Friday, November 2, 2018


Well! Adam and I have officially been married for two weeks now, and it's pretty awesome.

I didn't expect life to feel any different once we got hitched, but it does, in the most wonderful, somewhat unexplainable way. 

I worked up until the Wednesday before our Friday wedding, and my evenings were filled with beauty treatments, like a manicure for my tiny, bitten nails and a spray tan that made my face look like an oil slick until a blessed shower. Plus, a last-minute assignment for my publishing career popped up, which was quite frenzied but also quite exciting, too! 

The day of the rehearsal dinner, Adam and his groomsman, Dale, took care of *all* the errands, which meant I got to sleep in, work out, and help set up a few decorations at the reception venue. 

As for other rehearsal highlights...

The zipper got stuck on my Rent the Runway frock, and Adam had to literally cut me out (ask me more about this sometime). I cried during our rehearsal vows. I didn't finish my delicious short ribs at dinner (which is a huge testament to my excited stomach, as I am not one to turn down red meat). Our family gave the loveliest speeches. My maid of honor, matron of honor, and I spent the night at my parents' house, where we watched The Parent Trap and sipped on champagne.

Oh, and I didn't sleep.


Which obviously made me absolutely freak out and panic.

"Have you been up all night?" My mom asked at 6:30, when she came down to the kitchen to start her tea kettle. "I woke up and saw you weren't there around 4. I was a little worried you were pulling a Runaway Bride."


My mom brewed a strong pot of coffee, warmed me up a piece of quiche, and thus, the fastest, most surreal day of my life had officially begun!  

My Most Favorite Moments of the Day
1. Seeing Adam for the first time in the courtyard of the Monastery was SO EMOTIONAL! I've never been so overwhelmed with happiness and love.
2. Walking down the aisle with my dad and seeing the faces of all our friends and family was positively cinematic. I thought my heart was going to burst from gratitude and love. 
3. Our wedding parade from the church to the reception hall was just an absolute blast, and I was so thankful the rain held out just long enough!
4. My mom helping me into my dress was just such a wonderful few moments of calm and quiet in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. It was a special time to simply soak things in together, just the two of us. 
5. Eating our dinner and looking out at the sea of guests — again, how full the heart can feel!

Biggest Surprises
1. Everyone says the day is going to fly by, and I believed them. I've been a bridesmaid a handful of times, and I know how quickly the day goes. And yet, as the actual bride, the day seemed to move at warp speed to the point where it felt surreal, almost like I wasn't even there. When the videographer and photographer showed up at noon, I remember thinking, "Why are they here? It's only—oh. Nevermind." 
2. Photos were exhausting. We had *the* most wonderful, sweetest photographers and still, I felt so tired by the end of the afternoon. It's emotionally draining having to smile for so many hours!
3. As the day progressed, my dress became quite heavy. I didn't love the feeling of wearing a corset, but I'm thankful I did considering all the weight it took off my shoulders. I can only imagine how heavy that dress would have felt without it!
4. Dancing in front of everyone was awkward (it's not like we have any fancy moves to show off!), and the song suddenly felt forever long. Luckily, once that first dance was out of the way, dancing with my dad seemed much less uncomfortable. I was a seasoned bride at that point. La-tee-dah.
5. At the reception, I'd see a person and be like, "Oh my gosh! It's so-and-so!" and get super excited, and then the next second, another wonderful friend or family member was there to say hello. It's just one joyous interaction after another with all of your favorite people in one place.

Regrets (Let's be real here — anyone who says they live their life without any regrets is full of it.)
1. I forgot a lot of things on the wedding day. For example:
  • Adam's sister made us the coolest piece of "adventure" art last summer, and I wanted to display it alongside all of our vacation photos. It was honestly the inspiration FOR the vacation photos and our guest globe, and I TOTALLY FORGOT to bring it! "Where is the piece Rachael made you?" my mom asked as we were setting up. I stared at her blankly before it finally sank in.
  • I forgot my pearl headpiece for the reception at the church. 
  • This summer, we literally had a family crest made for the purpose of displaying it at our wedding reception. I didn't even remember this until a week after our actual wedding. I mean, WHOA. 
2. I do wish I had taken the time to be creative and think up a few more personal touches and details. Our reception venue is truly extraordinary, and I was so paranoid about decorations looking cluttered or tacky, that I shied away from doing much at all.
3. I should have drank more water throughout the day rather than worrying about having to pee too often. Proper hydration probably would have helped with the photography exhaustion!

