Summer’s over; let’s take a look at my resolutions and see how I did.
1. Get a driver’s license. Uh, nope.
2. Unstick from my business slump. YES! Business is doing really well, and I’m proud. I launched headshots as a side business so it didn’t detract from my main goal of being a wedding photographer, and I’m super happy with the website: AmberMarlowHeadshots.com
3. Take the dogs swimming. Did it! Here, Leeloo is submerging herself, head and all. HEAVEN FORBID I get water on her nose during a bath, though.
4. Friendship bracelet party: check! It was a tiny turnout, but we had a lot of fun.
5. Go to the beach: yup. We went once to the beach in Sandy Hook, NY, which you get to by way of a ferry out of Manhattan. It was fun, and I’ll go again in a larger group next summer now that I know the ropes of getting there.
6. Stay put: almost! We slipped up to Rochester for a few days to see my friend Carissa and her boyfriend. It was an hour flight, and we were there for three nights. It was perfect.
7. Berry picking: yes! Delicious.
My fall resolutions have but one thing on them: have a bonfire. Who all is in for more s’mores?
Rarely has personal growth and change been so sharp an edge for me as it was at the beginning of September.
Let’s back up.
In October of 2012, I attended the now-defunct Camp Mighty, and Flora Lels was there. We ended up in the same small group together, and she passed out handmade friendship bracelets for everyone. I selected one with lots of orange (of course!) and tied it on. The proper way to wear friendship bracelets is until they fall off naturally, and I used it as an anchor. 2012 was the worst thing that ever happened to me, and I figured by the time it wore off, I’d be better and whole again.
I wrapped it around my finger during divorce proceedings, fiddled with it on a variety of awkward first dates, and took it to bed with sometimes-questionable lovers (no shame – I had an excellent time – but I also totally got HPV.) It came to therapy, five different foreign countries, and countless photo shoots.
I changed a lot in these 23 months, and the bracelet changed, too; it stretched out and got frayed. I met Marley, and I changed again. He is so unlike anyone else I know and I’m continually fascinated by his deep, unwavering ability to love – to love ME. There’s not a lot I can say without fucking up the sentiment because there really are no words, and this is not the point anyway. You should know, though, I am loved with a love I never experienced before, and I am astounded.
So this bracelet. It got ratty, of course, but I loved it still. It was tied to my left wrist, and when I was presented with an engagement ring for my left hand, they clashed so thoroughly that it was easy to see I was done with it.
Cutting it off still wasn’t easy. By all means I got an upgrade – yarn for gemstones and harsh lessons for strength – but I still had to mourn the yarn, and the learning (thankfully, there is more ahead) and the fact that I’m no longer all the things I used to be. I am something else. Stronger, for one. Of course it doesn’t take an engagement to get stronger, but in my case, the events coincided, or maybe the engagement simply illuminated the fact I’d reached a new place. I’m ready for this, but I had to take a moment to mourn that: my old self – the lady with the security friendship bracelet.
We sat on the couch together with scissors and I cried and cried and cried, and he cried with me because he understood even though I didn’t think he would, but I should have known better. This is why I’m marrying him. Then I cut it off and tucked it away.
Thank you, bracelet, for 23 months of weirdly spot-on symbolism, and for being something to figuratively and literally hold on to. Goodbye.
A few weeks ago in Washington Square Park (my favorite place in New York City) Marley proposed to me. Then I proposed to him. It was perfect.
We are getting married!
Thanks to Carissa Beal for the photo
The “suggestive bulge” formed in the ceiling of our kitchen in mid-August and grew steadily larger. It was the result of what we thought was a leaking pipe. I kept calling my landlord and saying, “No, really, you need to see how large this thing is…Yes, I know you *know* about it, but you don’t get it. IT IS GROWING. Soon? Ok…”
When she finally came to see it, her jaw dropped and I stuffed back an “I told you so.” We moved all of the food out of the cabinets.
Last week on Sunday, some workers came to drain the bulge by (carefully!) poking a hole in it with a bucket underneath.
