Life-Living and Woman-Being Lessons: Liz

It’s Alyssa again!

Today’s post is from Liz.  You know Liz, my moderator partner when Meg was off being fabulous in Italy?  Liz is a teacher, married and about to pop out the cutest baby ever.  She is also smart, talentedhilarious and will offer to set someone on fire if they make you cry with a comment.

Here’s her take on APW.

Confession- I never really read APW while I was wedding planning.

See, I didn’t find the damn site until it was about 2 months before my wedding, and at that point, Meg was already making her own way down the aisle. How boring is a wedding blog AFTER the wedding? Exactly.* So I didn’t anticipate hanging around.

And then. I got married.

My blog reader was slowly purged of “wedding blogs,” as my taste for dresses and favor ideas started to turn into frustration (I was relieved to be DONE with that crap). But, I still found myself popping into APW off and on. Though other wedding blogs sometimes made me wonder if I could have done this better or that less expensively, APW just showcased awesome lady after awesome lady. Rather than see these weddings in competition with my own (what the eff is up with that, anyway?) I felt a little “you go girl!” every time I saw the beautiful pictures and heard the words of wisdom. The flowers and favors and venues were just as gorgeous as the ones on other sites, but they weren’t the focus. And I was continually reminded of why I had a wedding myself. (hint: it had NOTHING to do with apothecary jars or tea-lights)

But I wasn’t just cheering on these new brides in their new happiness. I also found myself surrounded by wisdom and gentle reminders (and some kicks in the face) about why I got married, why marriage is important, and how I can be both “awesome” and “wife” at the same time. Those reasons I had a wedding? Some of them are the same reasons I work so hard at having a marriage.

And, now, they’ve become reasons I want to be a good mom.

As women (hell, as PEOPLE) once we hit the point of consciousness, we’re suddenly thrust all of these expectations to be a certain way- many of them conflicting and confusing. In high school, you’re expected to be a “good girl” AND sexually appealing, but not a cock tease. In college, you need to be driven but not too driven, smart but not too smart. And the expectations only become more pronounced and more conflicting as you get older- which, to be honest, shocked me. As a moderately self-aware teenager, I thought, “High school sucks. I can’t wait til I’m old enough that people don’t care about my decisions.” But the truth is, the heavier and more adult the decisions, the heavier the pressure to conform.

My wedding brought an onslaught of opinions, and I anxiously waited for that aspect of wedding planning to be over. Then I was married. And  I found my marriage was expected to be a certain way. And now I’m pregnant, and already I’m being told why I need to breastfeed, why I should choose formula, why epidurals are the way to go and why it’s best to have natural labor. At this point, I don’t expect the pressure to ever end. And I don’t say that pessimistically or with chagrin. I’m sure that this is just the beginning. But here’s why I’m lucky.

I’m lucky enough to have gone through the bootcamp tail-end  of wedding planning with a super-awesome community to back my play- and not just offer support, but help build a safe environment where we get to practice voicing our disagreeing opinions, so we’re ready to do the same in “real life.” Making my own decisions has further prepared me to continue to know my own mind, sift opposing (and often, well-meaning) advice, and eventually choose what’s best for my expanding family. That doesn’t make me a great bride or wife or mom- it makes me a thinking, independent person. I’m sure I could have reached that point on my own- and to some extent I did. (I haven’t been reading APW for 25 years, ya know.) But I can say without a doubt that having an APW community has only strengthened and furthered the process.

I’d like to say I come back to APW a year later because I want to bestow my marital wisdom on new, unsuspecting brides. It’s sorta true- I’m excited for all of you to-be-weds, and I want to help! But marital wisdom? Eh.  A little lacking (hullo, only a year in so far). I selfishly come back to APW to glean wisdom for my own little self, though I’m way beyond the wedding-planning phase, and don’t plan to ever go back to that scary place.

I may have mostly planned my wedding the hard way before APW- piecing together my own experiences into life-lessons. But I’m so excited to be surrounded by an encouraging and advising community as I broach another big life change. Those wedding-planning lessons? They translate into marriage-building lessons. And into child-raising lessons. And into life-living and woman-being lessons. I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow those.

*This thought will be extra humorous in light of the fact that I still sometimes blog about weddings. A year later. Whoops.

