Fairy Tales & Fathers

This was written January 20, 2013 in Montana, while in missionary training. Unedited.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau, Germany

Once upon a time, in a far away land, a princess lived with her father in a beautiful white castle, overlooking a deep forest. Her father, the king, loved her very much and would lavish her with gifts and love, but she longed for a prince to come. He reassured her often that a prince would one day come for her that he had picked out, and to wait patiently. She sat at his feet and would listen to the loving words he bestowed upon her.

When she was still very young, she became aware of a man who stalked the castle in a dark cloak. He came to the princess and told her that her father was lying to her, and then the man would hide in the shadows when others came around. He would point out the things that people did around her to tell her that she had no one. He would make her feel worthless, and only more words from her father would help her ignore the evil things the man would tell her.

She held her hands out to every young prince that came to her castle. Sometimes the men would take them, and spin her around, but they would leave quickly, leaving her falling in the dust, hitting the wall, and sliding to the floor. Then the man in the dark cloak would swoop down upon her, telling her that it happened because of her and that it was her fault – because she wasn’t beautiful and she didn’t deserve a prince.

The princess ran to her father crying, telling him of the man in the dark cloak. He reassured her, “Yes, child. I know he’s out there, but you can’t believe his words; He’s a liar and a thief.”

“What does he steal?” The girl asked.

“He steals innocence. He steals purity. He steals youth.”

The girl feared the man in the dark cloak, and would yell for her father when he came near her.

More princes came to the castle, but her father promised her that if she were patient, the one that would hold her and not let her go would come, and that for now she should stay with him.

But one day as she was walking the castle alone, wishing that the prince that her father meant for her to be with would come, a boy stepped onto her path.

He took her by her hands, and twirled her around, holding her close, and brushing the hair from her face. She stared into his eyes and thought, “This must be the prince that my father meant for me,” They danced often, his leading sometimes painful and strange, but she believed that the boy meant only to help her learn how to dance with him better.

The boy would retreat into the woods for long periods of time, and the princess would stand at the edge of it, calling for him to come out. Often he would sing to her from within, hoping to entice her inside. She would sometimes wander in, glancing around in fear, and he would attempt to drag her deeper and she would flee back to the castle, avoiding the presence of her father, because he would surely know where she had been because of the dirt on her dress and hair.

This same cycle happened again and again, as she delved deeper intot he woods each time – the boy entering the castle and leaving it, enticing her and her fleeing. One day, as she waited for the boy to leave the forest, an arrow came flying through the foliage – and then another and another. As she ducked in fear, she saw the boy she had thought was her prince leading the charge. Many of the arrows pierced her limbs and as the fake prince rode off without a word, she lay gasping at the foot of the castle, on the edge of the forest.

This time, the man in the black cloak came to her and simply stood over her. He didn’t even need to speak his words of poison, for she knew what it was he meant, and truly believed it. It was her fault, because she wasn’t beautiful enough, or important enough – because she didn’t say the right words or dance correctly. It was because of her blind love and the way she opened her heart so willingly. She laid there, gazing into the man’s soul-less eyes, absolutely positive that she meant nothing to anyone at all, not even her father whom she loved so dearly.

She ran away from the castle with the man in the dark cloak, seeking her worth – but only finding death and emptiness at every turn. Every dark tree that passed hid more arrows that flew, and she received more wounds and scars, becoming more and more battered and torn.

In a moment of desperate and panicked clarity, she saw that the liar and thief had taken just the things that her father had warned, and she tried to run from him, but he grabbed the back of her dress and pulled her back. He hissed in her ear, asking where she would run to. The once-princess stared into the man’s eyes and said, “Back to my father,”

The man laughed in her face. “Why would your dear father take you back? He would never forgive you for the pain you’ve put him through. Nor for the betrayal you’ve made him suffer.”

The girl pushed the man away, and ran as fast as she could back through the forest to the white castle, her dress and hair snagging on every branch that stood nearby – but as it rose into view, she shrank back – fearing her father’s wrath. After pacing in fear, she decided to sit on the edge of the forest, just to see if she could see his face again, but the servants of her father noticed her. They called to her father, saying, “Your daughter wants to come home, but she is afraid of coming in the gate!” The king quickly stood from his table and ran to the wall, staring out at his torn and ashamed daughter.

