Thursday, December 31, 2009

Joy to the World!

Merry, Merry Christmas to you all! Although there was quite a bit of running around on our part, Daniel and I had a wonderful first married Christmas together. Christmas Eve was spent rushing around wrapping presents and completing other last-minute pre-Christmas tasks. For me this included finishing sewing the stockings that I was stubbornly intent on finishing in time for Daniel and me to hang them on our mantle and fill them for each other. It’s amazing that a project that seemed so simple could actually be so complicated. I ended up going to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve afternoon for my mom’s expert help in finishing the stockings quickly.

Just after that, we drove the forty minutes to Daniel’s parents’ house to spend some time with his brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law who were up from Alabama before we all rode with his parents another forty-five minutes to Daniel’s uncle’s house for a party with my father-in-law’s side of the family. A few hours there, and it was back to Daniel’s parents to get our car and drive home in time to leave again for Midnight Mass, picking up two of my sisters and my cousin at my parents’ on the way to the church.

Now, I can definitely say that I love Midnight Mass in theory. It seems like such a perfect, “Silent Night,” “It came upon a midnight clear” kind of time for Christmas Mass. However, I think I liked it much better when I was a college student who was accustomed to being up until the wee hours of the morning on a regular basis. This year I found it very difficult to keep my eyes open. I’m sure being pregnant didn’t help the situation. Luckily, being really sleepy sometimes helps me to pray (unusual, maybe?) so I didn’t find myself unable to focus. I think that next year I would much prefer to go to the eight o’clock candlelight Mass instead. Of course, with a six-month-old, we may not even really be able to do that time…

On Christmas morning Daniel and I woke up at 7:30 (to an alarm of course), prayed together before getting out of bed, then came into the living room to open our stockings and wrapped gifts from each other. Since it was just the two of us this year, it didn’t take too long. We got dressed and drove over to my parents’ at around 8:30 to have the traditional cinnamon roll Christmas breakfast with my family and then open gifts with them. This took the rest of the morning, with so many people and everyone taking turns opening gifts one at a time, and breaks for singing Taylor Swift karaoke with my sisters on Jane’s new karaoke machine, etc. After a second breakfast of hash brown casserole, scrambled eggs, and sausage links, Daniel and I headed to his parents’ for lunch and gifts with his family. A few hours there and it was back to my parents’ for a delicious Christmas dinner with my grandparents: spiral ham, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and rolls.

In the past couple of days since Christmas, with a whole week off from work, my parents and Daniel and I have been in the midst of the last major remodel/construction project for this house: our master bathroom. It was so ugly and gross looking before that I have absolutely refused to even take out and use the new towels we got for our wedding until it was remodeled. It is already looking so much better, and we are not even halfway finished. I’m so excited!

Today is New Years Eve; 2009, the year we had looked forward to as our wedding year for so long, is about to be behind us. As we have for the last few years, Daniel and I will be babysitting—this is prime babysitting money night. Of course, this is the last year we will be able to do that. Who knows what kind of New Years plans we will be able to make next year when we have a baby, unless we get a babysitter ourselves (which we probably won’t, at least not next year)…

Have a blessed beginning to 2010!

Remember us, O God;
from age to age be our comforter.
You have given us the wonder of time,
blessings in days and nights, seasons and years.
Bless your children at the turning of the year
and fill the months ahead with the bright hope
that is ours in the coming of Christ.
You are our God, living and reigning, forever and ever.
Amen.

(from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Diary

(Like many little girls, this is how I always began my daily entry in the little pink book with the flap that locked it closed, marked “Diary” in gold letters.)

It is 7:30 p.m., and Daniel and I are at home. We are sitting on our couch, I finishing a slice of pizza that is my dinner and reading a Grace Livingston Hill novel collection, and Daniel typing away on his laptop, working on a paper for school. A little while ago, Daniel and I baked the frozen thin crust pizza that we had picked up from the grocery store on our way home from my doctor appointment, then sang “O come, o come Emmanuel” while lighting the three Advent candles that show how near we are coming to Christmas. We quickly blew them out again since one is getting dangerously short, and carried our dinner to the coffee table to sit at the couch because our kitchen table is covered in the assortment of baking ingredients I have already assembled in preparation for making Christmas cookies this weekend.

The fir tree we spent quite some time in the freezing cold searching for before we (and by “we” I mean Daniel) sawed it down is sitting in its stand, still without a tree skirt and with boxes of ornaments sitting beneath the branches in the place of the gifts that will be there next week. The tree itself is quite perfect, other than the fact that it looks slightly crooked because of the odd angle of the trunk at the base. Once we find something to use as a skirt and fill the branches with decorations, it will hardly be noticeable. As of now, we have only a strand of 200 white lights woven through the green, twinkling cheerily.

Every so often, Daniel or I will say “I love you” or make a random funny face just until the other looks up and smiles. People might laugh or roll their eyes and say “newlyweds,” but I don’t care. This is just what we do to remember that even though we’re each doing our own thing, we’re still together. And being together is still a good thing.

It is very quiet otherwise. Daniel occasionally sighs or breathes in sharply in thought. His strikes of the keys as he types are rhythmic and soothing, at least to me. Of course, I’m not the one with a deadline tomorrow. I can hear the mantle clock ticking and the refrigerator humming. In another minute or so, all of these quiet sounds will be muffled by the furnace kicking on. It’s only 25 degrees outside tonight.

At this time next year, it certainly won’t be so quiet! Our baby will be six months old then. Of course, after bedtime it will hopefully be quiet like this. Hopefully.

In an hour or so, Daniel and I will have eggnog, the delightful beverage that helps in a very big way to make this my favorite time of the year. If Daniel is finished his paper by then, I might snuggle up next to him while we enjoy it together. Otherwise I will sip it while I read—not a bad second choice. He is so close now to being finished his school work for the semester, and then there is only one left until he has his masters’ degree! I can’t wait. Obviously, neither can Daniel.

When we finish our eggnog, provided Daniel has in fact finished his work, we will check to make sure that the tree has enough water, turn off the lights, and go to our room. We might fold some laundry… or we might not. We will get ready for bed and I will shiver while I change into pajamas and thicker socks (my feet are always freezing at night, especially in the winter), despite the fact that the space heater in our room has been turned on for an hour. But then I will climb into our warm bed and Daniel’s warm arms. And I will be content (that is, as long as I don’t think about waking up to the cold again at six tomorrow morning, or when we are going to finish the last of our Christmas shopping before next Friday, or the dinner dishes sitting unwashed in the kitchen sink). It has been a perfect December evening.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Switch

My switch to working part-time finally came! This is my first week of commuting into D.C. only one day, and I love it. I am feeling well-rested and way less stressed, both of which help with the “morning sickness” that still seems to be hanging on for dear life.

Although I can never accomplish quite as much as my ambitious to-do lists say I should, the house looks so much better than it did when I was working over-time. I’ve made a couple of trips to the bank and the post office while they were actually open (amazing) and I’ve taken the time to sleep in and then leisurely read a book while eating my breakfast. While I haven’t actually taken a nap yet, I love knowing that if I wanted to I could. And that would be okay, because I need my rest—it’s good for the baby! I should enjoy it while I can, I know; it will be much different once she is born.

One thing that is a real treat in itself is being able to open the curtains and let the beautiful sunshine in when I am up for the day, since I used to leave for work while the sun was just rising and arrive home long after it had set, at least at this time of year.

On most days Daniel gets home around five, so he and I have a couple more hours together than we would if I was still working full-time (I would get home close to seven). As soon as I feel better and cooking smells stop bothering me so much, I’m looking forward to being able to make delicious dinners that can be ready (or at least almost ready) when he gets home. For now, we’re eating two different things on most nights—Daniel eats whatever he can find to make for one person, and I eat whatever sounds “the least gross” after searching the fridge and the pantry off and on for about fifteen minutes.

