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A Vermont Wedding

On July 1, 2017, my brother John married his longtime love Cara, in a beautiful Vermont wedding.

The party began on Friday afternoon, when many of the guests began arriving at the Echo Lake Inn in Ludlow, VT.  It was raining off and on, so we were mostly confined to the porch, where everyone was gathered at tables, drinking beer and wine and getting to know each other.

Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration. Some people were getting to know each other, but my family was clustered together at one table, trying to catch up with each others’ recent life events. Still, I did get to meet some of John’s college friends and Cara’s friends and family.

After a BBQ dinner, the plan was to have a bonfire, s’mores and lawn games – like the customized cornhole game that Cara’s dad had made, and the giant Jenga blocks that my dad made. However, the weather was being uncooperative, and after only a few s’mores had been constructed and only a few corn bags tossed, the rain picked up and everyone ran for cover on the porch.

Kris, Grey, Nick and Matt, Bruce (my dad’s dog) and Dave and I all shared a condo that weekend. It was in a separate building from the Inn, though not very far away. We had envisioned that we would be up late in our party condo, sharing hilarious tales while we drank and played games into the wee hours of the morning. However, by the time we got back to the condo, we went right to bed. (We had to save our energy for the big day!)

Saturday dawned rainy and dark. Checking the weather forecast left us with little hope of the day clearing up in time for the 3:30 pm wedding ceremony. We ate breakfast in the inn and proceeded to play some Jenga during a break in the rain.

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Grey cautiously removes one of the super-sized giant Jenga blocks from the tower…

After a while, the rain picked up again and we retreated back to our condo. Dad and Lisa brought us sandwiches from the general store and we all ate lunch while watching reruns of Roseanne. I began working on my hair, although I knew it was probably a waste of time since the humidity was guaranteed to undo any styling efforts I put forth.

We rushed back to the porch to be in time for our 1:30pm photo session, only to find out that the photographer had gone to Echo Lake Lodge near Lake George, NY – a vast two hours away! Luckily, one of Cara’s friends offered to take some photos of us while we waited for the hired photographer to get there.

 

As the afternoon went on, the rain would let up for a few minutes at a time before returning at full force. Would we be able to have the wedding ceremony outside or not? We all hoped for a miraculous clearing of the clouds, but alas. It was not to be.

It was interesting to watch the Inn staff turn the reception tent into a wedding tent in less than 10 minutes. I suspect they might have done this before.

The ceremony was beautiful. Cara looked stunning in her gown and birdcage veil and John was handsome in his navy blue suit. Their friend Dana officiated and did a really nice job of it. No sooner had the ceremony begun, when the sun broke through the clouds and a sunbeam shone right through the plastic tent window.

Laughs

The moment the sun came out…

I was honored to participate in the ceremony by reading a wedding blessing. I rarely get emotional at weddings – but as I looked up from my reading and saw John and Cara watching me intently, I was filled with emotion. I steeled myself and finished the reading without full-on weeping, but the floodworks burst forth when they exchanged their vows (which they had written themselves). To be fair, I think everyone in the whole tent got misty-eyed.

Watching my little brother, now all grown up, marrying the love of his life tugged at my heartstrings like nothing else. It made me feel nostalgic, sentimental, happy and excited all at the same time, and it all came leaking out of my eyes. I think the fact that they have already been together for 10 years and been through many ups and downs made their professions of love for each other all that more meaningful.

Married

The happy couple

That night, the reception was filled with laughter and fun. John and Cara’s bridesmaids and groomsmen gave hilarious speeches about the two of them. The tent was decorated in a constellation/starry night theme, with twinkling lights wrapped around all the poles, a star projector shining up on the ceiling, and custom centerpieces on all the tables.

 

We hit the dance floor and the party didn’t stop until 11pm, which must have been the curfew set by the Inn. We all migrated to the bar in the cellar of the Inn, though unfortunately we could not get the dance party to resume there.

The next day, we gathered for breakfast together before all heading off on our separate ways. John and Cara would be going off to Portugal for their honeymoon!

