A Pandemic Wedding Story


At the beginning of the year Jason and I set May 30, 2020, as the date for our wedding.  We didn’t want it to be too soon and we wanted it to be special as our two families were becoming one.  It would also allow just enough time to get all the paperwork in order before his retirement date on June 22.  We sent out ‘Save the Date’ cards and started planning.  Since Shortway Brewing Co. was our first date (over a year and a half ago) and our second first date (when I finally got my act together and realized I was in love with him) we thought there would be nowhere more perfect than for us to have our wedding and the reception in the Beer Garden there.  So, we locked it on. 

Jason’s daughter, Akela, and I went to David’s Bridal the last weekend in January just to look. We walked away with a wedding dress and a bridesmaids dress. The invitations were made and they were in addressed envelopes with stamps waiting to be mailed. I even set up a page on Zola.com so that I could manage all the RSVPs.  It wasn’t going to be a large wedding.  We definitely weren’t planning anything crazy or glamorous (we aren’t fancy people).  We just wanted to make sure the kids got to be a part of it.  I was looking forward to Landon walking me down the aisle (more like rock path) to my future husband.  And we wanted to make sure there was good beer and good bbq for our family and friends.  Priorities!  

February flew by and before I knew it, it was March. Just a few short months away Jason and I would be married, Akela would graduate high school, Jason would retire and we would all head up to Wisconsin as one family.

Hello COVID19. 

First came the travel ban for active duty Marines and DOD employees.  Next, schools went into virtual learning mode from home.  Then, companies began putting their non-essential employees on telework status.  Lastly, businesses started to close and the ‘Stay at Home’ order went into effect. 

Because of all this, Jason’s retirement got pushed up to June 15.  Now we were going to have less time to get my name on all the necessary paperwork.  But I was certain we’d be able to get it done.  I made sure my last day of work was May 28th so that I could focus on getting what needed to be done after the wedding.

I realized we might not be able to get an application for a marriage license because of all the closures.  I called the Register of Deeds and they said they were taking it a day at a time and they couldn’t give me any definitive answers.  And we were still more than 60 days out from the wedding (marriage applications are only good for 60 days in North Carolina).  This is the moment I went into panic mode. 

Jason had told me he didn’t care when or how we got married.  He just wanted to be married to me.  So, on the morning of Friday, March 27th (about 1030am), I called the Register of Deeds and asked if I could come in to get a marriage license (just in case).  I had a doctor appointment in New Bern that afternoon so I was already going to be up there.  They made me an appointment at 1230pm.  That was going to be plenty of time before my 2pm appointment.  I called up Jason, told him to get the paperwork he needed and that we were going to get a marriage license. 

While I was rushing to get ready, now that I knew I had to get to the Register of Deeds office in two hours, I thought I would call the Magistrates office to see if they were offering limited services. The Magistrate answered (in a not so friendly way) and told me there was only one office still doing marriages and that they perform them until dark.

Yes!  He said dark… that is NOT helpful for a person who needs an exact time!  I digress.

When I got off the phone with him, I called Jason and said, “let’s get married after my doctor appointment.”  I don’t think he believed me because I was so adamant about waiting until May 30th.  He agreed and said he’d be over soon to pick me up so we could head to New Bern. 

Now I really needed to get ready.  Like, do my make up and do something with my hair. And I did not have a lot of time to do it in.  

I needed two witnesses. I FaceTimed Roxie. We casually chatted for a minute when I asked what she was doing at about 3pm that day (it was already 11am). I asked if she would be my witness and grab Carson (her daughter) because I knew Daniel was at work. Roxie was at a loss for words. She tried saying stuff, but she kept stammering. I wish I could have recorded her reaction. It was priceless. She of course said yes. Then asked me what she should wear. I said “I don’t know” and then she asked “what are you wearing?” CRAP! I hadn’t even thought of that. She asked “What’s Jason wearing?” CRAP again! I didn’t know. I guess I should tell him to wear something nice. I called him, told him to wear jeans and a nice shirt. Easy peasy, right? I FaceTimed Roxie back and told her what Jason and I were going to wear and that I would drop her a pin of where to meet us at for the wedding after my doctor appointment.