Long story short, life is pretty good. Daniel has a lot of work to do to finish up his semester with grad school (after this, he only has one left!), but he is so close to being done! I’m in the process of getting used to spending a lot of time by myself, which can be a little lonely, but is good for me I think. I still need to work on finding a good routine. I now have time for quiet, personal prayer and relaxation that I didn’t have before, and I talk to the baby even though her ears aren’t quite developed enough to hear my voice. If I remember correctly, her ears will be developed soon. And I can’t wait until I am able to feel her moving—I know she’s doing a lot of it, at least according to my last sonogram a few weeks ago!

We are now well into Advent, and Christmas is only a couple of weeks away. Daniel and I are still working on our Christmas shopping and firming up our plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. We plan to pick out a tree this weekend, although we haven’t decided for sure whether we are going to choose one from a tree farm or buy one that is pre-cut. I can’t wait to decorate! From the beginning, I have been determined to sew stockings rather than buy them, so last weekend Daniel and I spent an hour at the fabric store deciding on material (who knew it could take so long). I think sewing them will be a project for next week while I am at home—we’ll see how well that goes… I’m not as good of a seamstress as my mom is!

I hope you all continue to have a blessed Advent season as we prepare both our hearts and our homes for the celebration of His birth!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving Traditions

I hope that you all had wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations with you families! Daniel and I certainly did. It turned out that I was able to eat pretty much every dish, despite my worries about feeling sick beforehand. Apparently it’s just chicken that bothers me—turkey’s great! This was a discovery I was very relieved to make.

As is the tradition, my aunt, uncle, and eight cousins from Ohio came down to my parents’ house, and the two oldest who are closest to my age slept at our house. So did Marie, and the five of us (Daniel, Marie, cousins Rose and Therese, and me) spent our evenings playing Rock Band—we are such awesome grown-ups!

On Thanksgiving Day 22 people, aged two to eighty, ate turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, etc. at three tables in my parents’ dining and living rooms. After dinner, Daniel and I drove the 45 minutes to his parents’ house for pie and eggnog with his family. Daniel’s grandparents and one of his sisters and her boyfriend were there for dinner, but unfortunately had to leave almost immediately after we arrived. So, we had dessert with his parents alone, but it was still nice—and of course, still delicious!

Thus Daniel and I had our first married Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful being able to share it all with each other. Since our families live near one another, not much had to change in the way of traditions.

It was strange (wonderful, of course, but still strange) to think about what Thanksgiving will be like next year, when we will have a five and a half month old baby to be taking care of. Will anything have to change in our traditions then? There certainly won’t be late-night Rock Band tours in our living room, which is adjacent to the soon-to-be nursery. That’s really not such a big deal, but what about in years to come? Will there come a time in the not-too-distant future when my family from Ohio stops coming to Maryland for Thanksgiving, which is often the only time during the year that we see them?

When more of my siblings and cousins get married and have kids (I am the very first), it would only make sense for things to have to change. I’m reminded of the Johnson & Johnson commercial that says, “Having a baby changes everything.” I’m sure that having a baby will be every bit worth it and will mostly change things for the better, but there are some things that I just don’t want to change. Like the close friendship that my siblings and I have always shared with the cousins we usually only are able to see once a year. If Thanksgiving traditions change, what happens then?

Can anyone who has already experienced this kind of inevitable (it seems) changing of traditions share some words of encouragement/advice/reassurance? I’d really appreciate it. Being the third oldest of the 29 of my grandparents’ grandchildren on one side of the family and the oldest of my parents’ seven children makes this all new territory for me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Drum roll please…

I have an exciting announcement for you all this week, one that I have been just dying to write about for weeks because it is all I can think about: Daniel and I are parents! I’m having a baby!!

I must admit that I’m really not enjoying this first trimester of pregnancy, but that’s just not that important—obviously, Daniel and I are both ridiculously excited and happy. I am overwhelmed by the fact that there is, right now, a tiny, brand new human being growing inside of me with its own unique, made-to-live-forever soul! God is so good!

My due date is June 9th, so right now I am eleven weeks along. On Monday of last week I had my first sonogram, which was incredible. The baby really looked like a baby, even at only nine weeks, and we got to see him or her move around, waving one of his arms and wiggling his lower half (for the sake of not getting wordy/awkward, I’ll use masculine pronouns this time, and switch off between the two for other entries). I never knew such a tiny little thing could be so darn cute! We also got to hear his little heartbeat, which is so much faster than mine.

I have another doctor’s appointment this afternoon, which isn’t going to be nearly so fun (in fact, I’m pretty sure it will not be fun at all). I wish I could have a sonogram every time! As far as I know, we won’t have another until around 20 weeks, when they’ll be able to tell the sex of the baby. That will be in January, I think. We haven’t decided for sure yet whether we want to find out or let it be a surprise…

Anyway, please pray for all three of us! I hope you enjoyed our good news—I sure enjoyed writing it. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Love and Life in the Divine Plan

What is marriage, really? This week, the bishops of the United States voted to approve the release of their new pastoral letter on marriage called “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.” This message from the bishops is so important today because of all the challenges and or threats to the institution of marriage. In their own words, “Our pastoral letter is an invitation to discover, or perhaps rediscover, the blessing given when God first established marriage as a natural institution and when Christ restored and elevated it as a sacramental sign of salvation.” After all, “God himself is the author of marriage.” Not us.

Here’s the gist of what the Church believes marriage to be, as authored by God and explained by our bishops.

· It is an institution created by God
· It is an indissoluble bond
· It is established by mutual consent
· It is a “lifelong partnership… of mutual and exclusive fidelity”
· It is an exclusive partnership between one man and one woman, who are complementary in their two distinct ways of being human
· It is a “unique communion of persons” through the mutual self-giving of conjugal love
· It is meant to image and point to Christ’s love for the Church
· It is ordered towards two equally important ends: the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children

One of my favorite quotes from the letter is this: “The love that is as strong as death is the love that prays and praises, caught up into divine love.” The idea that love can be “as strong as death” is an intense concept. This sentence says that love is this strong when it “prays and praises,” placing love and service of God at the forefront of married love. In my last entry, I cited Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s words: “Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction.” If that looking in the same direction means looking towards the cross of Christ, then married love can be “as strong as death,” caught up in the divine love which is itself stronger than death. Such a beautiful thought!

The bishops then go on to talk about several “fundamental challenges to the nature and purposes of marriage” today, which include: contraception, same-sex unions (by the way, way to go people of Maine!), divorce, and cohabitation.

All of these challenges can be seen as stemming from original sin, which harmed the original communion intended for marriage; but Jesus restored the institution by raising it to the dignity of a sacrament. Because I just can’t say it any better, I quote a paragraph from the bishops about this:

“In restoring to marriage its original meaning and beauty, Jesus proclaims what the Creator meant marriage to be ‘in the beginning.’ He does so because marriage will be made into the visible embodiment of his love for the Church. In his espousal of the Church as his Bride, he fulfills and elevates marriage. He reveals his own love’to the end’ (Jn 13:1) as the purest and deepest love, the perfection of all love. In doing this he reveals the deepest meaning of all marital love: self-giving love modeled on God’s inner life and love.”

