pinterest for this rather than lamenting my woes to you guys. I’m off to go dig through ideas!


Back in the US of A

We’re back!

It’s a rainy Tuesday here, which I’ve taken off from work as well. Do you do that? I needed an extra day to decompress from my holiday. I had planned to spend the day unpacking, although our luggage didn’t make it from Boston to Dallas with us. I suppose if there was a leg for it to get lost, this was the best one.

Anyway, since I have the time, and it’s all fresh in my mind, I figured I’d jot down some of my favorite memories from the trip:

For our journey to Positano, we had three flights lined up: DFW to Boston, Boston to Dublin, and Dublin to Naples where we would meet up with our friends for a private transfer into Positano. We left for the airport around 8:00am that Friday morning and we arrived in Positano about 4:00pm, local time, Saturday. The downside of our itinerary is that we left for our “overnight” flight at 5pm DFW time and landed in Dublin at 11pm DFW time (4am in Dublin), which meant we were trying to force ourselves to sleep when we were (a) in a plane, which is always challenging under the best circumstances, and (b) when we were used to being awake anyway.

We landed in Dublin an hour earlier than scheduled, then proceeded to spend the next three hours waiting for our flight to Naples in what had to be the coldest indoor space I have EVER been in. The temperature in Dublin was about 47 degrees when we got there and I’m pretty sure the airport itself might have been ten degrees warmer than that. To top it off, we had to cross the actual tarmac to board the plane, in case I wasn’t cold enough at that point. Luckily, the weather in Naples was much warmer.

When the four of us arrived in Positano, we were all various degrees of jet-lagged, tired, hungry, and sick. Though our travelling partners were arriving from Switzerland, one of them was suffering from a head cold. Their flight had been delayed a bit into Naples as well. Then there was Luffy and me, who were valiantly trying to rally after 24+ hours of travel. My memory of the car ride into Positano is a bit hazy for me, as is the drop-off. However, I can very clearly remember walking down steps to get to our apartment, each step bringing us closer and closer to the ocean. When we finally arrived at our apartment, I think we were all absolutely flabbergasted to find our apartment literally ON the ocean. We couldn’t believe our luck in finding this gem of an apartment, plus our luck in getting assigned the closest apartment to the ocean (this particular property owner had probably five or six apartments in one tower/home). I’m so, so glad that we spent the majority of our vacation in this particular space. It had two balconies (since it was multiple levels), a spacious living room and adorable kitchen, as well as two bathrooms. It also happened to be literally 100 steps or so from the ferry port and the beach section of Positano. It was truly the perfect place to stay.

On our second day in Positano (the first day we visited Minori and Ravello, which I jot down primarily because Luffy and I struggle to recall what exactly we did when on our last trip to Italy five years ago), we decided to take a cooking class at a fantastic restaurant a few minutes outside of Positano. When we arrived, we discovered that the owners actually live alongside the restaurant, so the cooking class was held in their personal kitchen. It was quite the experience. We made stuffed cannelloni with handmade crepe-type shell, fresh gnocchi, eggplant parmesan, tiramisu, and a completely original dish that I’d liken to carbonara with zucchini. We started cooking about 10:30am, after devouring some tomatoes, eggs, and homemade cheese – all fresh from their farm – and got to eat all of it for lunch around noon. It was delicious and an incredible experience.

Our last full-day in Positano, we spent an amazing day on a private boat charter, cruising along the Amalfi coast and dinking a bubbly beverage or two. We actually had some bad weather, but chose to try to wait it out with a long-lunch at a restaurant accessible only by boat. There’s not much more to say about this, because it was an exceedingly lazy day, but it was glorious.

In a torrent of amazing foods and delicious meals in Positano, there is one dinner that stands high above the others: dinner at La Sponda. In the heart of Positano, there is an exceedingly, stupidly fancy hotel called Le Sirenuse. La Sponda is its Michelin-starred restaurant. We had no idea what to expect from this reservation that we had literally booked months before. We sat down and were immediately offered champagne. We weren’t given menus until after we received a first welcoming bite, leading us to wonder if we were even going to be deciding what we were going to eat or if it was more of a chef’s menu type thing. I decided on the lobster tonnarelli and I must say that I won the food war for the evening. It was amazing. Truly. Afterwards, we decided to share a chocolate tart for the table, then wound up with too much dessert (as if there’s such a thing) when our friends surprised us by telling the restaurant that we were celebrating our anniversary. They brought out a delicious mousse and cake confection. Then the restaurant brought out an adorable three-tiered, mini-dessert tray. As if that wasn’t enough, the restaurant sent the ladies home with a cute little box of a light, almondy cake. I had it for breakfast the next morning.

Rome was delightful, with most of the highlights being food. We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant Luffy and I had previously been to where the waiter decided to select courses for the table. We also ate some of the best gelato I’ve had and ate lunch at delicious place we’d gone to last time we visited Rome. We did a ton of walking, which helped with all of the aforementioned eating.

