Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Plans

This Thanksgiving was the first that Daniel and I spent together, and this Christmas will be the first time that we go to Christmas Mass together. I’m so excited—number one, because I love Christmas Mass (especially on Christmas Eve night, which is when we’re going), and number two, because Daniel and I get to be together!

After Mass, though, Daniel will drive back home to his parents’ house where he will spend Christmas day. I will be sleeping at my parents’ house for what will be my last Christmas morning with my family. I know, of course, that Daniel and I will see my family on Christmas after we’re married, but it obviously won’t be the same.

Christmas mornings at my parents’ house are always so fun, especially since I have siblings who are still little. I’m so excited for some day when Daniel and I can make Christmas as wonderful for our children as my parents have always made it for me and my sisters and brothers.

In other news, I ordered my veil (beautiful mantilla style) and my shoes this week! Also, my cousin Catherine makes jewelry, so I have a custom-designed necklace, bracelet, and earrings that she finished making and put in the mail for me the other day. I can’t wait for everything to get here so that I can try on my whole ensemble!

Friday, December 12, 2008

So much going on...

Now for the updates I promised you. The weekend before Thanksgiving, Daniel and I began marriage prep by meeting with our sponsor couple for the first time. We were at the couple’s house for about an hour and a half. This first session was basically to meet and get to know each other so that we can feel comfortable in the following sessions. In the car on the way over, Daniel and I were joking about how we would have to take a test to make sure we were allowed to get married. This ended up being partially true!

We completed a questionnaire, separately, that is supposed to bring to light any issues we may not have talked about before. The test is called the FOCCUS Inventory (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study), and our answer sheets are being sent to the archdiocese so that we can find out our results! There were about 150 questions that had to be answered “Agree,” “Disagree,” or “Uncertain,” for example, “We are in agreement about how we will make financial decisions between us” or “There are qualities about my future spouse that I do not respect.” I tend to think that Daniel and I will have the same answers on almost every question; since we’ve been together for over four years, I feel like we know each other very well and have talked about pretty much everything. But I guess we’ll see! Next time we meet with our sponsor couple, which will be after Christmas, they’ll have our results for us.

We will also be taking a Natural Family Planning class with a Couple to Couple League teaching couple that lives near me, starting sometime in January. I will be writing a column for CCL’s magazine Family Foundations that will follow my experience with the series of three classes, starting with their March/April issue. If you happen to get that magazine, you can watch for me!

So the other day, with Caroline’s help, I brainstormed a list and realized how much I still have to do in the next five months, including but definitely not limited to:

- Meet with potential photographer
- Meet with potential deejay
- Figure out flowers
- Finalize guest list
- Send out Save the Date’s
- Pick out bridesmaid dresses
- Buy wedding bands
- Figure out cake
- Choose readers, gift bearers, Eucharistic ministers, etc. for Mass
- Register for gifts…

And the list goes on! Last week I mailed requests to the churches where Daniel and I were baptized for official copies of our baptismal certificates, so at least that’s one thing out of the way. The day after New Year’s we plan to apply for our marriage license and for our passports. The wedding keeps inching closer, and a lot faster than I thought it would!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Will You Marry Me?

I was expecting a proposal the summer of 2007. In the meantime, I would daydream about what Daniel might be planning and look at rings online when I was supposed to be writing papers.

One week in the middle of April that year, Daniel (a psychology major) asked me to go with him to a “Careers in Psychology” presentation in one of the auditoriums on campus. This didn’t seem unusual to me, since I had gone to one on “Careers in Communications” earlier in the semester. The presentation would be on Friday afternoon, and I wasn’t thrilled to be going with him. He insisted, though, saying that he really wanted me to hear the presentation, since his career would also affect me. I wasn’t totally convinced, but I agreed to go—Daniel had the idea that we could go out for ice cream at Friendly’s afterwards, so that put me in a pretty good mood. It was a beautiful day, and when it was time for the presentation I sang “I’m Alright” by Jo Dee Messina as we walked across campus.

When we got to the auditorium, no one else was there yet. I thought Daniel had gotten the auditorium wrong, and was about to turn around to go back out the door when I froze. Projected on the wall in the front of the room was a picture of me and Daniel from our freshman year. “Daniel, why is someone looking at a picture of us on there?” That particular picture was part of a photo album I had on Facebook, so I thought that’s where it came from. It was eerie, like I was part of a Twilight Zone episode or something—I’m sure you know the feeling.

Daniel led me to a row right in the middle of the auditorium and told me to sit down, and he walked down the steps to the front, where the laptop computer was set up. After a few minutes of technical difficulties (during which another couple walked in and was told by a flustered Daniel to leave because whatever event they were looking for was clearly somewhere else), a slideshow started.

Three songs played (“Accidentally In Love” by Counting Crows, “Lifesong” by Casting Crowns, and then “Everything I Do” by Bryan Adams) while various photos from throughout our relationship appeared one by one. Every time a distinctly seasonal picture would show up on the wall, such as the two of us bundled up with snow falling, Daniel would say, “It’s winter,” or “Look, it’s fall.” I figured I knew what he was doing, but I kept second-guessing myself for some reason or another.

As the last song was nearing its end and a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean took its turn on the wall, Daniel said, “Look, it’s summer. Sarah, what happens in summer?” I was scared, which is something I definitely didn’t expect. I had known for a long time that I wanted to marry Daniel, and there was not a doubt in my mind. But I was scared anyway. It was really and truly happening. Right then.