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  • Rose in SA

    Love this post! It echoes so many of my own feelings about APW. I also didn’t find APW while I was wedding planning, I think it was actually quite a while after the wedding. But, no plans to leave anytime soon.

  • But Liz, it’s pearlers like:

    “Those wedding-planning lessons? They translate into marriage-building lessons. And into child-raising lessons. And into life-living and woman-being lessons.”

    that belie the marital wisdom you profess not to have! On the money.

    I’m loving the APW-loving…

  • “Those wedding-planning lessons? They translate into marriage-building lessons. And into child-raising lessons. And into life-living and woman-being lessons.”

    THIS. I just quit my job and decided to take all these crazy risks in my life to do what I want to do, and what SPARKS for me. And when I think about where this courage is coming from, a lot of it is from APW, which is a little strange on the surface. I mean, a wedding blog is making me take huge risks and change my life on a whim? What?

    But really, this blog and this community and all the people writing in saying, “Do what’s right for YOU” stopped being about the wedding (especially after I got married). It gave me the courage to have OUR wedding the way that was right for us, and that went spectacularly well. So why not have the rest of our life the way that is right for us, too?

    Thanks for the reminder about how important the wedding is in articulating the marriage, and in turn helping us figure out the other parts of it all.

  • Kinzie Kangaroo

    Guhhhhh. You know that stalker-comment-reading thing that Alyssa mentioned yesterday? Where you deliberately seek out the comments of specific posters as you skim the comments, when you’re in a rush? I feel like I creep on every single one of the people who have posted their “Why I read APW” posts this week. Every. Single. One. of them.

    I have a crush on every single person on this site. xoxo

    Happy Wednesday, everyone!

  • Faith

    Liz, I’m so with ya on everything!

    “Making my own decisions has further prepared me to continue to know my own mind, sift opposing (and often, well-meaning) advice, and eventually choose what’s best for my expanding family. That doesn’t make me a great bride or wife or mom- it makes me a thinking, independent person.”

    THIS is the part that I truly love about APW…I’m not crazy here!

    • Wsquared

      I especially like the part about a “thinking, independent PERSON.”

      I’ve found that certainly as women, there is pressure to conform in society– both with regard to men, but also with regard to other women. And a lot of the time, that conformity, and pressure, is self-policing.

      If I can add to that part about being a thinking, independent person, part of being a thinking, independent person and “doing what is right for YOU” boils down to taking stock of personal LIBERTY. This does not mean that you do whatever the heck you feel like when the consequences are, say, unjustly hurting others. Rather, personal liberty is not based primarily on the external– i.e. having “stuff” (in that last post about engagement rings, I found myself nodding when I read about encountering “Fancy People and their Fancy Stuff”), and even one’s standing in the world. I’ve noticed that we talk about doing what’s right for us, but we don’t always easily make that jump in our thinking. Me included. I guess you could say that in life we ought to think about best-case and worst-case scenarios: that should some dire circumstances befall us, we do not feel that we have nothing and that we cannot continue; that we’ve “lost it all.” Sure, the odds of that happening may be slim, but can we really be so complacent as to think that stuff like that will never happen?

      Personal liberty therefore must come from within.

      It is contingent upon a healthy sense of self, which brings inner peace. As such, it is contingent on *self-knowledge*. Self-knowledge allows us to distinguish between “filling yourself up with self” and being full of yourself.

  • This post sums up (beautifully and clearly in a way that is beyond me) all the reasons I dislike referring to APW as a “marriage blog.” It is so much more than that, and yet also satisfies my need to gather creative wedding ideas.

    And too, part of me is so looking forward to the other side, when I can start giving back to in a more tangible/useful way :)

    • Marchelle

      But isn’t it more of a marriage blog than a superficial wedding one? I find that term more appropriate actually.

      • You are completely right – freudian slip!

  • I actually found APW early on in my wedding planning and my wedding is still 3 months away. I’ve always enjoyed the graduate posts and imagine what I might have to say after my wedding. And I recently started going through the archives… It was phenomenally helpful to see Meg didn’t start so… enlightened! At first, the posts are more irritated, confused, and questioning. And that was great for me to see… as I’m in that stage right now! I have no idea if I’ll continue reading after the wedding but when I get to caught up in wedding planning and start having a nervous breakdown over the envelope liner color or some other ridiculous detail, I quit all wedding blogs and read only APW for awhile and it usually brings me down to reality!