The entire ceiling came down in soft, soggy strips, and water went everywhere. The wall also started to crumble, and behind it on the beams, shards of drywall, and 200 year old bricks, black mold was all over. The “leaking pipe” turned out to be an entirely corroded one that looked about 25 years overdue for a replacement. I’d suspected this two years ago when I found some leaking under the sink, but no one wanted to open the wall up then. Of course, if this had happened two years ago, it might have done me in completely.
We left our suddenly inhabitable apartment to go to the Holiday Inn for a few days while the landlords figured out what to do, embarking of a frustrating week of trekking back and forth to our house when we needed anything, and eating out, and murmuring to each other that “we’d get through this”. The bright side was that we both decided to call this an “adventure” rather than an “inconvenience”, and it has been made all the more better to have an excellent, steady person through this. It’s been a week and a half and feels four times as long.
We moved back with the mold contained and are getting all new cabinets. The stove and fridge are currently in my office; the old cabinets are gone, and I’m lobbying hard to have them replaced with white ones instead of the dreadful orange fake oak.
Keep your fingers crossed for me.
We rented a car on Saturday and loaded it with Matty and Leeloo, then drove the hour plus up to Easton, Connecticut to pick blueberries at Stu!’s parent’s house. They live in an old farm house that her grandfather was born in, and in the back are a dozen enormous blueberry bushes that produce amazing organic fruit. Ages ago, her parents made these goofy/awesome coffee can holders with string that holds them around your neck for picking, and after dinner the four of us marched out to the bushes to get to work. As we picked, Matty, Leeloo, and Jack – her black lab, and my dogs’ oldest friend – wove themselves around our ankles, and Jack showed my two how to pick berries for themselves right off of the dog-height branches. Emily and Stu!, of course, are friends from high school, who knew me way before I was cool (stop laughing!) so it was fun to hang out with them and show Marley off to some of my old friends.
After we had our fill and added some wild raspberries to the mix, we caught fireflies in a jar and watched them light up the yard for a while until mosquitos got us, and then had some sort of invented dessert that I think was pretty close to blueberry shortcake, with blueberries from their yard from earlier in the season and homemade ice cream.
The whole evening felt like someone mending the sail of a sailboat, sewing small tears up in my soul. Between the root canal, lots of weddings, tons of places to be all the time all over the City and a scary medical procedure*, it was a long month, and it was so good to be still, and quiet. There is almost nothing more magic to me than late July in New England. Or friendship.
Thanks, Emily and Stu!
*Story forthcoming. Spoiler: I’m fine.
Yesterday, Marley and I slipped over to City Hall in Manhattan and registered as domestic partners. In New York there isn’t a tremendous amount of benefit to doing this, in fact, the one reason we went for it was that we initially thought I could go on his health insurance and stop paying for my Obamacare (which is wonderful), but it turns out that’s not the case with his company.
Still, by the time we found this out, we were so excited that we did it anyway, even though one of the sole benefits is that now if we rent a car with certain companies, we can add each other as a second driver without paying a fee. There are other (vastly more important) legal benefits, too, the most important being that if one of us is in the hospital, the other can visit as family.
It’s not marriage – I’m not ready to be married; I’ve just stopped reeling from the dissolution of the last one, and it doesn’t feel like marriage either. It’s mostly just a statement: I’ve got you, no matter what. That’s pretty excellent.
p.s. Can we have a conversation about the excellence of my hair in this photo?!
This week, Valerie has been staying with us. She’s pretty great; this is what it looks like when she smiles.
She has got to be one of the coolest people I know; she didn’t have a passport until age 25, and then decided to be a world traveler. Now she’s got almost 30 countries under her belt. My couch is her last stop in the US before she’s off to Machu Picchu.
I laid low this week. I’m not going quite as far as Val, but I’m gone all weekend photographing weddings in New England. I basically stayed within a few blocks of my apartment, got out of pajamas only when strictly necessary, and recovered from my root canal treatments… and I launched a company, like, no big deal.
Someone posted about this fantastic Washington DC company on my Facebook page, and I thought, “Brilliant. Exactly what I’ve wanted to do for ages.”
I immediately began planning to do something similar, and it spun off quickly into a wedding collective of vendors who can serve eloping couples. I’m excited to see what becomes of it, and will share the website soon. In the meantime, if you’d like to be a part of it, send me an email to amber at ambermarlow dot com.