Daniel got down on one knee and pulled a small box out of his pocket. “Sarah C— B—, I love you, and I will always love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” I wasn’t crying. I always thought that I would cry. “Will you marry me?” He opened the box and put the most beautiful diamond ring on my finger (with the words “In Christ” engraved inside the band). And even though my heart and mind were both racing, I had thought about this moment enough to know what I wanted to say. So I said “yes.”

And then we went out for ice cream with our friends, as if the day needed to be any more perfect.

Check in next week for miscellaneous updates!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Talking About Forever

Over Christmas break that year, Daniel and I would talk every night on AOL instant messenger, rather than on the phone. (I’m not really sure why) One night, out of the blue, Daniel typed:

“You know what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately?”


“Marrying you and if it would work.”

There was a long pause as I tried to figure out how to respond. I wasn’t freaked out or anything—after all, I had been thinking about it, too. I ended up replying with, “Oh really? And what have you come up with?”

“Well, I think we would both want at least four kids, am I right?” And he went on from there to mention raising our potential family Catholic, the fact that we were obviously attracted to each other, etc. I agreed with everything he said, typing short responses in between what he said with a huge grin on my face.

Daniel was sure to explain that he certainly wasn’t anywhere near making that kind of a commitment right now (after all, we had just met a few months before), but that he saw it as a possibility. I assured him that we were on the same page, and that was that.

After that conversation, a whole lot more “if we get married” statements would find their way into our days together. At some point, the “if”s turned into “when”s—I’m very sorry that I can’t remember more details on how exactly this transition happened. The point is that it happened.

And somewhere along the way Daniel asked me to marry him, in a half-joking, half-serious kind of way. I told him yes. And he kept asking, over and over again for the next couple of years—each time with a little more serious and a little less joking, but we both knew that “the real thing” wouldn’t come for a while. We joked about how we were “engaged to be engaged.”

Of course, as time went by we were growing more and more certain of our love for each other and our desire to be married someday. We couldn’t wait to get engaged so that our plans would be “for real.” By the time 2007 rolled around, Daniel told me that I could expect a proposal sometime that summer…

That will be a perfect story for next time. Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

"I Love You"

My friend Caroline and her boyfriend recently said “I love you” to each other for the first time, and I am so happy that she is happy. Hearing her story got me thinking (and her wondering) about the first time Daniel and I said “I love you,” and when we started talking about the possibility of marrying each other.

The first thing Daniel said about marriage happened after we had been dating only a couple of weeks. It was a silly “if” statement he made as he was getting up to turn on the tiny television I had in my dorm room. It was something along the lines of, “If we get married, we are getting a big flat-screen TV.” I think I responded with, “Oh really?” and that was the end of that.

I am the one who said “I love you” first, which I really didn’t plan on doing. We were relaxing in my dorm room and my roommate at the time, Maria, left to go down the hall. I was laying my head on Daniel’s shoulder and we were holding hands. We were quiet, and I don’t remember what we had been talking about before, but apparently it had gotten me thinking. After a couple of minutes, I took a deep breath and said, “I have something I want to tell you, but I’m scared to.”

“What is it?” Daniel asked. I deliberately kept my gaze fixed across the room. My heart was pounding. Another minute went by.

“Well…” I said, in barely more than a whisper. “I just wanted to tell you… that I love you.” I still didn’t look at him, and what felt like forever passed by in silence before Daniel said quietly, “I love you, too.” Letting out the breath I had been holding, I sat up quickly to look at him.


“Really,” he smiled. “How long have you been wanting to say that?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know,” I said. “A while. But I didn’t want to say it so soon.”

“Me either,” Daniel replied. “That was brave of you. I was planning on saying it at Christmas.”

It was the middle of October. We had only been dating about a month and a half. Shocking, believe me I know! I didn’t tell anyone for a while, and I don’t think my parents knew that I loved him until a long time after that. All I know is that I didn’t want anyone to tell me I said it too soon. I knew it was probably too soon, and today I would probably tell any eighteen-year-old who “fell in love” within two months of meeting someone that they were crazy. But I knew that I loved him. I just knew. As far as I was concerned, there was no point in waiting. Luckily for me, Daniel felt the same way. And luckily for both of us, we didn’t get it wrong.The subject of marriage wouldn’t be seriously brought up at all for a couple more months…

Friday, November 14, 2008

Family #2

As I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before, Daniel and I are opposite bookends in our families—I am the oldest of seven, and he is the youngest of five. Both large families, but very different in the sense that all of Daniel’s siblings are grown and out of the house, some of them with families of their own, while all of my siblings are still at home (with Marie at college for parts of the year). My parents are a good number of years younger than Daniel’s parents, too; they practically grew up in different generations.

Daniel’s parents were also married and started having children young, soon after graduating from high school. His Dad worked nights and his Mom worked days so that there would be someone at home with the kids. Daniel was born with four older siblings waiting for him—two sisters around ten and eleven years old at the time (I’m not 100% sure that’s right…), one five-year-old brother, and a two-year-old sister.

As the youngest child, Daniel (or “Danny” as he was and is called by his family) was the one being taken care of, just like I helped to take care of my younger siblings. He also had a role model in his older brother, which is something I never experienced. When Daniel was little, he always wanted to do everything his brother could do, which was often difficult since he was five years younger. From a very young age, Daniel was playing video games, watching TV, and reading comic books right along with his brother. In the meantime, somewhere not too far away, I was playing dress-up and dolls and getting my nose stuck in books that were above my reading level. Sometimes I imagine what Daniel and I would have thought of each other if we had met when we were little kids—we were two very different children!