The princess stood up, ready to run back into the forest, but she saw the loving tears on her father’s cheeks. They propelled her forward as her father ran to her and held her tightly, carrying her back to the castle, and telling her lovingly that he missed her and would take care of her always. He listened to her apologies and he brushed back her hair, held her face, and told her that she shouldn’t have run away and that he had been waiting for her to simply call on him and he would have run to her at any moment, just as he did by the forest.

Her tears fell down her face into the beautiful robe he wore as he held her, telling her that she didn’t have to be afraid. For a long time, he cradled her in his arms. He would wash her wounds every day, reducing the scars and erasing the pain, and telling her that the prince was still on his way, still preparing for her.

While sometimes the girl thought back on the old arrow wounds she had received, and though they twinged during bad weather, her father knew her and loved her – and would always be there to prevent them from reopening, if she let him.

And so she waited patiently in the presence of her father.

Painting for the Non-Artist

Creativity can be such an outlet and distraction for the anxious mind (and who can binge eat with a paintbrush in their hand?). I think a lot of our generation is figuring this out. Not only are the felt posters of days passed coming back, but adult coloring books, or coloring apps are being advertised as stress-relievers. There is definitely something about making something pretty, even if you know it took little-to-no skill to make it. It calms the mind.

But for all the coloring book people I know, I know very few people who paint. Painting was always something I thought took a lot of skill to do well, but I’ve learned through the past couple of years that you don’t need a lot of skill to relax your mind in front of a canvas.

I am no Bob Ross, trust me. Typically my best work requires the urge. I have to feel that need to make something creative. I call it the “artistic seizure.” I paint, draw, craft, doodle, even sculpt, but usually they come out sub-par, more for me than for the observer, unless driven by that seizure. It’s only been recently that I’ve felt I’ve been able to recapture a love for the creative, even without it.

My family used to make out like I was some hot-shot artist with tons of talent because a doodle of mine was accepted as a front-cover for some Kidz magazine way back in the fourth grade. This doodle was just a pen drawing that we were taught in art class – like a strange concept on Van Gogh’s sunflowers, and I had added this puzzle-squiggly background with different colors and submitted it. From that day on, I was “the creative one” and I felt a lot of pressure to be really, really good.

It got to the point where I didn’t want to draw or try anything in high school because it wouldn’t be up to the standard I felt that I had been put at. Writing was where my focus was, and it took awhile before I felt comfortable creating anything else.

I got to college and there was this girl who talked about painting as her outlet all of the time. Painting was pretty foreign to me at the time, something that skilled artists could do but that was it: they could take these random colors and smoosh them together… and then ta-da! Something recognizable.

This girl in college, though, she didn’t paint scenes or things or people. She painted backgrounds and words and hung them up all over her room. So I tried it with her, and then I bought my own paints and tried it myself. Soon, any time I had an “artistic seizure,” or even when I just wanted to relax, I turned to a canvas.

Painting is not nearly as taxing, as hard, or as expensive as I always thought it was.

Setup/Supplies

I’ve been painting for about 5 years now, and I can tell you that unless you’re going for gallery-quality, cheap paint is just fine! I actually just use Apple Barrel paint you can get from Walmart for 50 cents a pop. You can also go with just your primary colors and a black and white if you’re skilled at mixing. I wasn’t then so I still have tons of left over colors I can mix now.

I like to paint the cap of the paint bottle with the color so I don’t have to pull the bottles out to check, and it immediately shows me what the color looks like on white.

Now get yourself an old sheet, some plastic palettes, and a cheap set of paint brushes in different sizes. **Fun tip: you can also use Q-tips, sponges, your fingers, or anything else you can clean paint off of after to paint with!** Lay out your canvas (these also can come cheap from Walmart), and sit yourself down in front of it.

My Process

You’ll notice that my paintings typically have a colorful background, and something on top. My process goes the same way: background, then I decide what to put on top of it. If I could paint and mix backgrounds all day, I would. Here are some tips for making something simple if you’re looking to start somewhere.

Pick your colors! I usually go with one color and make a gradient, but here I decided to go with a pastel color scheme. Drop the colors on the canvas and just smear it with your brush. Make it blend by crossing the colors over each other. If you start to blend a color you didn’t intend (like some of the accidental brown in mine), wipe the brush and add a new color!