The last stop on our tour was, of course, the wedding in Dublin. And oh what a wedding (and venue!) it was. The wedding took place at Luttrellstown Castle. I admit to being a tad skeptical when the bride told us all it was at a castle. Like, oh sure, a castle. Ok. Then we showed up and it truly a castle. It was a beautiful wedding and the pictures (even the ones I took!) are gorgeous.

It was a very late night, followed by a very early morning and a very long day of travel, but we’re home now!

Buon giorno!

Hello from Rome!

Oh! Where to start? We’ve had an amazing week and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. I’m writing on my iPad right now, which hampers my flow more than I realized, so I won’t be telling you all about our week right now. Just thought I’d say hello.

We’re enjoying a quiet morning in Rome right now. Our friends left this morning to head back to the states, so it’s just Luffy and me. It’s actually our anniversary (5 years today!), though we’ve really been celebrating the entire week. Plus, I was beside myself with excitement and gave Luffy his anniversary present literally the day we arrived in Italy. You see, I am a horrible present giver, mostly because I get so excited by finding the perfect thing that I want to give it to the person immediately. I’ve had Luffy’s present since August, but I’ve been working on it since June. And I kept it a secret until we got to Italy. That’s got to be some kind of record for me.

[Complete aside, but I’m sitting by an open window in our AirBnB and I can hear the Backstreet Boys I Want It That Way drifting over the courtyard of our building. Nostalgic.]

Anyway, back to my gift… I stumbled across this website called LoveBooks. You go in and create your own book by creating the characters and then each page is a scene. It’s drawn in the stick-figure style, so it’s nothing intricate, but it’s fun and pretty incredible at what all you can create. I decided to tell the story of how Luffy and I met, since we both love to listen to that. It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

And that’s all I’ve got time for this morning folks, since it takes me a hundred hours to tip-tap-type on this stupid iPad. First world problems, ammirite????


A story for a very special Monday

On a hot and muggy Wednesday a little over four years ago, I sat down at a table in a small conference room of a Big 4 public accounting firm. It was my first day. There were dozens of newly minted auditors milling around, trying to form connections and bonds and not screw up our first day. We received laptops and email addresses, played dumb ice breaker games, and tried to remember all of the useful bits of information we were bombarded with. Wednesday through Friday we had a local orientation, where we were introduced to how our office worked. The next week, we were all headed down to Houston for national training.

On Friday, about midway through the morning, I received an email. It was a short email, something along the lines of “this is useful – share it with your class.” The sender had attached a spreadsheet filled with Excel shortcuts and commands. (I sent it to a couple of people I had tentatively made friends with, but was too shy to send it to the entire group.) I quickly found out that the sender was a Staff II on my first scheduled engagement (I had about four weeks of unscheduled time after training). I couldn’t pronounce his name, and showed it to my table mate because I was already freaked out that he had contacted me. She knew him, through college, and said he was a cool guy.

Over the next few weeks, I had a crash course in adulthood. I traveled by myself for training, which was fun but stressful and also required that I make dinner plans with these tentative friends (is it apparent by now that I really don’t make friends all that quickly???). I learned that working meant that I’d sometimes have to do things I didn’t want to do. (I vividly remember my first day after training, I was picked up by one of my future engagements to do some work at the office. They wanted me to scan in permanent files so they’d have electronic copies. I had hundreds of files checked out and when it came time to head home for the evening, my senior didn’t have anywhere for me to store them. He asked me to ask the mail room clerk if I could store the files there. This paralyzed me and for a solid 10 minutes I tried to think of a way I could get around imposing on a stranger like this before finally coming to the realization that I’d just have to do it. The clerk turned out to be a very nice and helpful man, and didn’t mind in the least.) I put down some roots by finding local exercise classes to teach and worked them into my already busy schedule (I taught at 5:30am!).

By mid-September, I was all set to head out to a new engagement. (I should pause and explain that as an auditor I rotated through teams and engagements as needed. Sometimes I worked with the same team for a few weeks, others I only worked with for a few days. During unscheduled time, I might get picked up by a random team that just needed an extra person for a week or so. For my regular clients, I had a recurring schedule.) It was a small team, just myself, the staff II who’d emailed me, and a senior. We were doing SOX work for a few days. The senior was nice, although a tad bit self-absorbed, and the other staff was very helpful. He patiently walked me through all of the work I was assigned and never seemed annoyed by my questions. I still wasn’t confident on the pronunciation of his name, so I avoided saying it. What struck me most about him, that first week, was how smart he was. He was easily the smartest person I had ever met. He basically made the senior obsolete (a fact which she thoroughly took advantage of as she left the bulk of the work to him) and was able to keep up discussion with the engagement partner on complex accounting matters. Not only was he brilliant, but he was also fast. He could flip through spreadsheets and assignments so quickly, even the senior had trouble keeping up.

I remember lamenting to my mom, how was I ever going to follow this guy? He was so smart and I was … not that smart. Don’t get me wrong! I am smart. Very smart. I have the GPA and the degrees and the license to prove it. But this guy, he was brilliant. How could I ever step into his role the next year when he moved on and I moved up? My team would be so disappointed in me, I told my mom.