When Daniel was starting high school, his family moved from the small house in the neighborhood that had clearly gone downhill since his parents had moved there to a house in a rural area similar to where my parents moved. Today, Daniel’s brother is in med school in Alabama, the sister closest to our age is living in West Virginia, and his two oldest sisters are married with children and living elsewhere in Maryland. Daniel’s parents are now both retired.

Spending time at their house is extremely different from spending time at my family’s house; it’s amazing that Daniel is able to fit comfortably into both environments—he has become so much a part of my family that he now knows, at least to a certain extent, what it’s like to be at both bookends. I still only know my own, and I am not the best chameleon. I guess I still have a lot of learning to do…

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's Here!

I interrupt this family thing for an announcement (sorry, you’ll have to wait till next week to hear more about Daniel’s family): My dress came this week! And even though it’s not exactly identical to the one in the picture, it is beautiful!!!

Last Saturday, I received the email saying that the dress had been shipped, and when I entered the tracking number on the postal service’s webpage, it said they had already attempted delivery twice that day. I was having it delivered to my parents’ house, thinking that it would be delivered on a weekday when I would not be home to get the package. No one was at my parents’ house, so they took the package back to the post office. I was so disappointed that I missed it; I could have had my dress already and known whether it looked like it was supposed to look.

Caroline and I were driving home from work on Tuesday when I called home to see if the dress had been delivered yet, but apparently it hadn’t (there was no package on the front porch, which was where I had specified it should be left). A little while later, my Mom called to tell me that it was in an envelope in the mailbox! I was shocked, and really worried. What in the world was a dress that was shipped in an envelope and shoved into a mailbox going to look like?

When I got home, I rushed over to the elementary school to vote, then over to my parents’ house to get my dress. The envelope was much bigger than I had been imagining, and was very padded. Inside the envelope was a clear plastic pouch, and inside that was the dress. At first it looked funny, but I realized that it was inside out. Once I had it fixed the right way and held it up, I already felt better. The lace was different from the picture, but not worse.

To figure out the rest, I had to try it on, so I ran up to my sisters’ bedroom in the attic where there was a nice full length mirror. My sisters Jane and Annie came with me. The dress fit almost perfectly—the only issue is that the sleeves are a little tight on my shoulders and feel sharp where they rub on my skin. My Mom and I are going to try to loosen them somehow.

When I got home later, my friend Lauren came over to see the dress so I had to put it on again (such a chore). Then, when Caroline got home I had to try it on one more time. This time, I kept it on for a while to stand in the mirror and admire how beautiful it was! It’s just the dress I’ve always wanted, and I actually got it for only $180 from somebody in China off of ebay, and to top it all off it got here in an envelope in my parents’ mailbox!! Who needs expensive bridal shops? I really wasn’t expecting too much, so I am thrilled with the way it turned out! And of course, I can’t wait to wear it. I would post a picture, but then Daniel would see me in my dress before the wedding, and I told him he could only see the dress on the hanger until then!

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Family

So let’s go back to the family thing, shall we? This week I want to talk some more about my family, and next week I’ll talk about Daniel’s family.

My parents were married young and I was born when they were both nineteen. My Mom stayed home with me while my Dad worked and continued to take college classes. From the very beginning, I was baptized and raised Catholic. I think I mentioned before that my Dad was not Catholic for most of my childhood, but we always went to Sunday Mass as a family. When I was little, I actually thought that it was the father’s job to stay back from Communion to save his family’s seats! (I don’t know why it never occurred to me that other fathers left their seats unattended).

My sister Marie was born when I was two and a half, Rose when I was six (the first I was old enough to remember later), and Jane when I was eight. In the summer of 1998 we moved from the townhouse we had lived in for ten years; my parents were having a big house built “in the country.” My Dad was his own general contractor, and he and my Mom did much of the work themselves.

That same summer my next sister, Annie, was born. For almost six months, we lived with my grandparents. Then, just before Christmas, we planned to “camp out” at our new house for a whole weekend to get more work done, but we didn’t sleep at my grandparents’ house another night. We stayed in our new house from then on, even though it was not finished by any stretch of the imagination. There has been constant work being done ever since—it has now been almost ten years, and the house certainly has come a very long way!

Apparently my family really needed all that new space, because it was not done growing. When I was a freshman in high school we found out that my Mom was pregnant again, and that spring my first brother was born: Paul! That brings us up to 2001. I finished high school and started college, and this is the family that Daniel met in the fall of 2004: my still young parents, four little sisters (aged fifteen, eleven, nine, and six) and a three-year old little brother.

Daniel always says that when he first met my family, he felt like he was in a family sitcom like “Full House”—everybody was too good, too happy. The dynamics even felt a little fake to him at first. It was “too perfect” somehow. Well, Daniel has now been around enough during the past four years to know that my family is far from fake, and far from perfect. But I think I sort of understand what he was feeling at first; I have always felt that there was something special about my family (I know, everyone says that, right?). There’s so much love and so much fun and silliness in my family—it’s never boring. And I guess being the oldest, I have always been very proud and protective of all of my younger siblings, similar to how a parent feels about their children, although not to the same extent. And because my parents were married so young and have been through so much since then, I have also always been very proud of them. Next to Daniel, my family are my best friends.