In marriage, Daniel and I are called to give ourselves to each other as fully as Christ gave himself to the Church. That’s a pretty tall order. If every married couple and every single or engaged person discerning marriage were to read this letter and make this a goal in their own marriages, that would be pretty amazing! I’m reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s suggestion (here I go with another quote) to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Daniel and I can work towards loving as Christ loves through self-gift every day, even when it isn’t easy, and thus be the change that we (and the bishops) want to see in the world.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Quotable

I’ve talked before about my love of song lyrics and have used a few in my entries in the past year. Another thing that I love, which I don’t think I’ve really used here before, is my love of quotes! As a writer, I am enthralled with the power and beauty of words and the way they work together to create meaning. Poetry, like the lyrics of a song, expresses human emotion on all levels beautifully and creates something that others can deeply connect with. But even non-poetic written prose or spoken language can carry great inspiration, wisdom, and insight about our human experience. In certain cases, the way words work together to carry meaning just rings so true for readers or listeners that those words become “quotable.” These quotes or sayings will then be used in others’ writing and conversation, advice, and humor; or simply savored by a reader for their inspirational quality.

So today, since I have been very busy this week writing an article and have not been able to put much thought into writing my blog entry, I have assembled for your reading pleasure some of my favorites. And since this blog is about “my Catholic marriage,” you can expect most of them to be about love and Christian in theme.

“Tell me who admires and loves you, and I will tell you who you are.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” -Mother Teresa

“Every single one of us can do things that no one else can do - can love things that no one else can love. We are like violins. We can be used for doorstops, or we can make music.” -Barbara Sher

“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“The three ingredients of a successful union between two . . . humor, commitment & undying love.” –Bill Cosby

“Pure love produces pure nonsense.” –Jonathan Klinger

“Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other -- it doesn't matter who it is -- and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.” –Mother Teresa

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” –Pope John Paul II

“It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light, it scattered the night, and made the day worth living.” –Anonymous

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.” –William Shakespeare (Okay, so this one is actually poetry, but I still love it.)

“Who, being loved, is poor?” –Oscar Wilde

“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” –Pope John Paul II

“The years teach much which the days never know” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” –C.S. Lewis

“Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.” –Henry Wordsworth Longfellow


I always love hearing new good quotes—please share your favorite, or more than one, in a comment!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The October "Blah's"

This week I’m reminded of something Bilbo Baggins once told his nephew Frodo—that he felt “like a pat of butter spread over too much bread.” That’s a good description of how I feel right now.

I don’t have too much to write about this week. Between working overtime and then spending four plus hours in the car every day, I haven’t had time for much else. Leave when it’s dark, get home when it’s dark, make dinner (unless Daniel got home before me and already made it), eat dinner, make lunch for the next day, shower, and bed. We canceled our satellite service last week to save money, and since we don’t have much time for television anyway, so we watched a couple of our favorites online this week. It is actually working out pretty well, except for the occasional skipping/buffering of the video.

On Wednesday I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed home from work and slept in very late—I didn’t get out of bed until 12:30! It was amazing. Then when I got up, I actually got to see the mid-week, mid-day sunshine sparkling on our pond. In any event, I really needed that day off. I don’t mean to sound so depressing—in fact, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Right around Thanksgiving, I am dropping down to a part-time position and will get to spend about five times fewer hours away from home than I do now. I can’t wait. In the meantime, I am spending my drive time listening to Jane Austen novels. The way I see it, traffic always makes me angry, but Jane Austen always makes me happy. They should even each other out, right? I think it’s been achieving its purpose, at least as much as it is able.

Daniel’s internship situation, which I believe I mentioned wasn’t so good a few weeks ago, has improved considerably. Many thanks to those of you who said a prayer for him. The problems have cleared up and he is now able to spend much more time at home, and only has to make the drive to school once or twice a week, which means he is usually home before me to get dinner made/started. I must say, it is so nice to be able to come home to my husband every night. He’s my daily “light at the end of the tunnel,” and these days I really need that.

Although you may scoff at this after reading today’s entry, in general my weekly blogging catches me in a fairly good mood, with the weekend so near. Have a good one, everyone, and a blessed Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Alone

I’ve never lived alone. But for the first time, Daniel and I now live “alone” together.

Last Saturday we helped our good friend and roommate Caroline move into her new apartment, and were left with an empty and echoey (not quite sure how to spell that one since it’s not a real word) extra bedroom. Although the acoustics are wonderful (I put on a concert for myself while sweeping the floor), we need to get a carpet for that room stat. The echo is a little depressing.

Caroline lived with me for the ten months between purchasing the house and my wedding, and she has continued to live with Daniel and me since then, until now. The time has finally come. On the one hand, Daniel and I were admittedly looking forward to having our house completely to ourselves, in large part dreaming about the extra storage space so that our own overflowing “walk in” closet could be rescued.

In the past five months, a lot of people have given Caroline a hard time for “living with newlyweds.” “When are you moving?” they would all ask. I didn’t like that so much—after all, she had her own room with her own bathroom, and usually went home to her parents’ house on the weekends. Can we really have been that bad to live with, just because we were “newlyweds?” Yes, it was nice having a little bit of extra income with which to pay down debt, but mostly it was just nice having her around. We need to be moving on with our lives, which means that eventually we will need a second bedroom, but for now the door is closed (with the vent closed, too, to save on heating). It’s too sad to see the room empty.

It’s also sad not having my awesome carpool buddy for my long commute any more, since Caroline moved much, much closer to our place of work than I am. She already knows that I am rather jealous of the extra few hours she has in her day as a result.

In any event, Caroline’s move in a way marked a final transition into married life for Daniel and me. We now live alone together as husband and wife, our own family unit. And although we both miss Caroline, we like that. It will just take a little bit of getting used to, not a lot… we already filled her closet!

Luckily, I still get to see Caroline at work every day.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Husband the Gentleman

Even before I knew it by name, I have always believed chivalry to be very important. When I was a teenager, it was on my list of characteristics and qualities that I found particularly appealing in boys. This might sound crazy to you but yes, I really did have this list, and I really did go over it with a pencil and check it off whenever a cute new boy caught my attention. This list included everything from “is Catholic,” “has a relationship with God,” “likes kids,” and “my parents like him;” to “is taller than me” (I’m almost 5’9”), “makes me laugh,” “respects me,” and “has pretty eyes.” Seriously. And “is chivalrous” was close to the top of the list.

Clearly I had my eye out for chivalry for a while. When I met Daniel and we began dating five years ago, one of the first things that attracted me to him was that he was an almost perfect gentleman. I say “almost” because no one is perfect—but I happen to think my Daniel is pretty darn close.

When Daniel was with me, I never found myself opening a car door or any other door. If his arms were empty, mine immediately were cleared of whatever they were carrying (except for my purse, of course—he wouldn’t carry that). If he saw me shiver, he would give me his coat to wear over my own. Usually I wouldn’t let him though.

As the years went by, none of these chivalrous habits disappeared. Daniel wasn’t trying to impress me during our “courtship” phase. He’s just a gentleman, pure and simple. And I love it!

Now that we’re married, there’s an even more meaningful way that Daniel has been able to be a gentleman for me. In my experience with Natural Family Planning, I can tell you that I feel so respected and well cared-for by my husband in a very big way. He would never treat my healthy body, working perfectly as God designed it, as though it was diseased and in need of being “fixed” so as to be more readily available at all times for his own use.

Nor would he encourage me to put my health at risk. Millions (I’m guessing here) of dollars are spent every year by people who are prescribed pills that will help keep a less than healthy organ/system working properly. Something is not quite right when others, or perhaps even some of the very same people, are spending millions (also a guess) on a daily pill that is intended to prevent a healthy organ/system from working properly. Contraception is not the way to go. And I have a wonderful, chivalrous gentleman who knows that.

I should have written about this during Natural Family Planning Awareness Week but better late than never!

This pretty much sums up what I’m getting at here: One day over the summer, Daniel said to me, “I’m really glad that we don’t use birth control. I feel like that would really cause me to see you as more of an object, and you don’t deserve that.”