It truly was one of the best days ever, and Adam and I are just overwhelmed with love and gratitude for our parents, families, and friends. 

We still have a while before we receive any professional photographs, but here is a selfie Adam took of us during the cocktail hour, which we spent sipping champagne, gobbling down appetizers, and exclaiming, "Oh my gosh! WE ARE MARRIED!!!" about one million times. 

Oh, and here's the family crest I forgot to display, too. Enjoy. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Saying Goodbye to Our Darling Clementine

Last Wednesday, I woke up early and went to let the dogs out.

I immediately noticed Clementine's right eye was swollen. 

"That darn eye of yours," I told her. 

This was not an unusual event for our little Clementine. She'd been plagued with optical issues since we adopted her a little over three years ago, and we'd since accumulated a dependable bag of medications that always fixed her up. 

I gave Clem a few eye drops and continued with my workday, not at all worried. I was sure that in four hours or so, her eye would already be improving. By the next morning, she would be good as new. That's how it always worked.

Except when I checked on her that afternoon and later that evening, her eye looked very much the same.

Maybe even worse.

I went to bed Wednesday night with a sick feeling in my stomach. 

When we woke up Thursday, Clementine's eye had truly taken a turn for the worse. Never before had I seen it so swollen and aggravated. She wasn't moving from her bed, and when we carried her outside, she'd simply collapse. She was eating and drinking when we brought her bowls to her bedside, but she wasn't going to the bathroom. 

Adam took the day off work and was able to get her a mid-day appointment with the vet. Our vet took one look at Clem and immediately sent Adam to the Animal Eye Institute. 

Clementine's prognosis was scary. The doctors believed she had a tumor behind her eye. They also discovered glaucoma. 

Their recommendation was enucleation. They wanted to remove Clementine's eye. 

"Can we try a medication route first?" Adam asked, knowing Clem wasn't a good candidate for surgery because of her age and health. "That's always worked in the past."

Armed with five different medications and a complex dosage schedule, we were prepared to nurse our Golden Girl back to health. 

I was confident Clementine would be okay. She always bounced back. Just last August, her right eye had actually been gushing blood, and she survived that. And in July, her back legs had randomly started to give out... And still, she recovered.

That was our Clem. She was tenacious. 

I went home during the lunch hour on Friday to give Clementine a few different eye drops. I started to cry when I saw her. 

Her eye had somehow swollen to an even larger size, despite a few rounds of medication, and it was now beginning to bleed. She still wasn't moving from her bed. 

I cleaned her eye the best that I could. And then I called Adam.

He drove home immediately, and we headed straight to the Animal Eye Institute. 

But when we arrived in the parking lot, I suddenly felt paralyzed. I couldn't get out of Adam's truck.

I started to cry.

"What's wrong? They're going to help her," Adam said, his voice optimistic, hopeful. 

I shook my head, "I don't want her to have the surgery. It isn't fair to her. We have to let her go."

It was a horrible, heartbreaking conclusion I had reached, but I knew it was the right one. Our vets believe Clem was somewhere between 16 and 18 years old. Maybe even older. She had a collapsing trachea and a heart murmur in addition to being completely deaf and mostly blind. 

Sure, there was a chance she could survive the eye removal surgery. But I kept focusing on the more likely scenario, of Clem dying on the operating table, surrounded by strangers in a strange place. Or even worse, that she would be so panicked, so anxious leading up to the surgery, she'd pass before they could even begin the operation.

Clem lifted her head with a sudden strength and set it on my arm. She looked up at me with her cloudy eyes and seemed to say that it was okay. She was ready to go. She then moved her head to Adam's arm and did the same to him.

We drove home and called Angel Paws. 

The next four hours were a blur. We sat on the floor beside Clementine's bed, petting her and telling her our favorite memories together. We pulled up our favorite photos and videos. Most of all, we told Clementine how much we loved her, and how much she was going to enjoy heaven.

"You're going to be back with your original owner," I said, the realization bringing a strange mix of happiness and heartbreak. I looked to Adam. "What if Clem likes her original owner more than us?"