Now you have the context for the news we got in February 2007. Daniel and I were home for my sister Rose’s fourteenth birthday when we learned that my Mom would be having yet another baby. I was twenty years old. Paul, the youngest at the time, was about to turn six the next week. As I’m sure you can imagine, we were all shocked.

As we sat around the dinner table with wide eyes and open mouths, Paul started to cry. I think one of my sisters did too. Daniel, being more emotionally removed, found the whole thing quite amusing. And of course, being the youngest in his family, he had never before experienced this, whereas I had five times before. He was so excited! Edward (a second boy so that Paul would have a brother) was born that August, so he is now almost fifteen months old…

Friday, October 24, 2008

On Love: Disney and the Eucharist

In our society, the concept of love is somewhat of an enigma. Either that or it’s a little bit (or a lot) twisted. From a very young age, children (girls in particular) get an impression of “love” through Disney princess movies and other fairy tales that depict falling in love as a man coming along and sweeping a young woman off her feet. I grew up on these stories, as did most of my female peers. We dressed up as Ariel, Belle, and Cinderella for Halloween (or any day of the year that we felt like it) and dreamed that “someday our prince would come.” Surely he would be handsome, strong, brave, and perfectly chivalrous—holding doors, pulling out our chairs, and giving up his princely cape (or sweatshirt) if we happened to shiver. Of course, we would instantly know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we had found our “one true love.”

There is certainly nothing wrong with chivalry; in fact, I think there should be more of it today. Daniel is very chivalrous. But it seems to me that according to most of these fairy tales, love is about a woman having warm, fuzzy feelings while batting her eyelids liberally (as Sebastian the crab so aptly demonstrates—I hope I’m not losing anyone here). Meanwhile, it is the man who is doing all the work to win the woman’s heart (or even her life). I would say Pocahontas is the exception that proves this rule.

Even if we know better, I think it is easy to sometimes slip into this mentality, at least it is for me. I want Daniel to take care of me, but I sometimes forget that I should also be taking care of him. I admittedly have a tendency towards selfishness, which I guess is part of being human. Daniel has a lot more on his plate right now than I do, since he is attending grad school with a full course load while working full time, and I still give him a hard time when he can’t do everything that I want him to do. He needs my support and my understanding, and I know that I am not giving him enough of either. This has been weighing on my mind a lot recently, especially today.

When the priest spoke the words of consecration at Mass this afternoon (I am blessed to have the opportunity to attend daily Mass right in my building) I received a nice reminder that almost made me cry. You all know how it goes: “This is my body, which will be given up for you… This is my blood…” That is true love. As the priest said those words and held up the newly consecrated host and the chalice, I was reminded that this is how I am supposed to love, too. Once Daniel and I are married, we will be symbolizing that love (if you’ve never heard of Pope John Paul II’s incredible Theology of the Body, go google it). But we should also be imaging that love right now in everything we do. For me, that means being less selfish and more selfless in my relationship with Daniel. Whatever I might “suffer” as a result is pretty insignificant anyways.

True love is often about self-sacrifice and sometimes suffering, and not just on the part of the man, as fairy tales might lead little girls to believe. Just as a disclaimer, I happen to be a pretty big fan of Disney princess movies. Something they do well is showing a girl that she should never settle for anything less than a man who is willing to fight a giant, fire-breathing dragon (think Sleeping Beauty, then think Revelation 12), risking his life to save hers. What is often left out is that a man should never settle for anything less than a woman who would do the same for him! One quick last note: if you’ve seen the new movie Enchanted, this is exactly what happens! Well done, Disney.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Seven Months To Go!

There are now exactly seven months left until the wedding, and I ordered my dress today!! It’s the same one as the picture I put up a few weeks ago, and I bought it through a “bridal shop” on eBay for cheaper than I found it on the original website. I really hope it turns out the way I expect it to—if not, I have buyer protection through PayPal and eBay and can get my money back. I’m so excited! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Daniel and I are almost decided on a photographer to use, too. A guy who works with Daniel also does photography on the side, and his work is great! We’ve looked at the pictures from other weddings he’s done, and it’s definitely our style. The package is pretty affordable and has everything we would want, so we just need to sit down and talk with him soon.

The past several weeks have really flown by, and I’m realizing that May 16 is creeping up on us a lot faster than we expected. There’s still so much to be done—so many details to think about. Apparently we are on a waiting list for a sponsor couple at my church so that we can get started with marriage prep. I emailed the woman in charge this morning; she says she expects to be able to set us up with someone sometime in November. We still need to look at flowers, reception music, transportation, bridesmaid dresses, the cake, and the list goes on… We’re trying to do the whole wedding for around $10,000 and so far we’re right on track, thanks to planning a morning/afternoon wedding instead of having it in the evening. That made a huge cost difference. Just a hint: I always love getting money-saving advice…

Friday, October 10, 2008

Something Worth Fighting For

This past weekend, Daniel and I went to see the movie Fireproof, the latest by Sherwood Pictures. They’re the production company affiliated with Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia whose low-budget Christian football film Facing the Giants was surprisingly successful all around the country a couple of years ago. We knew Fireproof was about a firefighter (Kirk Cameron) and his wife who are on the verge of divorce, and I knew that I wanted to see it as soon as I saw the trailer. It ended up being even better than I expected, and I think it does a great job of promoting the value that marriage it is meant to have.