That is my “knight in shining armor;” I’m so glad I put chivalry on my list!

Friday, October 9, 2009

More on Love

I heard a homily this week that used the old James Dean film, Rebel without a Cause, which I have never seen, to illustrate that without God in one’s worldview, one’s life has no real meaning. In fact, in a world without God, there would be no purpose for anything at all.

Not too long ago, in the course of a conversation on this subject with a friend, Daniel once said something along the lines of: “I found out that I couldn’t really love Sarah unless I loved God first.” The response he received was, “But let’s just say that somehow you found out tomorrow with 100% certainty that God did not exist. Wouldn’t you still love Sarah?”

Tough question, with a short answer: “No.” But obviously, a short answer wasn’t going to cut it. My wonderful husband (although this was before he was my husband) went on to explain in the best way he could that if there was a way that God could be proved nonexistent beyond any shadow of doubt, loving me would not mean anything. It wouldn’t even be possible, because real love always comes from the God who is Love.

If true love between a husband and wife in this life is necessarily tied into eternal life with our Creator, as St. John Chrysostom suggests in the quote I used last week, then what purpose would love have in a godless world? “For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us…”

The question remains: Can you truly love someone if you don’t believe in God? I don’t think you can. Like I said, tough question. And a difficult answer to stomach, even for a believer. But God gives meaning to this life, and this life is all about relationship, with Him and with others in the world around us. I believe that.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

That's Love

Does anyone else find it really upsetting when you hear that the artist who sings one of your favorite, most genuine-sounding love songs has broken up with their boyfriend/girlfriend or separated from their husband/wife?

When Chuck Wicks released his song “Stealing Cinderella” and I heard it for the first time on country radio in 2007, I cried. This isn’t extremely unusual, since songs make me cry pretty often, especially if I’m driving in the car by myself. But it was a beautiful song that told a beautiful true story about a man asking his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage. At least, the radio announcers all said it was a true story.

The next thing I knew, later that year or maybe the next, I heard that Chuck and his fiancĂ©e had broken up. Luckily, they weren’t married yet (there are plenty of singer/songwriters whose beautiful love songs still on the air were written about ex-spouses). I’m sure that the ends of these relationships are all very sad stories, but still… it causes their old “love songs” not to ring quite so true. It’s sad. These songs tell all about “true love,” but the love didn’t last. What’s wrong with all this? What is love, really, if all these people thought they had it and then it ended?

Here is why I love the Church.

The Catechism gives us this:

“St. John Chrysostom suggests that young husbands should say to their wives: I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us… I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.” (CCC 2365)

That’s love. And doesn’t it sound a little bit like something Jesus might say to each one of us, perhaps from the cross?

Just a thought… and something to strive for in each of our marriages, now or in the future. Someone should put that in a love song. I’d bawl my eyes out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Commas Are Important

It’s so true! An example that my friend Caroline likes to use is this one: “On June 6, 1944 soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy.” Without a comma after 1944, the sentence loses its correct meaning and can cause confusion. There are other examples, too. By the end of this entry, you will understand the perhaps corny-seeming connection that I made in my mind. But you know me well enough by now to know that I don’t mind being corny.

This has been a very long week, to say the least. Traffic has been a nightmare, for starters. Actually, it has been for the last few weeks, since the school year started. Worse traffic should be expected when school is in, but it definitely was not this bad this past spring or even last fall.

Allow me to explain, and please have patience with me while I rant just a little bit. At 11 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, or 8:30 at night, the drive from home to work or vice versa takes anywhere from 59 minutes (my record!) to one hour and 10 minutes. At rush hour on good days, it takes around an hour and 20 minutes, give or take a few. On bad days in the past it has taken an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. I’m pretty sure that at least 10 days out of the past 15, it has taken around 2 hours and 10 minutes to get to work in the morning. This Tuesday, I think we hit a record BAD for a “normal” drive (meaning that we weren’t really affected by any accidents, but it was all a result of my favorite word, “volume”): 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Sometimes I feel like all this traffic is making me a bitter person. I’m really trying not to let it, though. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest! But this blog is about “My Catholic Marriage,” so I’ll get right to that. Simple connection: Daniel has to battle the same traffic, going the same direction that I do, although he doesn’t have to go as far. He doesn’t have anyone to carpool with (I do), so he never gets to use the HOV lane, which is helpful for those mornings when it actually decides to work.

This is not exactly the way to start one’s day off “on the right foot.” And it can cause Daniel and me to get home to each other at the end of the day drained and grumpy. Seriously, it can color my whole day if I’m not careful.

So the traffic is one thing. Another is that, to make a long story short, I started a new position on Monday in a different department in my building, and I am now working 8 to 5 instead of 9 to 5. While this means I get less sleep and am thus more tired during my frustrating drive to work, it is actually a little easier for both Daniel and me to wake up because we now have to wake up at the same time.

The last thing I’ll mention is that Daniel has been having some problems with his internship recently, and they have really been weighing on him.

When kids are in elementary school, they learn that when reading aloud, a comma is where you pause and perhaps take a breath.

On Wednesday night, the middle of the week and the perfect time for a “comma,” Daniel and I were blessed to have the opportunity to attend Eucharistic Adoration. The praise and worship music was so calming, and Daniel and I both really needed to take our stresses to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. We really did need to “pause and take a breath” in the spiritual sense. It helped, just like it always does. Although it wasn’t one of the songs that was included in the program, the following song written by Dennis Jernigan came to mind. I first heard it sung by Martin Doman during Adoration at the 2003 Steubenville East Youth Conference in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Since I don’t have much else to say, I think I’ll end with the refrain of “If I Could Just Sit With You Awhile” as a prayer:

If I could just sit with You awhile
If You could just hold me
Nothing could touch me
Though I'm wounded, though I die
If I could just sit with You awhile
I need you to hold me
Moment by moment
Till forever passes by

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blending

A couple of weeks ago, someone posted a comment asking me what some of the struggles of marriage are. “Obviously, blending two lives into one cannot be easy at times,” she wrote. “Marriage is an amazing sacrament, and I hope to one day be called to mirror Christ's love in the world through the sacrament of marriage. However, I think us single gals out there need to know some of the areas you really worked as an individual and as a couple to prepare for, along with areas you wish you had prepared more for.”

When I made my list of the joys of marriage last month, I mentioned how easy that task was. For me, listing the struggles of marriage is a little harder. Yes, “blending two lives into one is not easy at times.” Like learning to share a single bathroom sink and mirror when I want to tweeze my eyebrows and Daniel wants to shave. Or dealing with pet peeve issues, like when Daniel leaves recycling in the kitchen sink to be rinsed out “later” or I forget to turn the computer off when I’ve finished using it.

But I feel like I’m beating a dead horse with silly stuff like that. Daniel and I worked through the major stuff in the four and a half years we were together before we got married—religion, values, lifestyle, desires for the future, etc. Early on when we were dating, there was a lot to do in these areas. You can read about that in my entries from last summer and fall. Now there are, of course, the standard newlywed issues such as time (which I’ll talk about now) and money (which I talked about on 9/3).

Time is a big one for Daniel and me, as I know it is for so many couples, because our time together during the week is restricted to a few hours each evening after work. In that limited amount of time, there is dinner to be prepared, enjoyed, and cleaned up. Then there is mail to be sorted, exercise, and lunches to be made for the next day if we actually get around to it. Not to mention other miscellaneous chores or errands to be run. Relaxation is an issue that goes along with time. I am not good at relaxing when I know that there are things that need to be done. Daniel, however, has no problem with this whatsoever. I get upset when I see him sitting around while I feel so stressed by everything I “have to do,” but he sees this as my own problem: “You could sit down with me if you wanted to,” etc. Voila! Tension. And we don’t even have kids yet!