"I'm sure she loves us all the same," he assured me.

It was the strangest afternoon. As Clementine quickly deteriorated, I felt myself praying for Angel Paws to arrive sooner, to relieve her of this pain. And yet, I didn't want them to ever arrive. I didn't want to let my sweet girl go. 

We gave Clementine a McDonald's cheeseburger at 5 o'clock, and the woman from Angel Paws arrived at 6:10. 

She sat with us a while and explained how everything would work. She asked us questions about Clementine and what she liked to do.

"Sleep," we both immediately replied, starting to laugh.

We sat on the floor in front of the fireplace. I held Clementine, and Adam sat in front of her, petting her face and saying it would all be okay. Gus was there, too, lying beside her. 

Clementine was first given a shot of anesthesia that put her to sleep within minutes. She was snoring and so, so peaceful when she received the euthanasia. 

The woman gently held a stethoscope against Clementine's chest.

"Clementine has crossed the Rainbow Bridge," she told us. 

She went outside to give us some time alone with Clementine's body. We kept her collar, but we wanted Clem to leave with her beloved, lavender-patterned bed. I lifted each of her ears, kissing the spots that smelled vaguely like corn chips. I said goodbye, and Adam carried her to the car. 

I know it will be a while before my heart stops hurting, and my tears stop falling. Every dog brings something special to your life, and Clementine brought so much comfort, humor, and love to ours. She was so weird and wonderful, and my gosh, she had so much spunk.

She was just the best.

I love thinking about Clementine in heaven. When she would scamper through the yard, she looked like a bunny rabbit, almost hopping instead of jogging. She must be so happy to be able to see and hear again, to be able to move so freely and painlessly. And I hope heaven has an endless amount of soft, fluffy dog beds. Clementine loved hoarding all the dog beds in our house.

Thank you for being ours, even if it was for a short while. We'll love you forever, Clementine.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Name Game

When I was a little girl and daydreaming about my wedding (as admittedly, I often did), I always imagined taking my future husband's last name.

I also imagined marrying Lance Bass at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Yet when I got engaged last October, dropping my maiden name no longer seemed like such a no-brainer.

I was twenty seven years old. I'd had my name for nearly three decades. I liked my name, and I was proud of all the things I'd accomplished with it.

The "J" at the beginning and the double "L" at the end, they remind me of bookends. It's a wonderfully neat name. It's a happy name. It's a determined name—be all. I can be all, anything, everything I want to be.

Losing it suddenly didn't sound so appealing.

I considered dropping my middle name and using Beall instead, but that didn't feel right either. I was named after my grandma, and I love having her name as part of my own.

When I began telling people I was considering going with a double last name (no hyphen, just a simple space), I was surprised by the responses.

I heard everything from what a headache I'd be creating for the healthcare system to "Is Adam okay with that?"

Jeez Louise.

I certainly didn't like the idea of making anybody's job more difficult. And it hurt my heart to know that people would question the strength of my marriage all over the fact that I didn't simply drop my last name and swap in my husband's instead.

I mean, look at Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson for goodness sake. They seem completely fine, if you ask me.

I stopped thinking about the matter entirely for a few months, giving flimsy, fickle answers whenever someone asked if I was changing my last name.

Ultimately, Etsy made me decide.

Because I had to type a note to the seller of my personalized wedding dress hanger.

I entered our wedding date and then paused.

My mind remained confused and unsure.

But my heart was confident.

My heart knew what to do. It always does.

Mrs. Beall Mueller, I typed, pressing each key down with certainty.

I thought my childhood self would approve. I also think she would agree Adam is a much better match than Lance Bass.

Though a wedding at Notre Dame?

That would have been pretty darn glamorous.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Real Prince Charmings

A lot of people—both men and women—turn their noses up at women’s fiction, so often dismissing it as “chick lit.”

But I love this genre. I most ardently love it.

Bring me your flawed, relatable protagonists. Bring me your quick, witty dialogue that literally never happens in real life. Workplace drama? Awesome! A fiercely loyal and clever best friend? I'd expect nothing less. A tumultuous “will they or won’t they” romance?

This is where things get fuzzy.