Kirk Cameron, whom I knew from the 80’s sitcom “Growing Pains,” plays Caleb, a firefighter whose seven-year marriage to Catherine has turned into little more than a hostile roommate situation. Neither partner feels respected by the other, and neither understands the difficulties of the other’s daily life. Near the beginning of the movie, we see a few fights and learn that Catherine “wants out” and Caleb is fine with that because he “wants peace.” They aren’t happy.

Caleb’s parents apparently went through a similar rough time in the past, and his father asks Caleb to hold off on the divorce for forty days. During this time, Caleb will be reading and doing “The Love Dare,” written in a day-by-day format in a journal by Caleb’s dad. The plot of the film consists of Caleb attempting to use “The Love Dare” to rescue his wife’s heart, even when he doesn’t like it, along with Catherine’s response to his attempts.

Although the acting by a mostly volunteer cast may not be Hollywood “A-list” (Kirk Cameron does a pretty good job), the situation feels real. The issues are real. The relationship is real. Caleb’s friend at the firehouse, Michael, is a voice of wisdom and provides a major part of the film’s Christian perspective. “You can’t just follow your heart,” he says once. “Your heart can be deceived. You have to lead your heart.” Love is not merely a feeling, it’s a decision. “When most people say, ‘for better or for worse,’” Michael says at another point, “they really only mean ‘for better.’” I think he makes a really good point—divorce is sadly way too common today, and I think this may be a big part of the reason why.

Caleb and Catherine don’t feel happy in their relationship. They don’t feel close. Their “for better” days seem to be over forever. But when Caleb, with the support of Michael and the help of his dad, makes the decision to fight for his marriage using “The Love Dare,” he is making the decision to love his wife, even though rescuing her heart is painful, not to mention a lot of work.

The spirituality of Fireproof is from a born-again Christian perspective that shows Caleb’s conversion as an instantaneously life-changing moment, but I think the message of “you can’t give what you don’t have” rings true for Catholics as well. I definitely believe that the love of Christ does transform our lives and our relationships, allowing us to love more completely and perfectly than we could on our own. The Catholic perspective goes even further, by saying that marriage is actually a sacrament of God’s love for humanity, of Christ’s love for his Church. Because of this, the value of marriage in society can’t be overstated, and I think Fireproof can really help strengthen marriages in order for them to be what God made them to be.

Go to your local theater and check it out for yourself! Daniel and I weren’t disappointed, and I don’t think you will be either.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Premarital Stress

Everybody gets stressed. I've always heard about how stressful wedding planning is for most people to begin with, but for us planning the wedding itself actually hasn't been too bad-- yet. It’s everything else that’s getting to us.

We graduated on May 11. On May 27 we both started work on the same day, at the jobs that we had lined up since early April. Back in March, we had "stumbled across" our dream property, located less than ten minutes from my family's house. It was a mobile home on a permanent foundation on two acres of land overlooking a pond, and it was the perfect place for us to build a new home a few years down the road. We made an offer (the first of a few) the day after graduation, and became homeowners on July 31st.One of my roommates from college (Caroline, whom I've mentioned before) moved in with me. She and I also work together, and commute together—an hour and a half each way.

We have done a lot to fix up the house—and by “we” I mean mostly Daniel. My parents have also helped tons since they have a lot of experience (understatement) with home improvement projects. Walls have been ripped out, floors have been replaced, and one of our bathrooms has been completely redone. We’re getting all our windows replaced within the next couple of weeks; we already bought them and they’re waiting in the shed for now. It’s a work in progress, so Caroline and I are currently living in somewhat of a construction zone with unpacked boxes and piles of stuff everywhere.

Meanwhile, until the wedding Daniel is still living at his parents' house, which is about 45 minutes away. He visits on the weekends. We work on the house and he studies—oh right, that’s another thing. Daniel just started grad school, so he’s taking four night classes this semester while working full time. All of this while planning a wedding. I’m sure you can imagine all the silly little fights all this can lead to…

That’s the gist of it. You might think we’re crazy for doing all of this at once, or maybe you don’t actually think our load is too bad. Maybe you’ve been through more. I think it’s safe to say that we’re working pretty hard to do everything we have to do, but sometimes it’s hard to make sure we have time to relax and have fun together, which is obviously pretty important when preparing for marriage (and of course within marriage), right? We’re banking on the fact that Daniel will be finished with grad school one year after we’re married, and by then other things will have settled down. Hopefully. We’re doing what we can, and honestly, most of the time it’s not so bad. We always have some time to relax, and we make sure to pray together every night, even if it’s over the phone. Other advice on how to hold everything together, anyone?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Spiritual Compatibility

I think that most people would agree that religion is a pretty important aspect of compatibility in marriage and in a relationship that’s heading toward marriage. At least a compatible spirituality is pretty important, even if two people would not call themselves “religious” exactly.

I mentioned already that the boyfriend I had in high school was not Catholic like me, and how this affected our relationship. Although that isn’t the direct reason it ended, it definitely played a part. This is not to say that a Catholic and a Protestant (or even a Catholic and a non-Christian) cannot live a happy married life together. My Dad was not Catholic (incidentally, he was Methodist, too) when he married my Mom. He ended up going through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) to become Catholic when I was in middle school, 14 years into their marriage. Obviously, my Dad was open to the idea of Catholicism on some level, even if it took him a while to open up to it completely.

For as long as I can remember, I have always considered myself a religious person. In Catholic grade school (K-8) I never really questioned what it was I was learning about God, the Church, and what it meant to be His child and a good person. I consider myself blessed to have never seriously struggled in having a personal relationship with my God through prayer and the Sacraments of the Church. When I entered public high school, I didn’t lose that relationship.