Jason and I headed to New Bern.  We got our application. We were hungry.  We went to McDonalds (since we couldn’t go anywhere to sit and eat) and ordered chicken nuggets and sat in the car and ate. 

We arrived about 30 minutes early for my doctor appointment.  We waited at least 15 minutes when the girl behind the desk finally called my name to take me back.  Since Jason and I were the only ones in the waiting room she got a good look at us and said “Awe, you guys look so nice.  Are you doing something after this?”  I casually answered back, “yeah, we might get married.”  Her jaw dropped.  “Are you serious!?” she asked.  Yes. Yes I was.

When my appointment was over we headed straight the Magistrate’s office (and the jail… they are in the same location). Roxie and Carson texted that they were on their way.  When they arrived, Roxie gets out of the car and hands me a bouquet of beautiful hydrangeas (they were the flowers I planned to use for the May 30th wedding).  Then she handed me her nana’s handkerchief (which I totally tucked into my underwear – I didn’t have pockets!) and said I could ‘borrow’ it.  She wrapped blue string around the bouquet (my something blue), she told me Jason was my ‘something new’ and that she was my ‘something old.’  Then she went around to the back of the car and pulled out Shortway Beer from a cooler.  She said it was for the reception after. I was completely suprised. (And impressed at how she was able to pull it all together in such a short time).

Carson, me and Roxie.

It was time.  We all walked to the Magistrate, filled out papers and paid our fee.  He let us do it outside and stood about 20 feet away from us.  Roxie FaceTime her husband Daniel and our friend Kim (who was traveling to Virginia – she stopped on the side of the road to watch) and our simple, short and sweet ceremony began.  We were Mr. and Mrs. Van at approximately 3pm that afternoon. 

The Moment it Became Official.

Afterwards we went down the street to the rest stop, sat on a picnic table and drank our beer. 

Jason and I were still going to have a reception at Shortway on May 30th and I was going to wear my dress and we’d just cut out the ceremony part. We were already married so it didn’t seem necessary.  It was just going to be a celebration with our family and friends. Plan B was a go. 

Today, a month after we got married, we had to make the hard decision to cancel our reception on May 30th. There are still too many unknowns and we’d hate to make a last-minute decision and waste money.

Plan C is now in effect.  Instead of having a reception we are going to have professional pictures taken of our family, all dressed up like we would have been for the wedding on May 30th, and instead of sending out wedding invitations, we’re going to send marriage announcements. 

The pandemic may have forced our hand in changing our wedding plans.  But it definitely didn’t ruin anything.  Our wedding day was absolutely amazing.  My friend rocked it with last-minute surprise planning (which she does best) and made our day even sweeter. 

I married the man of my dreams on March 27th 2020.  It was perfect in every way. 

The Happy Couple. Married on 3/27/20 in New Bern, North Carolina.

Signed,

Mrs. Anne Van

Just Call Me the Crazy Chicken Lady

A friend of mine has chickens.  Lots and lots of chickens – and a pig too, but I’ll save him for another blog.  Last July she offered to let one of her hens go broody* so that I could have my very own backyard chickens. Of course I said yes!  Out of the five eggs momma hen faithfully dedicated 21 days to sitting on, all but one hatched.  Unfortunately, two of them did not survive.  My backyard farm was going to start off small…. And I was OK with that. 

Chicks
Landon and his Chicks

I brought two sweet chicks home when they were about 5 – 7 days old.  Landon named them Tina and Louise (from Bob’s Burgers) and they lived in a green tote in his room.  We were in love!

Green Tote Home
Green Tote Home

Two weeks later, Hurricane Florence hit.  After the hurricane, when life started to get back to normal, another friend gave me a coop she had that wasn’t being used.  It only lasted one day at my house before my mom and dad purchased a brand-new coop from Tractor Supply for me.  Tina and Louise were now officially backyard chickens. 