You can sprinkle some flecks by dipping the brush into a pool of the color desired and flick it onto the canvas. I threw some green into the corners and added some white flecks on mine.

At this point, you should let your canvas dry while you figure out what you have the inspiration to put on top of your background. I’ve done a purple background with pumpkins, or a green background with a Christmas ornament. You can practice on a piece of paper before you put paint to canvas if you’re nervous.

If you decide on a quote, you’ll have to think about spacing and make sure you don’t end up having to squish the end of the quote on the bottom of the canvas, so sometimes using a pencil on the canvas lightly will help you space your words correctly. I used the phrase “Dream Big” because my family is big on it, and I feel like a lot of what I’m doing right now requires some pretty big dreams.

I always over-decorate my pictures. I add too many little touches, too many flairs or sparkles or swirls. The funny part: THAT’S OKAY! I already knew getting into this that this wasn’t a picture I was going to frame and have in the living room. This might be a picture to put in my future art studio or in a creative space… and that’s ALSO OKAY!

How many times have you colored in a coloring book and thought “Well, if it’s really good, I’ll hang it up over the fireplace!” (Hint: You haven’t. No one does.) Let yourself enjoy the silliness, let yourself over-embellish or make a mistake. Try a weird technique, use a weird tool. It’s more about the process than the product.

Heck, if you hate it in a month, you can always paint white over it and make something brand new.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this let’s you explore your creative side that you might have never known existed!

This article is also going to publish on City Lifestyle! Check out my page here.

How I Spent $2,500 on my Wedding

My one year anniversary is coming up next Monday and I feel like the story of my wedding day is coming up in conversation more and more often. I wanted to take a small break from my normal topics and give a more fun, informative post about it. Matthew and I are eating the top layer of our cake in just a week, and I wanted to make sure I celebrated in more ways than one.

Here is my favorite thing to tell people about my wedding: I spent less than $2,500 on the entire wedding day. The looks of incredulity people give are simply delicious. I’m hoping to tell you how I saved and prioritized to get there, but there’s something I did first that led me to the rest of it.

June 1, 2019

The very first thing I did was find out what was the most important for the day of. My fiancee’s request was easy; he said “I just don’t want to see you before the ceremony. I don’t care about the rest of it, as long as I’m married to you at the end of the day.” Brownie points for days, am I right?

So what was important to me? I wanted to make the day have hints of my fiancee, Matthew in it. I wanted it to be mostly family. I wanted to see my late father in hints around the room. I wanted my grandpa give a toast during the Rehearsal Dinner. I wanted to dance to “The Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel. I wanted to have a silly dance with my bridesmaids. I wanted to take a shot with the bridal party before the reception. I wanted to go to a fast food place after the reception while still in my wedding attire.

You’ll notice right away that these important moments all didn’t cost me anything, or cost me very little. I found that any time I started to freak out about not spending money on something more expensive… well it wasn’t in the top moments anyway. It was okay. So if having fresh cut flowers at your wedding is really important to you, then go ahead! If it is super important that you’re wearing a brand name wedding dress, then do it. I just found that all of my central moments required nothing extra, only time.

All these important things happened. I found cupcake toppers that were tiny light sabers and put them in the boutonnieres, and then the cake topper was a silhouette of Han Solo and Leia. My step-mom brought an old pin my dad used to wear on his hat, and I had a spare flower with ribbon set aside for my dad. The bridesmaids and I spent most of the night before the wedding practicing the line dance for “Footloose” so we could do it at the wedding. My husband and I went to a Starbucks before going to the hotel so I could wear my dress out.

So now for my tips and tricks and how I spent $2,500 on my whole wedding.

Small Town Weddings

We decided early on that we wanted most of the wedding attendees to be family (We ended up with about 120 people total). A lot of my husband’s family all lives in the small town of Argonia, KS, about 45 minutes from Wichita, KS. When looking at Wichita locations we quickly realized how much money we could save by doing it in Matthew’s hometown of Argonia.

We used the Community Center in Argonia, which happened to be right next to my in-law’s house and only cost $150 for the entire weekend.

This brings up a couple of hitches: What about those traveling from the airport? What would guests get to see or what places would they go before and after the wedding?What about those who became inebriated and then needed to travel? All these questions needed to be answered if we were going to have a small town wedding.