Regrettably, I did not take more pictures during the weekend. Actually, most of the above photos are thanks to Kris McKelvie, Grey Houle and Kaitlyn Clifford. So thank you all for letting me use them in the blog.

After we said our goodbyes, Dave and I were off to Londonderry, VT, where we would spend the next few days relaxing and exploring the great green mountain state. Stay tuned for more of our adventures in Vermont!

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Major Life Influence #2: Moving to Vermont at 16

This is the second of a five-post series of major life influences. See here for where it all began, and here for the first major influence.

The second major life influence was when my family left the Philadelphia area and moved to rural Vermont the summer I turned 16.

We had only discovered Vermont a year earlier, when family friends of ours (The Tebbs) invited us to house-sit for them while they spent several weeks on an overseas trip. We had easily fallen in love with Vermont, with its lush, rolling green hills, crisp mountain streams and glittering starry nights. We spent the next 8 months or so obsessing about it until finally my parents announced that we were going to move there.

One of the things I liked instantly about the culture in Vermont was how laid back everyone was about appearances. It might be something that would turn off the more fashion conscious person, but to me it was great. People wore practical clothing. Dressing up meant putting on your nicest pair of jeans and a clean shirt. Women didn’t dye their hair when it started going gray, they just let it do it’s thing. And speaking of hair, there was a lot of it. Men, women, children, everybody just let it all grow out.

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So. much. hair.

It’s beginning to sound like we went and lived on a commune. It wasn’t that extreme. We did live with another family for a couple of years though. The Tebbs were also slowly working their way out of Christadelphia, although I don’t know that any of us really knew that at the time. What had bonded our families together was a similar open-mindedness about our faith and similar interests in education.

Living with the Tebbs family was a really cool experience, although it was at times stressful. Before we moved up, they built an addition to the house to make more room. When everyone was there, it was six McKelvies, four Tebbses and whatever boyfriends were in the picture at that time. The Tebbs were from England and often had visitors come and stay while we were there. We also had visitors from back home, and so sometimes the little house was positively bursting at the seams. That was when I loved it the most.

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Happily squished around the dinner table.

Most of the time though, it was much quieter. Dad continued working in Philadelphia, and Uncle Trevor took on various professor jobs at colleges too far to commute to, so he was often living away as well. So the usual household was us kids and mom and Aunt Jenny.

Going to high school in Vermont was a world of difference from high school in New Jersey. As I mentioned earlier, people dressed much more practically. In fact, I even took scissors to my jeans and sewed patches on them to make them look more worn out and hippyish. I soon learned that the standard winter outfit was jeans, thick wool socks, a t-shirt and a heavy sweater. Thanks to the wood stoves in every home, you often had to take off the sweater or risk overheating.

Pursuing my passion as an artist seemed to fit better in Vermont as well. Of course it helped that we were living with the Tebbs, since Trevor was an accomplished painter and professor of art, and Jenny was a writer and a musician, and both of their daughters were artistically gifted. It was very inspiring to me and whatever time I wasn’t spending outside was spent hunched over a sketchbook or canvas, drawing or painting.

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An illustration of Br’er Rabbit and Tar Baby I did for a high school project.

Speaking of outside, there was so much of it! I would often wander around in the woods with the dogs for hours, just thinking and looking at the different kinds of trees and plants. My favorite time to do this in the winter was twilight. The sky would go through a series of beautiful pinks and purples that would turn the snow and the world around me into a magical place.

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Wandering around with the dogs and my 35mm camera.

In the summer, the Tebbs had beautiful gardens all around their house. I watched and helped Jenny cultivate the plants, and later, after I began a part-time job with Boardman Hill Farm, I started my own veggie garden plot. We’d had vegetable gardens in PA and NJ, but it wasn’t until VT that I really got into it myself. Sidenote, when I worked for Boardman Hill, they did not yet have pigs for slaughter. I would not have been down with that.

I liked living in Vermont so much, it’s a wonder that I ever left. But once I hit my 20’s, I got antsy and I thought I had a better chance at getting a good job in Connecticut. Which turned out to be true, of course. I still miss living in Vermont and it is my hope that someday I will be able to move back.