With so little time at home together every day, we never get to bed as early as we would like to. This leads to another issue: waking up in the morning. This might not be one you would think of, but it is a lot harder to find your way out from under the covers when there is another warm body sleeping peacefully next to you!

Speaking of covers, sharing them has proved to be somewhat of a challenge as well. Daniel doesn’t like the sheets to be tucked into the mattress around him, while I like to have a neatly made bed before I climb into it. Once I’m off in dreamland, though, that rule apparently no longer applies. Daniel calls me a “burrito”, because while I’m asleep I like to steal the covers away from him by rolling up into them, leaving him shivering.

Like I said, this stuff is all pretty silly for the most part. I’ve touched on other struggles in the past few months, such as balancing time spent with friends and family, and making decisions about money. The thing is that overall, I feel like Daniel and I did a very good job in preparing for marriage. We had our priorities and goals in sync with one other, which I think is the most important thing. In fact, our lives were already so intertwined before we got married that actually getting married and moving in together made our relationship easier. That is why answering this question was difficult for me. Our situation was pretty unique, though; we know this isn’t how it is for most people.

Maybe some readers who have been married for longer than Daniel and I have can help me out with answering this question about the struggles involved in the blending of lives in the sacrament of marriage…

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Lovely Long Weekend

To those of you who posted comments last week, thank you so much for the birthday wishes! I had a wonderful evening with my husband. I know that Thursday wasn’t really a part of this particular long weekend, but it still felt like a weekend to me, so I’m including it.

Daniel and I went out for dinner at a nearby restaurant that we had never tried before or even heard much about, and I’m not sure that was the best decision on my part. I was really hungry after work and didn’t want to drive far to get a meal. The food was pretty good, but it seemed to be much more of a lunch place than a dinner place, and they were out of a lot of the options on the menu. This was interesting, since we arrived to a completely empty restaurant… which also happened to be absolutely freezing, so we left pretty quickly after Daniel finished his burger. To say that he is a much faster eater than me would be an understatement—I took most of my chicken Caesar salad wrap to go so that I could stop shivering.

The important thing, though, was that Daniel and I got to spend the evening together. He gave me a beautiful diamond journey necklace, which I proudly wore to dinner (as though I had chosen someplace fancy). I’ve never owned any real diamond jewelry before other than my engagement and wedding rings, so I was very excited. Daniel, as usual, was very cute in asking over and over again whether I was sure I liked his gift. Of course, I assured him over and over again that I loved it. He always gives the best gifts.

When I got home, I took the necklace off and placed it in the top drawer of the jewelry box Daniel handmade for my birthday in 2006. Every time I open one of the drawers, I stick my nose into it. It still smells like whatever wood stain he used. I love that smell. Like I said, he always gives the best gifts. I am so lucky.

On Saturday, we attended the wedding of a college friend—the first since our own nearly four months ago! This one was a Catholic wedding within a Mass, like ours, and in the same chapel that we were married in. Everything about it was lovely, from the sunny afternoon to the groom’s smile to the abundant sunflowers, and of course the bride! The bride and groom were so clearly full of joy; I didn’t expect to, but I cried. A little. At the reception, Daniel and I were the second ones to sit down during the married couples dance (the bride and groom had to sit down first). It was beautiful watching all those husbands and wives swaying together, until only two couples remained on the floor, married over fifty years.

The next day, Sunday, marked five years since Daniel and I first began dating. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have been married as long as those couples—ten times longer than Daniel and I have even been together, which feels like so long to us—but I look forward to finding out.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Priorities

When Daniel and I are making decisions, we find ourselves saying pretty often: “We can’t afford that.” Really, most of the time we know this not to be quite true. What we really should be saying is, “That doesn’t fit in with how we’ve decided we want to be spending our money.”

As a couple, we know that we are considerably better off than most of the world. We are comfortable. God has blessed us with so much. I have to remind myself of this pretty often, though… like when I feel like I don’t have “enough” clothes because I don’t have quite the outfit variety that I might like to have. What is “enough”? Or when I feel sorry for myself because I don’t have an iPod or an unlimited text and data plan on my cell phone. That stuff isn’t important, and it is by my own choice that I don’t have them.

The point is that it is not that Daniel and I “can’t afford” to see movies when they come out in theaters, eat out every weekend, etc., etc. It’s that we choose, on a daily basis, not to afford these things. The good thing is that so far we haven’t really had any disagreements about how we should be spending our money; we tend to be on the same page. Becoming homeowners two months after graduating college is not exactly typical. Neither is getting married one year after graduation. These things mean that our priorities are currently a little different than those of most of our friends, and we make our budget based on the priorities we have chosen for our life together.

This means that nearly all of our discretionary money, after paying our mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc., goes toward paying down debt; that way, when we have children we will have fewer monthly payment obligations and will be able to afford having me stay home—a very valuable priority for both Daniel and me. I finished paying down my 2008 Kia Spectra loan in July (yay!) and we are now hard at work on my student loans. Daniel’s student loans will come next. I had no idea there could be such incredible satisfaction in seeing principal amounts go significantly down each time a large lump payment is made on a loan—each one means we’re one step closer to our goal.

And although I’ve touched on it before, our goal is this: to have enough resources to raise a family in a comfortable home on our land (we’re also saving to build on our property within the next five years) and to be able to share our blessings with others, whether those others be family and friends close by or strangers in need halfway around the globe.

Most importantly, though, we have to remember that even now—before we’ve reached this goal—we need to count our blessings and thank God for them, one by one. We’ve already been given so much. When I consider the lives some people in our world have to live, I feel so lucky to be able to go out to dinner with my wonderful husband on special occasions, like tonight (Thursday). I’m turning 23 today!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Church

About a month after our wedding, Daniel and I officially registered as parishioners at the church near our home, the same church that I have attended with my family for the past ten years. The staff there knows me by face and by family, but did not necessarily know Daniel’s name. After filling out the form as “Daniel and Sarah H,” I felt the need to clarify in the comments section at the bottom of the page so that they would know who I was: “my maiden name is Sarah B.”

Being parishioners means that offertory envelopes arrive in the mail addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Daniel H.” A new pack arrived yesterday. Daniel and I have been determined to be active parishioners right from the beginning, and this includes weekly giving to the Church. I have received advice from my parents and others that I should always be generous in tithing no matter what my financial situation is like. As long as a person does this, he or she will be alright. There will always be enough.

Another way we are going to be active in our parish is through co-teaching a sixth grade religious education class beginning in a few weeks. My sister Annie is in the class, so she is going to have her sister and brother-in-law as teachers, plus another sister (Jane) as the class aide. Our family is going to be everywhere in that classroom! Daniel and I are really looking forward to being catechists together, and can’t wait for the year to start.

Since Daniel and I married young, pretty much all of the married couples in our parish are older than us. And the couples who don’t have children all look to be significantly older than us, too. In fact, when we were going through marriage prep with our sponsor couple, they told us we were the first couple they had that was younger than them! I guess as time goes by, more and more couples our age will marry and “settle down” in our area; we would love to be able to connect with other young Catholic newlyweds near us.

In speaking about the Church, I can’t neglect the Catholic view of the family as the “domestic church.” Daniel and I are a family unit of our own, even though we haven’t “started a family” yet in the common understanding of the phrase. We are called to make our domestic church here and now, built around the sacrament of marriage, in preparation for the expansion plans God holds for our future. This is why Daniel and I are trying to build our home and our life with God as its foundation. Pope John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” In our unremarkable and imperfect way, we are going to try to do our part—starting now.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, August 21, 2009

2009-2010

I am no longer a student, but I still feel the excitement of fresh beginnings with the start of a new school year. Having attended Catholic grade school and a Catholic college, I have always operated in three different “years,” all going at once. There’s the Church’s Liturgical year, beginning with the first Sunday of Advent; the calendar year, beginning on January 1st; and finally the school year, beginning in late August or early September.