    • meg

      Well, I always had the same philosphy. I just b*tched more when I was in the middle of the (hellish) wedding planning process ;)

  • Sarah M

    Yes!! I never imagined I would find a blog that has affected my life so much as this one. I feel empowered by being a part of this community and inspired to create a better life for myself and my little family.

  • Love this post. Liz, having comment stalked you and followed you over to your blog, I definitely think you are quickly gaining some marital wisdom. :)

    Your comment about expectations and people expecting you to conform with your decisions is so right on. That’s why I love reading APW. Through this community, we see so many women who are making their own decisions for their baby family, and standing up for them. It gives me the courage to do the same.

  • leahismyname

    I’m glad I’m not the only person who’s planning to keep reading APW after the wedding. I didn’t discover APW until a couple of months ago, but I’m so happy I did. I think I feel smarter after I read a post.

    Like this one: I think that posts and musings like today’s are why I’m approaching my upcoming wedding with some much less frantic-ness (is that a word?) than I expected. Because I’m constantly reminded here that the important thing is building a strong relationship with my partner. All of the decisions that I make should ultimately be about that: our relationship. Everything else is frosting on the cake, which is ALWAYS nice. But not necessary.

    Thank you.

  • Marchelle

    Exactly, Liz. Especially on the continually selfishly gleaning wisdom part, long after the wedidng planning is over. :)

  • Dear Liz, I totally comment-stalk you too. I comment stalk most people, I’m with DDay in wanting to read ALL OF THEM! :) And I will set people on fire if they make you cry about baby stuff.

    Thanks for more wisdom!

  • ddayporter

    yay Liz! that is all for now.

    except also I want to just admit that this is possibly my top favorite ever wedding grad photo. especially because I knew from your post that you guys weren’t thinking, “omg this would make the most blog-worthy photo,” it was just you guys being you guys. and goodness I don’t mean to imply any of the wedding grads WERE thinking about blog- worthiness, it’s just that this photo could have been thought up that way, but I don’t think it was. and it’s just so freaking hot. is this awkward enough?

    • ddayporter

      also, now that I’ve got the oh-la-la-photo bit out of my system… I really like this: “That doesn’t make me a great bride or wife or mom- it makes me a thinking, independent person.” (I have no idea how to make italics in the comments, anyone want to enlighten me?) Just, exactly. AND, I’m right there with you on the selfish reasons for being here, but the wisdom, friend, you have it.

  • I love how Liz talks about APW as a safe environment to discuss and find our voices so that we can carry them into the real world when confronted with people not like us. And that this community has each others’ back. Because we definitely do. Just as we won’t allow shaming, I know all the people in our community support each other in our marriages, careers, goals, adventures, etc.

  • Stephasaurus

    Great post, and I have to say – for as hooked as I am on APW, I can’t see myself leaving this blog after my wedding in two years either. I thankfully found this blog shortly after I got engaged. I started reading and never looked back…maybe that’s why I haven’t felt one ounce of stress or “THIS IS THE WAY IT HAS TO BE” about my wedding or my future marriage, so no WAY would I stop visiting this blog after my wedding!

  • JEM

    You nailed it:
    “As women (hell, as PEOPLE) once we hit the point of consciousness, we’re suddenly thrust all of these expectations to be a certain way- many of them conflicting and confusing.”

    I thought life was supposed to get easier as you get older because you figure out who you are and get comfortable with yourself. But, you know what I have learned? It’s actually harder. Why? Because we take on more roles and with those additional roles come additional definitions, expectations, and responsibilities and we weave an even more tangled web of self-identity.

    So, who am I again? Because it is definitely one of those times in my life where it’s hard to keep track. Is this just my life circumstances currently (24, engaged a year, new job for 6 months) or is this pretty par for the course?

    • Faith

      I’d say that’s pretty much life as I know it. And I don’t really think it’s a bad thing…having to re-evaluate and rediscover who you are in light of life’s various circumstances keeps you authentic and doesn’t allow you to simply stay who you’ve always been. We need to grow and those circumstances in life force us to do that.

      • JEM

        Faith- just wanted to thank you because you knocked me back on my heels a bit and are making me think. This is a good thing. :)

  • I love this –> ‘help build a safe environment where we get to practice voicing our disagreeing opinions, so we’re ready to do the same in “real life.”’