Throughout my high school years, I would talk to God about everything I had on my mind. I would write him letters in a prayer journal; putting my thoughts down on paper would also help me to relieve all of those super-important high school stresses ;-). My Confirmation in tenth grade brought me even closer to God and into a deeper love for Him. I began to read the Bible more and looked forward eagerly to the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday. Still, I had never encountered any real opposition to my faith. It was not until college that I would be forced to think through and answer serious questions, both for myself and another.

As I’m sure you have figured out, this happened when I met and began dating Daniel early in my first year of college. He had been a Catholic like me, but had fallen into a very different spiritual state than I had ever dealt with myself. He doubted the sincerity and truth of the Church, the Bible, and formal religion in general. He questioned the goodness of our Creator and the trustworthiness of Christian tradition; at times, he would even consider the possibility that there is no God at all. Naturally, this concerned me, as I was forming a very strong attachment to him at this point. I worried about our relationship and prayed constantly that God would show me how to get through to him.

In the meantime, I was being forced to answer difficult questions for both him and myself as I would spend hours debating. I wanted nothing more than to be able to persuade the boy I was falling in love with that there was an even greater Love that he would have to know if our relationship was going to last. I researched, I prayed, I argued, and I waited. Throughout my freshman year, I discovered more than ever the importance of asking questions. Questioning my faith and analyzing it in such depth only brought me to an even deeper understanding and conviction that what I believed was true. I also learned the power and importance of prayer like never before as I watched God slowly soften Daniel’s heart and draw him back to Himself. Today, we pray and go to Mass together all the time, thankful that God was able to use our relationship to bring us both closer to Him.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Wedding Planning Weekend

We'll just continue to postpone that story I was in the middle of a couple weeks ago, shall we? Don't worry, I'll get to it eventually.

This past weekend was full of wedding planning stuff. On Friday Daniel and I had our first meeting with the priest who will be officiating at our wedding. It was really exciting because, even though not a lot was done, it was a first real step towards planning for our marriage. Yeah, we’ve already booked the chapel and the reception site, and we’ve already met with the organist. We know that our wedding colors are going to be blue and yellow, and I have a general idea of what I want my dress to look like. But when we were each asked point blank whether we intended to remain faithful to our future spouse and said, “Yes, I do,” there was something more real about that. Plus, we each signed our name at the bottom of all the questions we answered. It was nice.

We were also given a workbook for planning our wedding liturgy, which will be the Rite of Marriage within the Mass. Our wedding is on a Saturday morning. It’s not a major feast day, so we will be able to choose our readings. Daniel and I are both excited to start planning our ceremony! The main thing we have to focus on right now is making sure we get matched with a sponsor couple for marriage prep through my parish. We are on a waiting list right now—hopefully we will hear something soon.

So that was Friday afternoon. When I got home from work on Friday night, I went wedding dress shopping with my mom, my nineteen-year-old sister Marie who is also my maid of honor, and one of my best friends, Caroline, who is also my roommate. Unfortunately, when we got to David’s Bridal, I was told that I could walk around but I couldn’t even touch the dresses without an appointment. So we walked around and looked—it turns out there was nothing I really liked within my price range anyways. A waste of a drive, but oh well.

Early Saturday morning (much too early for a weekend), Daniel and I drove about an hour away to meet a couple—friends of the family—who do wedding photography. They bought us breakfast, which was delicious, and we looked at their work. It was good, but not quite our style. We’re going to look at other options now, and I’m not quite sure what we’ll do. When I got home that afternoon, my friend Caroline and I walked around downtown looking for shops that might have wedding dresses that would be more my style, then we went to the mall. We found nothing. At this point, dinner time on Saturday, I felt like I had wasted my entire weekend.

So, when I got home I started looking at wedding gown sites online, and I actually came across a few that I liked. One of them I am absolutely in love with: it is all lace, with an off-the-shoulder sweetheart neckline, a beautiful sheer, high button-up back, and a small train. (See above picture.) It is definitely me. I’m pretty nervous about the idea of buying my wedding dress online, though, so I’m not sure what I will end up deciding. I’ll let you know! The planning continues…

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wishing, Hoping, Thinking and Praying

When I was a little girl, probably around eight or nine, my family used to listen to a certain cassette tape in the car whenever we were going somewhere. It was by Wayne Watson, a Christian music artist. I loved all of the songs on the tape, but one sticks out in my memory more than the rest. It was called "Somewhere in the World" and it was about a father praying for his little boy’s future wife:

"Somewhere in the world today
A little girl will go out to play...
And I don't even know her name
But I'm prayin' for her just the same
That the Lord will write His name upon her heart."

I would sit and listen, and I would wonder whether somewhere, some little boy’s parents were praying for me…

Ever since I was really little, I felt sure that I would get married and be a mom when I grew up. And I’m not sure whether this is weird or not, but I remember thinking about my future husband fairly often from a pretty young age. I believed with a child’s faith in God and the fact that He had a plan for my life. I believed that God already had a husband picked out for me, and all I had to do was find him. Every once in a while I would wonder what he was doing, what his life was like. I would wonder what he looked like and what his name was. And when I remembered, I would pray for him during my bedtime prayers.