The school year has always been primary for me. The school year carries a lot more meaning than the calendar year. Things don’t really change on January 1st, unless you count your own New Year’s resolutions. It is the school year that carries with it all the changes: summer breaks/vacations are over and students move up from one grade level to the next or move from one school to another. New clothes and shoes are bought, new hairstyles are tried out, new friends are made, and new authority figures come into play. Parents put their five-year-olds on school buses for the first time and watch them ride off into big-kid-dom. For a lot of seventeen and eighteen-year-olds, a new school year means moving away from their parents’ home for the first time. Fall sports, scouts, musical instruments, Sunday school—all start up again with the beginning of a new school year.

Like I said, I am not a student myself any more, but I’m not so far removed that the new school year has lost all of its significance in my mind. I find myself thinking of this as the first “school year” of Daniel’s and my marriage—I know that’s a little silly. Of course, Daniel is going back to school this year. He had his first day of his internship for his clinical psychology masters’ program yesterday, and he’ll start up classes after Labor Day. He also works in a school, which means that he’ll be working more hours come Monday, now that the summer session has ended and a new year is beginning.

What this all means for me is that I’m really being given the opportunity to prove myself as the “helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). When Daniel’s working full time, plus an extra sixteen hours a week for his internship, plus at least one class a week along with homework, he is without a doubt going to need as much help as I can give him. I’ve been brainstorming to come up with a list of all the different little ways that I might be able to make his life easier… but I’m not going to list any of them here, otherwise Daniel will read them and come to expect certain things. And since I’ve been known to be a bit more ambitious than I’m capable of executing, I certainly can’t have that! :-)

While Daniel will be spending a lot of his Saturdays this fall getting in his internship hours, I have a pretty good idea of what I should be spending my time alone doing. Actually, I shouldn’t be spending it alone! In the months leading up to the wedding, I was so wrapped up in planning a wedding and preparing for a marriage that I think that some of my other relationships were neglected. I heard a homily this week that included the seemingly simple reminder that the two ingredients every relationship needs are: time and attention. I need to give a little bit more time and attention to my female friendships and family relationships than I have been; I also need to focus more on my personal relationship with God through an increase in private time spent in prayer. All of this is inclusive in the vocation of marriage; while my life does and should revolve around God and my husband first and foremost, Daniel and I should be going out from ourselves to share our joy with others. I recognize this as something I need to work on—please pray for me.

Also, please pray for Daniel as he starts his new, super-busy schedule and good luck to all of you who are preparing for fresh starts as the 2009-2010 school year begins—God bless!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Joys of Marriage

A couple of weeks ago, one reader commented that I haven’t been focusing enough on the joys of marriage in my blog. So, I decided to come up with a list of some of the joys of my marriage to Daniel. I love easy tasks, and this certainly was one! In no particular order, here you go:

-- Being able to see each other every single day of every single week
-- Having my best friend around all the time, so that I can share everything with him without having to pick up the phone
-- Sharing our days in person rather than over the phone

--Doing routine grocery shopping together and making meals for each other in our very own kitchen
--Being called “Mrs. Hammond” by new people that I meet or speak to on the phone

--Calling Daniel “my husband” and having Daniel introduce me as his wife
--Continuing to work on our home together and knowing the satisfaction of seeing it finished
--Learning more about each other every day, even though we dated for nearly five years before we got married

-- Folding each other’s laundry (although folding laundry itself is not exactly a joy, for now it’s a newlywed joy to be folding Daniel’s socks and know that this house is where they belong)
-- Watching movies we both love on the couch on a Friday night
-- Looking forward to understanding what it will mean to love each other even more than we do today
-- Planning for the future, imagining what our lives and our family will be like

-- Knowing that we are already on our chosen path of serving God, and that our most important decision has already been made and our vocation has begun
-- Reading and praying together every night before we go to bed
-- Being silly and laughing hysterically when we are alone, knowing that we are free to be so completely ourselves, more than we can ever be with anyone else
-- Being held in the arms of the one I love as I fall asleep, and the feeling of peace that comes in knowing that there is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be

-- Feeling like I am the luckiest girl in the world to have such a good man who loves me so much
-- Praying that God teach me how to love my husband better, and believing that, little by little, He will
-- Seeing ourselves five years ago in light of the man and woman we are today, realizing how much we have both grown in every aspect of our lives, and knowing that as we grew, we grew together
-- Looking back over our memories of the past five years since Daniel and I began dating (beginning with the story Daniel told you last week) and seeing God’s hand in it all
-- Hearing songs like this one and getting chills (like I did in the car the other day) because I know exactly what the artist (in this case Martina McBride) means:


I have been blessed
and I feel like I’ve found my way
I thank God for all I’ve been given
at the end of every day
I have been blessed
with so much more than I deserve
To be here with the one
that loves me
To love him so much it hurts
I have been blessed

What are some of the joys in your marriages? I would love to hear them, and I’m sure others would, too.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Voice of Choice

This week's entry is written by Daniel.

Let me begin by saying that I am not as eloquent as my wife. To give you proper perspective, Sarah worked at the writing center when we were in college and I was a frequent user of the writing center. That said, I would like to focus on a few things in this post through an all-encompassing story. I hope to address my faith, conflicts within marriage, and my new understanding of love. That’s not such a bad thesis (maybe the writing center did help!)

I remember when Sarah and I never fought. In the first days of dating, you want to seem as pleasing as possible to the other person, but eventually that changes (as it should.) One day, Sarah and I had a fight about religion and God. This was by no means our first fight, but it was a fight that I will NEVER forget.

At that time, I was practically an agnostic. I did not believe God existed because I couldn’t prove it in my mind. I had no “proof” that God existed, therefore he did not. Then one day Sarah and I had a conversation about faith.

Not too far into this conversation, Sarah and I were upset with each other and she was practically in tears. I don’t raise my voice when arguing which drives Sarah crazy because I’m calm when she thinks I should be showing more emotion. For the life of me, I cannot remember the sentence that preceded what Sarah said to me, but what she said to me changed my life forever. After arguing with all my intellect, Sarah responded with this simple phrase, “You don’t understand because you don’t have as much faith as I do.”

I’m not sure how to describe the way I felt when she said that. I didn’t believe in God, but her statement hit me like a bullet. What does she mean she has more faith than I do?? The nerve of that girl! Who does she think I am? Not knowing what to say, I stormed out of the room after having to move Sarah out of my way (don’t worry I just picked her up and moved her 6 inches). She was yelling my name down the hallway, saying she was sorry but I was already out of the building.

I don’t remember running, but I was at my destination faster than I had ever been before. Furious with Sarah, I had to take time to cool off. I stopped at a park bench near the school library, pacing back and forth. I was a mess. I didn’t believe there was a God, so why was I so bothered that I didn’t have as much faith as she did? I’m better off not believing in her silly religion anyway, right? But I couldn’t stop thinking about what she said.

An hour went by as I sat on the bench. Then it happened. While slumping over on a bench in the middle of our college campus with my hands wrapped around my head, I heard a voice. Not just any voice, but a voice that I had never heard before. It was a calm, clear, non-gendered voice, neither high nor low. Hearing voices is a cause for concern to a 19 year old clinical psychology student, but the voice was comforting, as a best friend’s voice is comforting when you are all alone and scared. The voice simply said “Go back.” It never repeated itself, but it was one of the clearest things I have ever heard. So I listened, and I went back.