First Coop
First Coop

New Coop
Tractor Supply Coop

Another month went by and my girls were getting bigger.  I introduced two more hens and a rooster to my backyard chicken farm.  After a couple of weeks, they all started to get along just fine.  I was now up to a flock of five.  But, I began to notice….. Tina started to look (and sound) like a Terry or Tim. 

Black Tailed Japanese Bantoms
Black Tailed Japanese Bantoms

There was no doubt about it, Tina was a Rooster.  It was then that Landon and I decided, it being 2018 and all, that Tina could identify however he wanted.  We kept the name Tina.  He knew his name.  It suited him well.

Tina the Rooster
Tina the Rooster

As Tina and Louise kept growing, I knew we needed more space.  The coop didn’t offer enough grazing space for three hens and two roosters.  The only time they got to ‘free-range’ was when I was home and able to keep an eye on the dogs and the chickens together.  See, my dogs are a little rough when they play.  They mean well.  But, I wasn’t ready to see a dead chicken or two. 

The week before Christmas, my dad and I put up a fence to provide the chickens with their own area. It took less than two days and with my dad’s expertise and supervision – he made me do all the manual work.  Now the dogs and chickens could be in the backyard, together in harmony…. well, sorta. 

Time for a Fence
Time for a Fence

As Tina grew into a full-fledged rooster, his testosterone was on full charge 24/7.  He was cock-a-doodle-doo-ing all day and somehow, he found time to have his way with all the hens in the backyard…. roughly 30 times a day.  I am NOT exaggerating.  And it is not pleasant to witness.

I added two more girls to the flock.  I call them both ‘Fatty Patty’ because they are perfectly round and fluffy.  Also, I cannot tell them apart.  Tina took immediate interest in them.  They became his favorite girls.  I now had 7 in the flock.  And this provided some relief for the three hens I had.  They were happy to share Tina.

Fatty Patty - Buff Orpingtons
Fatty Patty – Buff Orpingtons

Tina’s testosterone also brought out his hatred towards the other rooster.  We had an all-out war in my backyard.  I received a phone call from a very upset Landon one day.  “The white rooster is covered in blood!  MOM!  Come home!   Tina is trying to kill him!”  My workout was cut short, I went home, found a blood-soaked rooster in the backyard, carried him indoors and cleaned him up in my kitchen sink.  My heart sank.  I didn’t have the heart to get rid of either one of my roosters.  I loved them.  For the next couple of days…. maybe even a week, I played rooster referee in a robe and my rain boots with a broom in hand.  I would take my coffee outside and wait for the cock fight.  When I would see Tina getting close, I would raise my broom and start yelling.  I even hit him with the broom once or twice. 

Blood Bath - Poor Whitey
Blood Bath – Poor Whitey

Winter came and went, and the roosters learned their place:  Tina was king rooster and Whitey – I ended up naming the other rooster after the blood bath – stayed away from Tina.  There hasn’t been blood shed in a while.  Thank goodness.   

Spring welcomed three new girls to the flock.  I was now up to 10.  Wow… that happened fast.  Then, all it took was one trip to Tractor Supply to get some chicken feed when I heard the “cheep cheeps” from a silver barrel and couldn’t resist.  Five more chicks came home. 

Leghorn Pullets
Leghorn Pullets

Straight Run Bantoms
Straight Run Bantoms

Now I have 15 chickens (the babies are living in a dog kennel in the garage until they are big enough to be with everyone else). And to top it all off, three of my hens went broody.  That’s right, they are sitting on 8 eggs (due to hatch later this week). 

I went from zero to 15 in 7 months.  You know that saying about single women and cats???  Well, I have chickens.  But they have brought so much joy to my life.  I love having my morning coffee with them, listening to them talk to one another in their chicken language and watch them fight over the ears of corn I give them.  I’ve learned more about chickens than I ever thought I would. 

So, feel free to call me the crazy chicken lady.  I’ve accepted it.  I own it.  And I make it look good. 

Moral of the story:  Chickens are like potato chips.  You can’t have just one. 

*broody is a term used for hens who plant themselves on their eggs for 21 days to hatch and raise chicks