When our team came together again in late October, personal matters were interfering with my work. My trusty truck broke down not once, but twice! Over the course of three days, I was towed twice and in the repair shop three times. My truck first broke down as I was on my way to my 5:30am class. The second time was after work, at the client site, a good 45 minute drive from my apartment. I sat in their private drive for two hours, waiting for a tow truck. When I got to work the next morning, the team admonished me, saying I should have called one of them. The other staff, in particular, told me that he would have come back for me, if nothing else but to keep me company as I waited. (And to possibly defend me from the tow truck guy who merrily informed me that he had just been released from prison earlier that year! Lovely information, isn’t it, when you realize that it’s after dark and you’re alone with this man and he’s driving you through an area that you are completely unfamiliar with.) “You can always call me,” he said.

I finally got the courage to say his name when we worked together again after Thanksgiving. Our senior had another engagement scheduled and couldn’t make it out, so it was just the two of us. He again showed the patience of a saint when it came to teaching me and answering my questions. His humor also started to show through as he joked around with the company’s internal auditor who shared a conference room with us. He let me go an hour early on Friday, but I stayed around for a while, chatting.

In January, we ramped up for busy season. We worked twelve hour days during the week and met in our firm’s downtown office for another six hours on Saturday. I got permission to be a tad bit late to work on Saturdays, since I taught an 8:15am class on those days. I had to report by 10am at the latest, which meant that I was often flying in with damp hair, flushed from the rush and the recent exercise. Saturdays were more relaxed and I was startled, the first Saturday, when I arrived to find him in athletic shorts and a t-shirt. I hadn’t realized he was in such good shape.

I forgot my charger that first day and had to share his. I remember feeling oddly excited about this. Like a teenager, asking to borrow a pen from a crush, I had that giddy rush of nerves. I mean, it’s his laptop charger! It plugs into his laptop! I’m sure my bizarre reaction was one-sided. We kept up the share-a-charger thing throughout busy season.

That was also the day that I told him about Michael. It was after lunch, our senior had gone somewhere for a while, and that left just the two of us. I honestly didn’t mean to and I definitely hadn’t planned spilling the whole story to him that day (or, you know, ever). He was just such a good listener, I found myself spilling those dark stories, something I’d only told one other person. I don’t even really remember how we got on the subject that would segue to my abusive past and to be honest, I don’t really remember his reaction all that much because I was so horrified with myself. (There are boundaries Belle! You’ve just crossed about a million of them…) He must have taken it in stride because he didn’t seem to treat me any differently afterwards, like I had feared.

A turning point came in the last of our three back-to-back weeks on this particular client. Our senior had a breakfast meeting and the intern had car trouble, so we found ourselves alone again. I remember making myself tea as I waited for my computer to start up (auditor’s computers are notorious for taking a good 20 minutes to boot up because of all the encryption software). We idly chatted as we waited. And then, it wasn’t just chatter to fill the time. We were ignoring our computers, though they were ready to go. We had turned to face each other, fully engaged in our conversation. We talked about music and cars and college and life. We were so deep into conversation, that our senior completely surprised us when she came in. I was irrationally annoyed that she had intruded, until I realized that it was nearly 10am and we had been talking almost an hour and a half. Later that day, he sent me an IM, inviting me to a happy hour with his friends the following Monday.

All weekend, I looked forward to it. I called my best friend Liz to get her opinion on whether this was a date or not. I texted the boy, trying to figure out if he was flirting or just friendly and hilariously sarcastic. I agonized over what to wear, particularly since I wasn’t sure I’d have time to change after work. True to form, I put together a detailed outfit plan, complete with built-in contingencies. Monday went by quickly and I was actually able to leave early enough to change into jeans and got to the bar on time. I was nervous when I walked in, afraid that I wouldn’t recognize him (I see someone out of typical context and it’s like, I have no idea who you are). I spotted him at the bar (or was it him?!) and said hello. We moved to a table in the back where we had room for his friends (who yes, eventually did come). I had a wonderful time with him and his friends, laughing and talking. I decided it was a date when he paid for my drinks and I had already decided that I really, really liked him when he asked to see me again the coming Saturday. He told me he’d cook for me and I gave him a few bonus points. He walked me to my car and I let him kiss me goodnight. Then I decided he hadn’t kissed me enough and used his lapels to drag him down for another kiss or two. I drove home with the widest smile imaginable.

That brilliant, kind, and funny staff II was, of course, Luffy. We’ve been together ever since that happy hour date (I tease him that it was actually a trial date, as he brought along his best friend to judge me – he claims he only did this to make me feel more comfortable). By October of that same year, we were engaged, and by the next October, married. It’s been two years since we stood in front of our family and friends and pledged our life and love to one another. I’m thankful every day that he’s in my life, that we found each other and chose to spend our lives together.

Luffy, I’ll love you till the sky falls down.