As my plane landed in Cincinnati this evening, I was flying through the final pages of a recent novel written by a favorite women’s fiction author.

And I was feeling frustrated and disappointed.

Because yet another smart heroine had ended up with yet another eternal-player-turned-monogamist love interest.

Okay, seriously.

Can we *please* stop this already?

It’s not that I’m against a great love story that keeps the reader guessing. I mean, a great love story should have its ups and downs and leave you on the edge of your seat, right?

But there are so many more creative ways to achieve this rather than placing a commitment phobe on a pedestal and having him magically change his ways in the last 5–10 pages.

Why do smart writers continue to allow the clich├ęd “Carrie and Mr. Big” setup dilute their work? Has everyone forgotten what Jane Austen taught us? The Mr. Wickhams of the world are not to be trusted!

And to make matters worst?

There is generally an older, wiser female character who warns the protagonist of the alarmingly handsome, impossibly charming, astonishingly smart, mind-bogglingly wealthy womanizer.

And yet, the lovable heroine just can’t help herself and falls for him anyway. And—surprise!—after all his mixed messages and unreliable behavior, he changes. Because she was special.


As a voracious reader and an aspiring author, I am disappointed when I see this trope appear again and again. It hurts my heart a little bit. I think of all the novels I read at ages 11, 15, 18... And I can’t help but wonder how they affected me and my own romantic expectations.

I spent a whole bunch of years entangling myself in flings that were toast before they even started. Some were fun, some were agonizing, and all of them were doomed. Because they all involved men who were carbon copies of the characters I read about in women's fiction.

So while the smart, funny banter, handsome looks, and eternal, beguiling ambiguousness were all there, that final plot twist never came. These guys? They never changed.

When I met Adam, he asked me out on a second date before our first had ended. Within two weeks, he was proudly calling me his girlfriend. On evenings I had grad school class after work, he'd cook me a late supper to enjoy when I was finally free at 10pm.

Adam let me cry big, ugly sobs into his chest when my family dog had a cancer scare, and then he took me to get margaritas after. He literally ran over a bouquet of flowers to my office the afternoon I received good news from a literary agent.

Adam sends me a text each morning, asking how I slept the night before and wishing me a good day. He doesn't let me grow quiet after an argument; he is a fixer and makes things right. When he arrives home from work, he stops into my writer's nook, kisses the top of my head, and then engulfs the dogs into huge hugs. He loves me when I'm not acting very lovable.

He is my actual, totally real Prince Charming, and he's made me realize that true love doesn't play games.

And yet, it's just as much fun. Usually more so.

It's time we celebrate the good guys and stop telling girls the other ones are worth waiting for, that they're going to suddenly undergo some magical, radical metamorphosis.

Besides, can't we all agree Harry Goldenblatt was a way better catch than Mr. Big?

He let Charlotte keep a litter of King Charles Spaniels in the penthouse, for goodness sake.

There are better love stories to be told.

So let's write them.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Taking the Plunge

In January, Adam and I decided to join a gym.

You know, like millions of other Americans.

We toured the Jewish Community Center in our neighborhood, and it had everything we wanted, including an immaculate workout facility (Every treadmill has a TV complete with Netflix—how about that for fancy?), free exercise classes, and an aquatics center.

A lot of evenings, Adam and I will do cardio workouts before meeting in the pool area to walk against the lazy river or just relax in the whirlpool spa.

I often look over longingly at the laps pool as svelte swimmers breaststroke their way from end to end.
Source (Also: not the actual JCC pool)

"Why don't you go swim some laps?" Adam will ask.

"Oh, I don't have goggles," was my first excuse.

"Then buy some."

So I did.

"Want to swim laps at the gym tonight?" Adam asked a few weeks later.

"I need a swim cap," I explained. "It's so cold outside, and I can't leave the gym with wet hair. I'll get sick."*

So off I went to Amazon once again to purchase more swim accessories.

This morning, I proclaimed that this would be the evening I would finally swim laps in the pool. And by the time I got off work, I was well on my way of talking myself out of it.

"Have you been outside today? It is SO windy and SO cold." I texted Adam at half past five. "I don't think I want to leave the house now that I'm home."

"The pool area is warm," he quickly replied. "It will feel great."