When I went back to Sarah, I found her in tears. Even though she was crying she looked more beautiful to me than ever before. I could see that she loved me and that she was very sad at the thought of losing me, even though I was the one in the wrong. She hugged me and we talked for hours with a million apologies on both sides. I believe that I heard the voice of God that night.

After all our years together, I finally understand why the voice sent me back. God could have said, “Hey dummy, I’m over here.” God could have done wondrous things to prove to me that he existed. But he didn’t want to prove himself to me, he wanted me with Sarah. Over the next several years, I began to deepen my faith with Sarah. It started with prayer and then church. She taught me how faith could make sense. I learned from her (and others) that the existence of God and miracles doesn’t conflict with logic, but that logically the world could only exist through God.

What happened that night has spilled over into my entire life. First, faith makes sense; once I held God as a truth everything else seemed to fit, but without God nothing fit. Second, having a wonderful wife, family, and friends has taught me that faith deepens through relationships because each one of us holds Christ within us. Our faith becomes more powerful and understandable when we share it, rather than hide it. Third, our marital fights may be very serious, but we always know how they will end. Each of us now knows that we are meant for the other. We constantly try to lead each other to Christ because that is what it means to love someone. Sometimes we just forget and argue about dishes or the fact that I sleep all the time.

Fourth and finally, I am always listening for that voice to tell me what to do again. But what I have learned over the years is that voice now comes from within me. I have never experienced that feeling again, but I believe that God opened my heart to help me see his will more clearly. God never told me what to do, but he made the choice obvious.

Since this is probably the only time that I will ever get something "published" I just wanted to add an acknowledgement. I would like to thank God for always leading my heart with his message of love, and to my wife, Sarah, who helps me listen and interpret.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The End of the Sleepover Era

Don’t worry—this week, I’m cooling it with the heavy theological/philosophical stuff.

Daniel’s birthday was this week, and I was all excited about being able to wake up and bring him breakfast in bed now that we live together, but I didn’t wake up in time, which upset me greatly. After work, Daniel helped load a truck for someone who was moving, so he didn’t get home until around 8:00. We went out to grab a couple of sandwiches and an order of mozzarella sticks to go, and ate them in bed while we folded laundry… at 10:00 p.m. Not exactly the most exciting birthday for Daniel, but I promised him a special day on Saturday, with an ice cream cake and candles, and the standard birthday royalty treatment all day.

This weekend, I turned down an invitation to an Assateague Island camping trip bachelorette party for a friend from college who is getting married on September 6. In my e-mail RSVP, I couldn’t even give the real reason for not being able to go. I had no concrete excuse. No prior plans. When you’re the only married person in a group of friends, how exactly do you say what you really want to say:

“When I got married, it was with the understanding that my life couldn’t be the same as it was before. I knew then that the sleepover I had with my bridesmaids the night before my own wedding would be the end of my fifteen year long sleepover era. I just can’t spend a weekend away from my new husband. If the party were not so far away, I could come for part of the time and then head home to my husband at the end of the evening. Really, though, I think that camping at the beach is a neat idea for a bachelorette party—I hope that you girls have an awesome time!”

To me, this explanation was too long and complicated, and I did not want to somehow sound rude. Thankfully, my friend (the maid of honor) did not ask the question that I would have felt uncomfortable answering.

Does anyone have a similar story that they could share to make me feel better? If you do, please share! By the way, make sure that you are here next Friday—Daniel’s writing! I don’t think he plans to do more than one, so it may be on the long side… and he won’t tell me what he’s going to write about, which makes the control freak in me a little nervous.

You’ll hear from me again on August 14th!

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Happily Ever After" - Part 2

Daniel and I dedicated a good chunk of both Friday night and Saturday to battling our seemingly inescapable enemy: clutter. We pulled all kinds of books, old paperwork, and memorabilia/trinkets of various shapes and sizes out of their hiding places and piled them all in the living room to be gone through. Over the course of the weekend, we actually made a pretty good dent—lots of paper went out to the recycling bin and our yard sale pile is decent as well.

This is the kind of thing that I am never very good at myself, so it was good that I had Daniel to push me on. I tend to get nostalgic about almost everything. It just makes me sad to think of getting rid of things that may have been important to me five or ten years ago, regardless of how good I always feel about it once the deed is done.

I thought some more about “happily ever after” this week, realizing that I spent some time analyzing the “happily” part of it in my last entry, but didn’t look into the “ever after” half of it. Who knew that such a common, seemingly simple phrase from children’s stories could be analyzed this much?

Anyway (I promise this is connected), as I sorted through old birthday, Christmas, and graduation cards, I had to make decisions about what was still important to me and what was no longer important. Memories were dragged to the foreground and the nostalgia set in. I started thinking about time, how fast it goes by and how it changes things. How it changes people. Friendships in my past had come to an end, whether through a dramatic change or by the process of slowly but perceptibly drifting apart. Everything comes to an end in time; we all know this. It is part of the human experience.

My marriage to Daniel is only beginning, so perhaps I shouldn’t be concerning myself too much with the thought that someday it will end. But this is something that I can’t help but thinking about. So, in my search for comfort, I latched onto the words of our wedding vows: “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” This wording is different from another option, seen in movies and secular weddings, but also an option in the Rite of Marriage, in what I see as a significant way. We didn’t say, “until death do us part.” Even in Heaven, we will still be loving each other, even if it is not in the same way that we love each other now.

As Catholic Christians, we believe that bodily death is not the end of our life. It is when we are baptized that we die and are resurrected in Christ. When our bodies die, we live on. Our souls are immortal, and someday even our bodies, perfected, will join us again. If this is the case, then “all the days of my life,” really means something more than “as long as we’re both walking around on this earth.”

Here is where we join up once again with “happily ever after.” This phrase was on my mind as well when I was de-cluttering my house.

“…ever after.”

As I wrote last week, isn’t “happily ever after” what we are promised as Christians? Eternal joy with our Lord is absolutely the biggest “happily ever after” there could be. “Ever after” means that whatever it is, there is no ending to it. It’s forever. In terms of marriage, making a promise to love and honor someone “all the days of my life” sounds an awful lot like “ever after” to me. Let’s try it. “I will love you and honor you ever after.” The meaning is still there.

The idea of getting old and dying scares me, although not as much as the idea of dying without getting old. I imagine that it scares most everyone. It’s the fear of the unknown; no one dies and lives to tell the tale (except Jesus, of course). It’s also the fear of being alone. Passing from this world to the next is a journey every single person has to take on their own. I’m reminded of a movie that I loved in high school (and still do). In A Walk to Remember, Landon asks his girlfriend Jamie whether she is scared of dying. She replies, “I’m scared of not being with you.”

This is where “ever after” is helpful. If we are truly joined “ever after,” for “all the days of our lives,” by token of our faith in Christ, then even though we must be separated for a time while one of us remains on this earth without the other, we will hopefully be able to see it as merely an intermission. We will hopefully be strong enough in our faith to know that what is coming next is even better than what we will have experienced in our life together here. Unfathomably better.

At some point, one of us (Daniel or I) will die. Only God knows when that will be. To dedicate your life to loving and serving someone knowing that at any given time you could lose him or her (and at some point, you definitely will) is a really, really scary thing. But we love anyway. We accept that pain because it is worth it. Because even when everything is not “happy” or easy, loving is what makes life worthwhile. Because we are made in the image of our Creator, who is Love.

And because we believe that true love really does last forever. We risk the pain, and we will someday endure the pain, because we believe in “happily ever after.” We really do. We’re Christians.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Giving "Happily Ever After" a Chance

I wonder how Cinderella felt after she and Prince Charming had been married for two months. That’s how long it’s been for Daniel and me now—two whole months. I guess you could say we are still in the honeymoon phase of our marriage, even though our honeymoon trip only lasted one week.