When I met Daniel, although he had been raised Catholic like me, he had pretty much fallen away from his faith—as had much of his family. I’m sure I will go into more detail about all of this later, but to say the least, he and I had many long and emotional (at least on my side) debates about everything from the authority of the Church to the existence of God to abortion. I prayed for him like I had never prayed for anything in my life.

This may sound silly, but now that I know who my future husband is, I am so glad that I used to pray for him when I was younger. I like to think that even those very general prayers way back then helped. Prayer changes things. Even if you feel funny praying for someone you’ve never met and whose name you don’t even know, try it anyway. I highly suggest it. ;-).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Sorry to be boring, but I really don’t remember how they reacted. When I said, “I think I have a boyfriend,” they obviously would have asked me who he was, where he was from, etc. And I’m sure my Mom probably said something along the lines of, “What makes you think that?” I’m also pretty sure my parents probably didn’t expect much to come of this person who might be my boyfriend. I didn’t even know whether he was!

I remember thinking to myself that Daniel would be good to date “for now.” He really liked me, he was pretty cute, and he was actually tall enough for me (I’m five foot eight and he’s 6 foot one or two—he always gives me different answers). I figured we would date for however long, and then I could move on. Even on a small campus, there were certainly a few other boys I had my eye on. Besides, it was only two weeks into my first year of college, and at that point I really wasn’t thinking about or planning on forever…

But two weeks turned into my entire freshman year, and that one year became two. All of our differences—and believe me, there were some big ones—seemed to work themselves out. Okay, so we had to work hard to make them work out. And there were quite a few arguments and quite a few tears. But however they managed to work out, they worked out.

We have now been together four years (September 6), and it always amazes me to look back and see how far we have come. Daniel and I have been through so much together, and done so much growing up along the way. In coming as far as we have, I know we’ve surprised some people, both family members and friends. If you could go back in time to September of 2004 and tell eighteen-year-old me that I would end up marrying Daniel, and that I would never date any other guys in college or thereafter, I would be surprised too!

Not that I was the type of girl who was used to dating lots of different boys. Not at all, although in high school I may have wished that I was. When I was in kindergarten, I had a “boyfriend,” but don’t ask me what exactly that meant at age five. From first through eleventh grade, though, I would have many crushes and not a single date. In high school a group of my girl friends and I always went to our school dances together, but I was always wishing that my crush-of-the-month/year would ask me to go with him.

By the time I was in eleventh grade and junior prom came around, a lot of my friends were getting dates. So, not wanting to be left out, I got up the nerve to call an old friend from middle school (a boy I had a crush on back in fifth and sixth grade). He agreed to come with me, even though we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other for a few years. I still can’t believe I was brave enough to do that!

The next year, when I was a senior, I finally had my first real boyfriend. We’ll call him “Pete.” I liked him a lot, but it wasn’t too long before we had a real problem: religion. I had gone to a Catholic school up until high school, and all of my closest friends at my public high school were Catholic. Pete, however was not. He was Methodist, and had a hard time understanding Catholicism. Since my faith was so important to me, this became a major stumbling block for us. We dated for about five months, long enough to get me through senior prom, and then we were done.

After we had already broken up, the message Pete wrote in my school yearbook included this: “You’ll meet a nice Catholic boy in college and fall in love. It’ll be great!” I’m still not quite sure exactly what percentage of this was sarcasm on Pete’s part, but he had hit on what I really wanted. Since I would be starting at a Catholic college in a couple of months, I was excited about the prospect of meeting a whole bunch of cute Catholic boys all in one place—at least this is what I imagined!

But God apparently had something else in mind for me, something that would end up strengthening my faith in a way that I never would have expected, something a little different from the Catholic poster boy I had envisioned. Enter eighteen-year-old Daniel.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Strange Compliment

The next week, my roommate Maria was in an evening class, along with some of my other close friends. Spending the evening alone, I decided to get some work done. Rather than do my homework, I walked over to the student union center to pick up something at an office.

On my way in, I walked past a handful of guys playing a game of pool—and Daniel happened to be one of them. I smiled and said hello, continuing down a hallway towards my destination. I had to turn right back around again, though, on finding that the office was closed. Of course it hadn’t occurred to me that most things did close after business hours, even on a college campus. When I reached the pool table again, Daniel invited me to join them. Although my first instinct was to decline since I had somewhere to be, I realized that this was not actually true. My friends were in class and only homework was waiting for me in my room.

So, I agreed. Unfortunately, I had no skill with a pool stick. Absolutely none, even if I did understand the concept of hitting either stripes or solids into the pockets and avoiding the eight-ball until all of the balls were cleared. Daniel was more than happy to help me out, and he was a very patient teacher. He and I played as a team against two of his roommates, and when it was my turn he would position my hands just right. More than once, he even put his arms around me to show me the best way to move the stick, sending chills up my spine. No longer was I unsure of my attraction to him; there was definitely something there.

At one point during our game, I received my first compliment from Daniel—and you may find it unusual, at least it was to me! It was a hot summer night, and I was dressed for the weather: shorts, a tank top, and one of my pairs of $2.50 Target flip-flops, which I owned in every color available. I was leaning against the wall, the end of my pool stick resting on the floor between my feet. Daniel was standing beside me, apparently looking down at the floor. “You have cute toes,” he said. And he sounded perfectly serious. My eyes dropped to my bright pink polished toenails. I wasn’t sure quite how to respond, so I said, “Thanks,” with a question in my voice. What an odd compliment to blush at! (But of course I did anyway—it couldn’t be helped.)