We stayed in close contact with our guests and ended up having very few people actually need to fly in. If we had more, we would have made a carpool system for those. We also decided to have a morning wedding and afternoon reception, so that our guests would have plenty of time to do something in the evening after driving back into Wichita. Finally, we decided to forgo having drinks/alcohol at the wedding so that everyone could drive back to where they needed in the afternoon safely.

We also decided on having an After Party with our Bridal Party and our siblings. After the reception, Matthew and I took a small recess at the hotel and then headed to the party at 7pm. I had rented an AirBnB in Wichita so that those that lived 45 minutes or farther away had somewhere to stay that night and that’s where we had some drinks, some pizza, some dancing, some great talks. Matthew and I headed back to our hotel that night and left for our honeymoon the next morning. The entire After Party was only about $300 out of pocket for us, as we asked everyone to bring one drink and one mixer or a six-pack.

Use your Friends and Connections

This sounds heartless, but you’ll truly be surprised how many people are excited and willing to be a small part of your big day. If you do it right, it takes nothing but a small favor, or a small piece of their time and they’ll feel like they were a huge piece of it all working out.

Food/Catering: My family are big on smoking meats, and their best friends are awesome helpers. My parents happily offered to do the meat the day before as a wedding present and their best friends helped with getting food cut up, opened up, and put into crock pots as well as serving on the day of. As a wedding present, my parents paid for the food as well, though they said the total only came to around $500.

*NOTE: Our small town venue was, of course, fine with outside food, though some bigger venues will not allow you to serve food that isn’t being cooked by a licensed professional. Yet another perk of a small town wedding!

Cake: Matthew’s aunt used to be a professional wedding cake designer. She actually asked early on to make the cake. We paid for the ingredients and she did the labor. This cake turned out to be the only hitch in the whole day and I had no idea until I arrived at the Reception that anything had gone wrong.

We had asked for raspberry filling/flavor in a chocolate cake, the raspberry filling she used made the cake unstable and it fell overnight. That morning, they salvaged the pieces and we ended up with one large sharable cake (which was more than enough), and our cute top layer in the picture from above. The cake was still delicious beyond all reason and it didn’t bother me at all that our cake wasn’t three tiers like we had originally talked about.

The Church and Sound: My husband’s dad is the clerk at their hometown church, so we got the use of the church building for free. I also sent a long thank you note to the sound guy of the church, Bob, who was very willing to run our sound cues for us through our ceremony. He also played the slideshow I had made of Matthew and I – some pictures of us dating and some of us when we were small.

This was extra special to me, because the church was always welcoming to me when we would visit, and now every time we visit his family we are reminded of the day we got married there.

The rehearsal the day before, all set up and pretty. Hand-cut white hearts for aisle scatter.

Music: One of the things Matthew and I did in our year-and-a-half engagement was go to weddings and scope out the things we liked or didn’t like. We found that a DJ is definitely not a guarantee that the music and sound of your reception will be perfect. We also noticed that a good DJ is one you don’t really notice. Our families are no dancing fools either, so my Maid of Honor and I created a Spotify playlist the week before the wedding. We listened through it two or three times, and made sure that a good line-dance appeared occasionally and a slow dance appeared between.

Surprisingly, I still saw plenty of people dancing and the schedule I provided for everyone involved was plenty cue enough for our toasts and introduction. My sisters-in-law did the music cues for our Father-Daughter, Mother-Son dances as well.

Day Planner: Speaking of schedule, I had a binder I used through all of my planning that included an extensive schedule of events, budget, thank you notes for the day of, present lists, and honeymoon documents. I did all of the planning until the day of, when I asked Matthew’s aunt (a wonderful lady who is as organized as me, if not more so), if she would be willing to be the day planner. She did an amazing job of keeping everyone on schedule, and without her, I am sure the day would have gone astray.

Photography: This is the one I can see most people disagreeing with. We actually used friends and family for photography. We had our engagement photos done by one of the groomsmen, who loves photography. I loved the way the photos turned out, as Matthew and I are not anyone’s fancy-men.

We paid a college-friend and amateur photographer for the day of, and Matthew’s mom is great at editing photos. His aunt also took a lot of photos and I love the casual feel of the photos taken by our families. I don’t think we lost any value by doing so, but I can see the fear of not getting good enough photos of the day of.

Thrift, Used, DIY and Patience

This is probably the biggest thing that contributed to the success of our wedding: our long engagement (that I did NOT originally want, by the way) which meant that I could take my time and wait for the best deals on everything.