For now, I will just make do with regular visits.

Other Life Influences:

Being Raised Christadelphian

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I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper. And I was free.

Back to the Earth, I Feel It

Bonus points to anyone who can identify the song lyrics in the title.

It’s been over a week since we had our family camping trip in Vermont, but I wanted to document the experience for myself and all my fans. (Hi Suzanne, Terri and Janet!)

This post is going to be mostly pictures, because I took approximately 100 of them during the weekend.

It was a humid and sunny Friday night when Kris and I set out on our journey northward.

I applied several filters to this image but was unable to make myself not look like a ghostly apparition.

We drove for many hours and had deep conversation about the meaning of life, or at least the meanings of the current things that are happening in our lives. We stopped at the Vermont Country Deli  for dinner. It’s right off exit 2. We’re big fans.

After a few more hours, we arrived at beautiful Lake Champlain.

Sunset sky over Lake Champlain. Ah.

It was dark by the time we got to the campground, but we were able to get our tents set up quickly and then proceeded over to where the rest of our family had already gotten a fire going. We hung out for a bit but were soon sleepy and required some slumber.

Immediately upon lying down on the rocky ground, I regretted not bringing the foam mats that I usually have. Epic fail.

The next day dawned sunny and bright:

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Good morning, Lake Champlain!

Some family members immediately embarked on a kayak trip to the little island pictured above. It’s two miles away. TWO MILES.

And they got caught in a thunderstorm. Everyone survived, don’t worry.

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Innocently paddling away…

Meanwhile, back at the campsite:

They slept on an air mattress. 

It had been 10 days since the biopsy, so it was time to remove my stitches. Kris volunteered to play doctor. I gazed out over the lake and tried not to visualize what was going on. Of course it was over in an instant, and it did not hurt at all, even though I screamed dramatically.

Kris finally gets revenge on his annoying big sister.

One of our family’s obsessions is doing puzzles.  Ok, it’s mostly John and I who are obsessed, with Nick playing a supportive role, and Kris preferring to gaze out across the lake while holding a dish.

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Ignoring the gorgeous weather and scenery to focus on the puzzle.

Oh hey, it’s the American Revolution.

Despite failing to actually get to the Rally for Ally this year, John and I were granted lovely green shirts and we sported them proudly.

I spent part of one afternoon relaxing and doing some much-needed sketching. Oh, and there's my shy feet!

I spent part of one afternoon relaxing and doing some much-needed sketching. Oh, and there’s my shy feet!

Later, I relaxed in the hammock. Shy feet again.

Later, I relaxed in the hammock. Shy feet again.

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I built a little cairn. I like making them as precarious as possible.

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I found some interesting driftwood as we waited for sunset.

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We watched the sunset by the ferry crossing. Hey New York!

The final night it was down to me, Kris and Mom. After watching the sunset, we headed back to the campsite to make s’mores and hang out. As we sat there talking, I noticed a bright orange blaze in the sky. My first thought was that it was a fire, but it’s location didn’t make sense. Suddenly we realized it was the moon! It was peeking over the horizon like a ball of fire. I desperately tried to capture the beauty of it with my phone camera, but, if you’ve ever tried taking a picture of the moon, you know how that goes.

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I begged my phone to take a decent picture of the moon but this was the best it could do.

We took turns looking at it through the binoculars. The mountain that was between us and the moon has wind turbines across the ridge. Through the binoculars you could see the turbines silhouetted against the moon. It was SO cool.

That night it was so windy that I kept waking up thinking it was torrential downpour. When I woke up in the morning I could hear the waves crashing against the shore. We packed up our stuff and had breakfast with Mom before setting out on our journey home.

The weekend away was definitely a nice break. I didn’t “unplug” as I had intended to, mostly because I was using my phone to take pictures the whole time. Even so, it was relaxing to be in the wilderness…

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The Mazda’s first camping trip.

Ok, so it wasn’t really THAT wild, since we drove right up to the site, but once you get down to the lake, it’s very wild and unruly. And did I mention gorgeous?

Did you figure out the song lyrics?

Rusted Root, Back to the Earth.

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