“I must say, no one’s ever told me that before,” I continued.

“Really?” He was honestly surprised. “Well you do,” he said, and the game went on.

As strange a compliment as that was, I could not stop smiling. Soon after that, I said I should be getting back, so Daniel walked me across campus. I couldn’t wait for Maria to get back from class so that I could fill her in on the story. Daniel and I played pool together every day that week, and hung out in our rooms as well. He even joined Maria and me for a few meals in our cafeteria, and by the end of the week I was beginning to think of him in an exclusive way. That weekend, I went home for my birthday. We had been spending time together for only a little over a week—heck, we had only been at college a little over two weeks! Nothing was official and I had no clue how he felt about it, but when I got to my house I immediately had to tell my sister and my mom.

As casually as I could, I said, “I think I have a boyfriend.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

Our First "Real" Meeting

Now that you know the story of when I first saw Daniel, I’m sure you’re wondering how we got to this point from there. Technically, we did not meet that day at all. We were not introduced; we did not speak to each another or learn each other’s names. Like I said before, Daniel does not even remember this encounter at all! Both of us went home following that orientation weekend to spend our summer vacations in between two worlds: high school and college.

It was another two months before Daniel and I would “meet” again, this time for real. Our college had an optional retreat for incoming freshmen in August, and he and I both chose to attend. I recognized him as the boy from the ice cream-less ice cream social, noting that he was not quite as unhappy. He spent his time with a different group of people than I did that week, and I became interested in another boy.

I have a vague memory of leaving my seat beside this boy to run to the restroom just before a presentation was about to begin. By the time I came back the seat was taken, and I ended up in an empty seat next to Daniel (although I didn’t know his name). We talked briefly, but I have no idea what our conversation was about. After that presentation, we both went back to our different groups of new friends.

For about a week or so after we returned to campus I would see Daniel in passing once in a while, and he would always say hi to me. He was always very friendly, and it was during that first week of school that I began to notice how cute he was. But I still didn’t know his name! I felt terrible. Luckily, my roommate, “Maria,” had a class with him and was able to find out his name. So, the next time I saw him I proudly said, “Hi, Dan,” with a big smile on my face. I would later learn that he prefers to be called “Daniel,” but I didn’t know this at the time and I guess he didn’t mind.

A couple of days later, everyone in our building was required to attend a beginning-of-the-year meeting in a small lecture hall. Before we left, Maria and I decided to stuff our pockets full of tootsie rolls so that we would have something to munch on. We ended up arriving a couple of minutes late, and although the meeting hadn’t started yet, people were already beginning to stand in the back because all the seats were taken. Almost all the seats, anyway. There were a couple of solitary seats left, scattered throughout the room. Maria and I prepared to sit on a step along a side aisle. Just as I did, I heard my name. I looked up and there was Daniel, with one seat available next to him at the end of a row. He was inviting me to sit beside him, so I glanced at Maria. She shrugged her shoulders, so I stepped across the aisle to slide into the empty place.

Meanwhile, my mouth was full of tootsie rolls, so when Daniel said hello I could only smile. “You smell like chocolate,” he said. I suppressed a chocolate-toothed grin and pulled a handful of the candy out of my pocket to show him. We talked there and after the meeting on the way back to our rooms—I on the first floor of our residence hall, he on the fourth.

And so ended our first real conversation—which, as usual, I am unable to remember most of! This story is taking longer than I expected, and I’m running out of time for now. More history stuff to come!

Friday, August 15, 2008

I am the oldest of seven.

That short sentence is always the first thing that comes to mind whenever I am asked to share with a group something interesting or unique about myself. The fact that I am the oldest of so many has always defined me, in so many ways. But that is not the topic of this blog (although it certainly plays a role in what I will share with you over the next ten months). Since I have always been a storyteller, I think it is appropriate that I begin with a story.

I had just graduated high school and was one week into my summer vacation when I was dropped off for a freshman orientation weekend at the small Catholic college I would be attending in a few months. I spent the day meeting new people, registering for classes, and learning more about my school. After dinner there was a planned information session for substance-free “wellness” housing that was advertised as an “Ice Cream Social.” Naturally, being the ice cream lover that I am, I wanted to go. I was already interested in substance-free housing, but I looked forward to the ice cream all day!

When I walked into the cafĂ© that evening where the session was being held, there was no ice cream. I was disappointed, but I sat in a chair and listened to a rising sophomore tell us all about wellness housing—recently named “LOFT” (Lifestyles of Fellowship and Tolerance). Across from me in the small group was a boy who looked much more disappointed than me…or something like that. He must have been having a pretty bad day, because while everyone else was smiling and laughing at the stories being told, he sat slouched in his chair with a frown on his face, keeping his gaze straight ahead. I remember wondering, What the heck is wrong with that guy? I didn’t talk to him. I didn’t hear his name. Little did I know, three years later this same boy would ask me to be his wife and there would be no question in my mind as to what my answer would be. And he would be smiling! Daniel doesn’t remember being in a bad mood that day—he doesn’t even remember seeing me there. And I still can’t remember what they said happened to the ice cream…

Daniel and I are getting married on May 16, 2009 at the chapel on the campus of the school where we met. We are on the young side, I guess—we will both be turning twenty-two this summer. I know we still have so much life ahead of us, God willing. But I also know what person I want to have by my side through all of it. As we prepare for both our wedding day and our life together from that day forward, we would really appreciate your prayers. I hope that you enjoy sharing this journey with us!