    Yes! We’re sharpening and practicing our thoughts and actions here so we’re stronger in real life and can bust that shame!

  • Jen

    Awesome and I totally agree!
    I totally agree that this blog (and writing my own) and generally standing up for being a woman and having a wedding and not being ashamed….great experience for all sorts of life events!
    Thanks for writing!

  • Right on. I love this post.
    Congratulations, too! :)

  • Frances

    This is so true. I’m not married and probably don’t intend to be, though I’m in a long term committed relationship that looks a lot like a marriage. I use APW as a sounding board, about what it means to be a woman in a committed relationship, and also to explore what my views of marriage are, why I don’t like the idea for me (please note for me, not for you) and whether I can ever imagine liking it for me, and if not why not. In short I think its amazing that so many women here are reclaiming what it means to be married, and wives, and even if that doesn’t suit me its damn useful for me to know why it doesn’t suit me.
    It was a lot easier for me to be clearer to myself about why I didn’t want to get married, or have a wedding, or be called wife, before there were so many smart, liberal, caring, powerful and educated women saying I didn’t have to do it THAT way. And that self questioning is so helpful. Its why I come back to APW time and time again.

  • Christina

    If I wasn’t a terrible writer and had written a guest post – this would be it. I’m already (2.5 months) married and all other blogs have fallen by the way-side. But I’m still hooked on APW because ….. well, I think it’s because I need a structure of people (but mostly women) who are in the same or similar life-stage as me. I’ve always had a built-in group of people because of school. Moving on to highschool at the same time, going through SATs, leaving for college — I’ve always had people around me that I can lean on because we’re all going through the same thing. Then come the years of weddings, and I guess I married early for a San Franciscan (27). I’m not kidding when I say I literally do not know a SINGLE person that is married (except for one set of my grandparents.) None of my friends that I went through the rest of my life stages are here with me, both in geographical location and life stage. When I was going through my wedding planning fears and obstacles, those really close girlfriends of mine that I normally lean on could not even come close to understanding what I was going through. I love them tons, but I needed some people that understood where I was at. Needless to say, I am so happy to have found APW so that I can feel like I have a support network of women who have shared and varied experiences. Sure, not everyone here is married yet, or even engaged yet, but still. A lot are and it gives me some sanity.

    Rave completed.

  • Great post, and speaks so eloquently to what I love about APW. Admist all the tulle, flowers, and pretty objects of wedding planning, I realized along the way that getting married is THE most serious, grown up decision I have ever made. I think I used to group it in with decisions such as moving to a city, getting a job, and deciding to go to law school. I loved that APW helped me find focus on the biggness of my grown up decision, and helped me translate those wedding-planning life lessons into married-woman and life-living lessons.

  • Yes! I feel exactly the same way. I actually didn’t start reading APW until long after my wedding, and I started reading with more capitalistic intentions…

    But for me what has been so nice about it is the community of women and the support that they give each other. So often my relationships with women have been complicated and even destroyed by competitiveness and jealousy. Which one of us is prettier? Which one of us is smarter? Which one of us has the better relationship? Which one of us is doing more cool and interesting things with our lives?

    Here it is safe to be smart, and it is okay to not be perfect. Here I see women cheering each other on, and comforting each other while struggling with major life changes. I have found so much inspiration here, every time Meg writes a well thought out post that tackel issues like money, or self value, or perusing dreams. It’s truly awesome, and I’m grateful to have such an influence to help me shape my marriage, career, and life list.

    Plus Liz, I’ve been reading your contributions for awhile and I think you’re a total bad-ass! Women like you are also why I love this site: even though I’m really different from you in a lot of ways (not a church goer, deffinitly didn’t save the goods till marriage). I so much admire your perspective, and your unapologetic & intelligent musings on why you done things your way. It is nice too that this site dosen’t just preach to the choir, but challenges us to really think about our assumptions and decisions. Hooray!

  • Oh, man, the OPINIONS. That is one of the roughest things of wedding planning, really. I have friends who had a baby recently and they also have the same issues with people’s opinions. It’s the hard part about taking part in a social tradition and experiencing that shared cultural experience of being married or having children– we become community property. And that’s a harsh way to put it, but by engaging in such social and communal rituals and traditions, people want to help share the struggle and the joy with you. And that manifests as opinions and suggestions and what feels like pressure. And beyond sharing with you, it’s also people’s insecurities and fears cropping up: the need to be validated in our choices, the need to be told that what we’re doing is okay for ourselves, for our babies, for our families. So we want to push away and be independent and make our own choices, certainly– but we also want to know that we’re doing it right. That we aren’t hurting our relationship with our partners, that we aren’t doing something that could be difficult for our baby.