I sighed, turning off the TV (I was watching the season finale of I Am Jazz—so good) and trudged upstairs. Before I could talk myself out of it, I threw my bathing suit, goggles and swim cap into a gym bag, changed into workout clothes, and grabbed my car keys.

I was going to the JCC aquatics center tonight, gosh darn it.

Once I got to the locker room, I changed into my bathing suit with its giant, pink bow across the chest.
I took a photo for reference. Darling, right? But admittedly, not very sporty.

I look ridiculous
, I thought. Why didn't I buy a sleek Speedo one piece during my swimming shopping spree?

I nervously gathered my things and walked out to the pool area.

I fumbled with the swim cap, trying to stuff my hair into it neatly, and then I tugged the goggles around my noggin.

Naturally, Michael Phelps' twin was butterflying in the first lane.

Ugh. Of course he would be.

The middle lane was open so I sat on the edge of the pool, took a deep breath, and scooted in.

I swam the breaststroke from one end to the other. And it felt great.

I did a few more laps before noticing the third swimmer in the pool was a middle-aged man doing a sort of doggy paddle. It instantly made me feel better.

It didn't matter if I wasn't Summer Sanders! No one was watching, no one cared!

So I stopped caring.

I swam my heart out for the next twenty minutes. It was exhausting and wonderful.

As I swam, I thought about all the times in my life I had missed out on its magic.

I thought of myself at age fourteen, with a newly acquired set of wide hips and curves I found mortifying. I don't think I swam at all that summer.

I thought of when I first met Adam, and he invited me to a friend's pool. We were so new. I had sat on a pool chair wearing a cover-up and holding a novel "I just couldn't put down." They were my body guards, my defense against embarrassment.

And then I thought of the summer after that, of the first vacation I went on with Adam's family. We traveled to Northern Michigan, and I had felt so free and deliriously happy diving and swimming through the cold, crashing waves of the lake.

I loved the water.

And I was done letting insecurities keep me away from it.

*Side note: My copy chief at work told me that swim caps don't keep your hair dry. I didn't believe her, but she was right. They don't.

**Second side note: I also made it an entire ten minutes in the steam room after my swim, which is quite an accomplishment considering I usually walk in, sit there for thirty seconds, freak out, and leave.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Saying Yes While Wearing the Wrong Dress

I realize it's not terribly cool to be that girl who has dreamed of her wedding since she was like, seven, but I am totally that girl.

One of the aspects I daydreamed about most? Wedding dress shopping.

My mom, Adam's mom, and I made our first trip out to the bridal shops in late October. My mom and I went a second time in November.

While I thought I had found my dress at our very first appointment at our very first shop, I wanted to be absolutely certain. Plus, I loved trying on wedding dresses.

Loved, loved, loved it.

"You can tell me if you hate something," every stylist told me as I sighed over every gown.

"I don't hate any of them. I love them all," I replied.
But while there were a few strong contenders, only one made my eyes well up and my heart feel big and full.

So in January, off we went to the original bridal shop to try on THE gown. In addition to my mom and Adam's mom, four of my bridesmaids were also able to come along, which was such a treat. Meg (photojournalist extraordinaire) even brought her fancy camera. 

Rachel picked me up for the appointment, and we arrived outside the shop five minutes early. As she was paying the parking meter, my phone rang.

It was the bridal shop calling.

"Hi Jenna? I see you're coming in soon?"

"Um, yes. We just got here. My appointment is at noon," I confirmed, a sinking feeling starting in my stomach.

"Right. Well, we have a problem. The dress you're coming in to try on? We sold it off the rack earlier this month."

"Oh," was my eloquent reply.

"You can still come in for an appointment if you'd like," the associate said.

Seeing as my group was already there (Adam's sister had even flown in from Charlotte as a surprise!), what else were we to do?

I put on a happy face but spent the first bit of the appointment secretly feeling sorry for myself. Who was this girl who had bought my dress? Why hadn't the bridal shop realized this earlier and given me enough time to reschedule for a later date?

Self-Pity City, population me.

Of course, once a bottle of champagne had been popped and I started trying on more gowns (just to be super sure I still wanted the one from October), everything was completely and totally fine. I got to work with my original stylist who was amazing, and I was surrounded by some of my most favorite people.