The biggest and best example of this is THE DRESS. I found it a year early in a thrift store. It had no brand name tag on it and some stains I was originally worried about. I brought the ticket price from $100 to $80 at the thrift store. Then I got it cleaned for $83 and altered for $200. My dress altogether cost only $363.

It wasn’t like the dresses I had pinned on Pinterest, but it honestly fit me so perfectly and Matthew still raves about how much he loved the dress and how it was perfect for me. It turned out to be one of the biggest blessings and his favorite memory of the day.

The first thing a bride wants to do when they return from their honeymoon is figure out what to do with all their decorations from the wedding. If you can wait through a summer before your wedding, you’ll see tons of Facebook marketplace posts of wedding decorations. Lucky for me, I already wanted a Vintage Rustic wedding – which meant white wood, burlap, twine, and lots of flowers. These are all common household decorations (especially right now), and they are pretty cheap from most craft stores as well.

Like I said before, we had gone to some wedding before ours. One wedding was also rustic vintage, and I actually chased down the maid of honor and then messaged the mom of the bride a little later and asked if they were selling their decorations. She quoted me a great price of $400 for all the flowers, pine cones, table scatter and burlap at the wedding.

All of the flowers are fabric flowers, so I collected as many pink, white, and blue flowers as I could find on Facebook and from thrift stores. I then created the boutonnieres, the corsages, my bouquet, and all of the table settings.

I bought all the wine bottles that were navy and pink from someone else’s wedding, and then wrapped twine around them to cover the scratches in the paint. I then added all the white bottles and wrapped those in twine to match. I made the party favors from some free cinnamon jelly hearts. I bought small paper bags, wrote a personal note on each and filled them with the hearts. I then stapled each and set them on the table settings.In fact, the most expensive part of the table was the blue M&M’s that I thought would bring out the blue of the flowers.

I created all the programs, order of events and invitations with Word and bought the card stock and printed on a friend’s color printer. I cut out every individual white heart from the leftover card stock for the aisle scatter. I also created the set up for the photo backdrop.

Don’t forget to borrow! Another perk of having the wedding in the same town as so much family: we borrowed a lot of serving dishes and serving tools. We found so many crock pots around town, and some decoration. We also were surprised with the original cake serving tools that Matthew’s parents used on their wedding day. The piano was already a setting in the community building that they at first wanted to put away, but I asked to keep it out. A vintage screen that my mother-in-law used in her house made a great prop for setting up some old pictures of Matthew and I.

Our wedding day ended up being exactly what it should have been. As any bride or groom will tell you, the day flew by; I only remember the small important pieces of the best day. The best advice I can give any couple getting married is to worry about just the most important things and know the rest of it will hardly matter at the end of the day.

The Actual Real-Life Budget:

  • FB – Decor – $15.00
  • Cardstock – $35.00
  • Cake Topper – $18.00
  • Decor Supplies, Wal-Mart – $25.00
  • Light Saber Cupcake Toppers – $8.14
  • 4 Barn Windows – $60.00
  • Photography Deposit – $50.00
  • Wedding Dress – $80.00
  • FB – Tea Lights – $20.00
  • Large wooden lantern – $8.00
  • Other Wedding Decor – $400.00
  • Dry Cleaners – $83.37
  • Garage Sale – Vases $12.00
  • Reception Venue – $150
  • Refurbishing Shoes – $28.00
  • Ties for Best Man/Groom – $40.00
  • Envelopes for Invites – $28.22
  • AirBnb – $214.88
  • Bridesmaid Gifts – $66.00
  • Hairpiece – $16.41
  • Stamps – $33.52
  • Guest Book Sign – $54.20
  • Dark Blue M&M’s – $67.99
  • Marriage License Fee – $85.50
  • Marriage Counseling/Pastor Fee – $85.00
  • Groom’s Outfit – $67.75
  • Cabin for 2 Nights Before – $249.37
  • Bridesmaid Necklaces – $54.77
  • Wedding Arch – Amazon (FB one broke) – $27.99
  • Photography – $50.00
  • Cake Ingredients – $100.00
  • Dress Alterations – $202.31

Total: $2436.42

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you got something informative or a cool idea for your wedding. I wish you the very best!

This was also published on City Lifestyle! Check it out here.