    Opinions and suggestions and pressure are just HARD. But the support and lessons from APW have been absolutely priceless. They have taught me how to find support, how to be strong, and how my husband and I are stronger together. Hard lessons, great community, and in the end, I’m becoming a better me.

  • Angel

    I read APW for the life-living and woman-being lessons. I’m nowhere near marriage – I’m not even in a relationship with anybody. Sure I pick up on marriage- and wedding-lesson-y stuff, and file it away – but pretty much every single post has something about how to live life, and that’s what I come here for… it’s all these women telling each other what they’ve learned about life (and marriage and weddings as a part of life), and I find it incredible the amount of wisdom and truth there is here.

    Hopefully someday I’ll be going through my own wedding-planning stage and I’ll be able to pull from years of reading APW (and Reclaiming Wife) and not be stressed out so much and prioritize better the things that are truly important and all that jazz.

    Also, I totally comment-stalk Liz…

  • Heather G.

    “I felt a little “you go girl!” every time I saw the beautiful pictures and heard the words of wisdom. The flowers and favors and venues were just as gorgeous as the ones on other sites, but they weren’t the focus.”


    I consider myself lucky because I am not yet engaged, but I stumbled upon APW and found what I know I will need to get me through the wedding aspect of this very important step in my life. But you totally nailed why APW is so meaningful to me. When I found this site, it didn’t occur to me to compare how our day will be, how our engagement will be, etc with the graduate posts. I just felt like this was a place that I could be me (even if only internally, if that makes sense?) and enjoy other people being who they are and celebrating the way that they want to. I mean, when my guy and I get engaged, I could cry, laugh, yell, scream, vomit (!), or all of the above and I would know that this would all be OK.

    So, yes, thank you for this post. My sentiments EXACTLY!*

  • Thank you, thank you for this post!!! It’s so true, so beautiful written, and I can’t thank you enough for putting into words what I already feel (and know I will in the future as I face these after marriage events as well)

  • Part of why I read APW is because it introduces me to super-smart ladies like Liz, whom I can then blogstalk and file away her wisdom for a time when my life might involve things like babies…. ;)

    • robin

      Oh, me TOO. Plus. I think that if I still lived in Philly, we would be new friends having mocktails together. ;)

  • When I started planning, I did what I always do when I’m doing something new. I researched the sh*t out of it on the internets. And as I got deeper and deeper into the mire of WHAT A WEDDING MUST BE I reached this point where I was all alone in an empty room and I had a thousand voices shouting at me about RIBBONS and FAVORS and VERA WANG and ROSES and all these other things that I felt like I was supposed to have but that didn’t really connect with me or what I wanted my wedding to be. And just when I was spiraling out of control and I couldn’t find the line between who I was and who I was trying to be to fit into some wedding shaped hole, I stumbled onto APW.

    And then… silence.

    Blessed silence.

    In the calm I was able to read the stories of other women who were in the same place and who found their way out. I found my own voice again and I remembered what we were doing this for in the first place.

    Thank god for this place.

  • liz, you’re the one i comment-stalk…

    • N

      me too!

  • Loved this post! EXACTLY, a hundred times over.

  • I’m very thankful I found APW while still in the midst of wedding planning- it’s such a breath of fresh air & sanity! I know that I will continue to read after my wedding in two months for all the reasons Liz perfectly stated.

  • I don’t have plans to even get married any time soon, let alone plan a wedding. Or a marriage. But I *love* reading APW. While I do hope one day I’ll get to put to use many of the wedding ideas I’ve found here, what I really love are all the woman-being lessons I’m learning. At 31, I get stuck in this mindset that I feel like I should have already figured this all out. And I haven’t. I don’t know if I want to marry the man I’m with. I don’t know if I want kids. I don’t know what direction I want to take my life in. Let alone what I want to do with my evening. And reading APW is helping me to start thinking about some of those things and ask the hard questions. Maybe one day I’ll have a few answers too :)

  • i love hearing from liz. MORE LIZ!

  • Liz, you are excellent.