For the past week I’ve been dealing with a wicked root canal. My sleep bruxism began in childhood and continues today, but I’ve only worn a mouthguard regularly for a small amount of time. The years-long unguarded grinding took its toll on one tooth in particular that sits a little lower and gets hit a little harder than the others, and I had to root canal it.
If you hear your children grinding at night, please get them a night guard.
The full story is boring, although it involves me standing in the dentist office after coming back from a wedding I photographed, still carrying my camera backpack, nearly screaming at them to do something to help me because I was in so much pain. (I feasted on a handful of Advil to get me through, and the photos ROCK because I AM A PRO AND I GET. IT. DONE.)
They ended up having to send me to a specialist that charged me more than my first car and left me with a swollen cheek so that, on one side, I look like a freckled Kanye West.
This weekend is going to be low key, and I think a massage is in order, right? Yes.
Happy 4th of July weekend!
S’mores are always on the summer list around here.
1. Get a drivers license. My Connecticut one expired on my birthday in March and because I don’t have a car, I never bothered to get a New York one. I *think* I can take off for a weekend upstate and take a drivers test in rural New York instead of trying to pass a test in NYC traffic – right? In which case, I have a dear friend in Rochester who I’m overdue to visit anyway.
2. Un-stick. I’m in a business slump, and I’m not quite sure how to fix it. Elopement inquiries are down this year, and I’m not working like I used to be. The clients that I have are lovely and amazing, but I wish I was shooting more. I’m also trying to Purple Cow a bit more. I read this book when it came out in 2003 and was so inspired, even though it would be years at that point until I started my business. Thankfully when I did start, I had these brilliant ideas internalized which made me much more fearless and daring that I would have been otherwise (if I get a chance, I’m going to hug Seth Godin so big!), and I’m re-reading it (on Kindle this time; my original copy has long since disintegrated).
3. Take the dogs swimming. We used to go to the lake when we lived in Connecticut, and I have so much guilt that I haven’t taken them since moving. They love it, especially Leeloo. Matty just likes to stand in the water for a little bit up to his “knees”.
4. A friendship bracelet party. I’ve done this two years running and still have loads of string left over, so I’ll be telling everyone to just bring a bottle of wine instead.
5. Go to the beach. There are tons of lovely beaches so close to the City, and I want to go swimming at them. Since moving here, I never have.
6. Stay put! I’m done with travel for now, unless it’s for a gig. I’m already planning an October trip to Palm Springs, though. There’s no Camp Mighty this year, but it just wouldn’t feel like fall without a trip to the Ace Hotel. Do you want to go, too? Email me, and we’ll coordinate. I’m finally going to Joshua Tree, too, and I can’t wait to show Marley where so many inspiring conversations happened for me.
7. Berry picking. My old friend Stu! has blueberry bushes in her backyard in the middle of the Connecticut woods. I’m going to pick them, and then I’m going to make a pie.
from Marley’s homewarming party in the backyard on Friday night
It’s a less of a mess in my apartment – our apartment; I’m not used to saying that yet – and it’s looking good and feeling homey. We’ve found places for most of our things, and pared down, and gotten rid of extra, and bought new things to fill in the gaps. Marley came with a king sized bed that technically fits in our tiny bedroom, but barely. We went back and forth for a bit, and ultimately couldn’t resist replacing my queen with it. It is glorious. I bought all new white bedding, and we’re doing the European “duvet cover and fitted only” thing, since Marley, otherwise extremely generous, steals top sheets in his sleep no matter how much I tuck. I am aggressive when it comes to defending my sense of “home peace” so instead of fighting it I switched the bedding, and now we sleep peacefully.
“Duvet only” was how I slept when I visited Berlin in April, but I was worried it would be weird permanently. However, after one night we agreed it was perfect,”Like sleeping under a meringue” he said.
Speaking of “home peace”, I also very quickly realized that we cannot share a tube of toothpaste. I have a neat, roll-and-binder clip method, and he does the “squish from the middle” thing. (Shudders! The horror!) Toothpaste, of all things, was sure as shit not going to turn into my hill to die on, so we just bought two tubes, done and done.
Sheet stealing and toothpaste squashing aside, it’s been fantastic. We’re settling in, and everything feels cozy and wonderful and exactly like it should, and I am happy.