Adam's mom and sister had even brought me a tiara to wear. So I was practically Kate Middleton for the afternoon.

Naturally, I managed to confuse myself and fall in love with another dress.

"Maybe this is a sign," I said worriedly. "Maybe the shop was supposed to sell the original dress off the rack so I would find this one."

"Maybe," everyone said supportively, though they did not appear convinced.

"Could we alter the back?" I asked the stylist. "It reminds me of strange bathing suit straps."

Note: if you describe the back of your potential wedding dress as having "strange bathing suit straps," it's probably not the one.

Thankfully, the moms were armed with photos of every angle of the original dress.

God, it was beyond perfect.

It was the loveliest, most magical dress in all of the Greater Cincinnati Area.

What had I been thinking?

"I'm saying yes to the original dress!" I proclaimed, wearing the imposter dress that had almost knocked the dream dress off its throne.


We all clinked champagne flutes, and my mom gave a very sweet speech, nearly making me cry.

I then tried for the millionth time to convince everyone I could pull off a dramatic cathedral veil that covered my face.

Once more I failed.


I then got to sign mine and Adam's name and our wedding date on the wall, which really sealed the deal.

The appointment certainly hadn't gone as planned, but yet?

It was as fun and special as I always dreamed it would be.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Kitchen Proposal

It's a new year, and it feels like the right time for my very first engagement/wedding-planning post.

Adam and I are getting married on Friday, October 19, 2018.

We have 278 days to go, which is crazy exciting! I remember the date feeling impossibly far away when we first got engaged, and now it finally feels close.

So today, I would like to finally write down our engagement story.

Let's rewind five (!!!) months.

It was a Saturday morning in August, and Adam and I were busy cleaning our new house.

My Grandma Betty was visiting for the very first time that afternoon, and we wanted everything to be *perfect.*

Naturally, I was busy in my writer's nook.

Because perfectly straightened novels and a neatly organized desktop clearly took priority over vacuumed rugs and dusted end tables.


So there I was, meticulously arranging my favorite books and knick-knacks, when Adam called from the kitchen.

"Hey! Can you come in here and help me move something?" he asked.

"Sure!" I replied, internally grumbling that this something had better not be the antique pie safe. That was heavy. "Coming!"

But when I rounded the corner, through our navy dining room and into our cake-batter-yellow kitchen, there was Adam, on bended knee.

One of our favorite David Bowie songs was playing over the Sonos, "Absolute Beginners," but I didn't realize it in that moment. I know Adam said a lot of wonderful things, but I don't really remember those either.

I just remember seeing tears in Adam's eyes and the most beautiful ring I'd ever seen set in a square box in his hand.

I had also forgotten how to speak, as Adam had to prompt me to say something, that something being Yes (of course!).

My hand shook as Adam slid the diamond-and-sapphire engagement ring over my finger. We spent the next half an hour or so talking about how excited we were, shaking our heads incredulously (we were going to get MARRIED!) and hugging one another tight.

We were both wearing old college t-shirts (mine was a sort of "door prize" from when my roommate competed in "DePaul Idol"—remember that, Becca?). Adam was wearing a baseball cap. Neither of us had showered that day or done anything remotely attractive with our hair (not a big deal for Adam, who has the best head of hair ever, but a much larger predicament for my flat, dishwater-blonde locks). And I didn't have a bit of makeup on.

And the funny thing is, even as we started to FaceTime family and friends, we never left our little kitchen, the kitchen where we had spent hours earlier that summer painting—so much painting!—while talking, listening to podcasts, singing along to our favorite songs, and occasionally eating slices of leftover pizza.

It was also the place where we had cooked countless dinners together. I'd usually sit on the steps that lead into our kitchen, petting a dog with one hand and holding a glass of wine in the other, occasionally jumping in to chop fresh herbs or whisk a salad dressing. Adam would constantly be moving from fridge to countertop to stovetop, a tea towel always sticking out of one of his back pockets and his beer always left half-full.

Whenever Adam asked how I imagined our engagement, I told him I wanted to be completely surprised when he proposed, and that I wanted to get engaged in a private place, somewhere special to us.

So his kitchen proposal?

It couldn't have been more perfect.
Our friend Meg took this when we FaceTimed her with the news—it's still one of my favorite photos from that morning!