That’s not to say that we are perfectly “happy” all the time; even our very young marriage has its share of sharp words, tears, and apologies. In even our very young marriage, we deal with messes, broken appliances, and leaky sinks. We worry about money, we worry about the future, and we worry about little things like the wolf spiders and pincher bugs that keep finding their way into our house (at least I do). We sometimes disagree about what it means that the kitchen sink area be “clean” and how often the grass needs to be cut. And I get unnecessarily irritated when Daniel starts to fall asleep before I’ve finished my nightly routine that takes so much longer than his.

Did Cinderella have these kinds of problems? How about Snow White or Aurora? They were all supposed to have lived “happily ever after,” right? (Plus, they all ended up with servants and so didn’t have to worry about cleaning and mowing lawns, but I won’t go into that)

“Living happily ever after is for Disney characters,” according to one reader who posted a comment on last week’s blog entry. When I read it, I had no problem agreeing with that very true statement. In real life, we can’t all ride off into the sunset with the one we love and live a life of luxury. Taking it a step further, Linda Miles was quoted in a foryourmarriage.org daily marriage tip last week, saying: “All those ‘and they lived happily ever after’ fairy tale endings need to be changed to ‘and they began the very hard work of making their marriages happy.’”

Happy.

I’ve been thinking—what does it really mean to “live happily”? Is “happily ever after” really just for Disney characters? Or is it what is promised to all Christians by our God Himself?

Living life as a follower of Jesus Christ is not supposed to be easy; He told us, in fact, that it would not be easy. Daniel and I were called to the marriage vocation, meaning that living our lives together as a married couple is the way we follow the Lord, from May 16th forward. And while following Him is not easy, it is happy. This is because true joy is found in living the life of a disciple of Christ. We are told that we will have “peace that surpasses all understanding,” etc. (Phil 4:7).

So, if real happiness lies in following God and doing his will, and married couples in the Church follow God through their ever-sacramental daily married life, then getting married and living “happily ever after” doesn’t actually seem that far off the mark. Being truly happy is about finding fulfillment in loving and serving God and others, particularly your spouse if you are married.

If this is the case, then in the sense that Disney characters live “happily ever after” at the end of every fairytale, real life marriages really can’t be that way and shouldn’t be expected to be that way. But it is true that “He who finds a wife [or husband] finds happiness; it is a favor he receives from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22).

None of us are perfect. Daniel’s and my marriage, like every marriage, is going to take some hard work. Only God knows what sorrows and difficulties lie in the road ahead for us. We can’t expect to live easily ever after—but happily ever after is something we should be striving for.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Weekend plans--or not

I am really looking forward to this weekend. The past couple of weekends have been pretty busy for Daniel and me—two weekends ago we stayed with my younger cousins while my uncle and aunt went on a trip to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. We had a lot of fun there, first of all because my cousins (ages six, twelve, fourteen, and sixteen) are a lot of fun to hang out with and we love them, and second of all because they have a pool in their yard. That makes for a pretty darn good summer weekend, one that would have been absolutely perfect if Daniel hadn’t gotten sun poisoning on Saturday. Poor thing.

And last weekend, for the 4th of July, we went to the beach with my college roommates. We had an awesome time relaxing and reading on the beach (I’m not a swimming in the Atlantic Ocean kind of girl), and we watched fireworks from a boat out on the bay.

This weekend, though, we have no plans—which by no means implies that we have nothing to do. I’m looking forward to getting some work done on our bedroom and bathroom, or taking our wedding money shopping for some things we still need… like a toaster oven that’s not from the 1980’s. My family is leaving for Georgia on Friday, where another aunt, uncle, and cousin live. This is the first time I won’t be with them when they go down there, which is a little sad for me.

This week, I’m admitting to a case of writer’s block as far as this blog is concerned. I’m hoping to get Daniel to write an entry sometime in the next few weeks. Cross your fingers! But I would love to hear some ideas from you guys—what do you want to read about? Do you have any questions about the wedding planning or the wedding itself that you were hoping I would touch on and never did?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Being Married

Now it’s time to catch you up on the last month and a half, the first month and a half of Daniel’s and my married life together (since it’s taken me that long just to tell you about the wedding weekend!). I absolutely love being married. I love getting to see Daniel every single day no matter what—waking up to his kisses every morning, coming home to him every day after work, and cuddling up to him every night when I go to bed.

We had a great time on our honeymoon to North Redington Beach, Florida. The condo we stayed in was right on the beach, with a beautiful balcony view overlooking the water. Unfortunately, it rained almost the entire time we were there. We only sat on the beach for a couple of hours of one day, and didn’t really go in the water at all. But we did drive the two hours to Orlando on two days, once to go to Discovery Cove, which was the coolest place either of us had ever been. Seriously. I highly recommend it.



The second day we went to Sea World, which was somewhere both of us had always wanted to go. It was stormy and cold all day there, so all of the rides were shut down. That wasn’t such a big deal, though—we can ride rollercoasters anywhere. We ran through the rain from exhibit to exhibit to see the animals, usually avoiding the ones that weren’t under cover.

Other than that, we took a few long walks along the beach, spent a lot of time reading, and went to a lot of delicious restaurants. Our goal was to go to non-chain restaurants only, which we followed pretty well, except for the Wendy’s where we stopped on the way to our condo from the airport our first day there. Overall, it was wonderful to spend a vacation together, away from all the stress we had been under for so long before the wedding.

When we got home, it was time to “settle down.” Daniel still had stuff that needed to be moved from his parents’ house, so we made a couple of trips back and forth from there. We still have some remodeling to do in our bedroom and bathroom so that two people can live in them comfortably. What seems most important right now: There’s not currently enough storage space for everything we’re trying to cram into that room (not that it was much better when it was just me in there). There have also been wedding gifts to put away, a new dishwasher to install, and a new tractor to buy since we’ve been home. Daniel’s car has had to be towed twice in the last month (it’s getting old). So we’ve been busy. Regardless of what we’re doing, it’s exciting to get into new routines now that we’re living together!

We got our photo discs back from our photographer a couple of weeks ago, some of which you have seen. He did such a great job! We’re presently in the process of choosing pictures to have him print for an album, and then we can choose larger prints for all of the new frames we received as gifts! Definitely a fun project. Speaking of frames, we were also given an apostolic blessing from the Vatican by my bosses, which we still need to have framed so it can be hung on our wall. It is so beautiful and special.

One thing that I’ve had to deal with that I hadn’t really considered before the wedding was what I’ll call “post-wedding depression” for lack of a better term. During the wedding planning process, I know that I really tried to put my focus in the right place: on the sacrament, and the marriage that only begins on the wedding day.

But it’s still hard to escape the fact that most girls start thinking about their wedding day as soon as they’re old enough to know what a wedding is, and I was certainly no exception, dressing up as a bride just for fun as a little girl, playing “wedding” with my Barbies, and reading the newspaper’s annual wedding guide section from cover to cover every year in high school. Plus, to have spent the last two years thinking about and planning for that specific day, May 16, 2009—let’s just say that having it behind me was, for the first few weeks, the biggest morning-after-Christmas feeling ever. I’m sure you all know what I mean by that.

Luckily, though, I think that having at least tried to put my focus in the right place during marriage preparation has helped. The “post-wedding depression” has almost completely cleared up now. It has also been comforting and exciting to think about not only marriage, but also the wedding as a foretaste of Heaven. Having experienced my own wedding Mass and reception, being completely full of joy and celebrating with everyone that I love, I think I can really appreciate the analogy of Heaven as being “the wedding feast of the Lamb.” It’s hard to imagine anything happier than my wedding day—to think that Heaven will be exponentially better is incredible. It really gives a person something to look forward to; and that wedding feast will never end!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Weekend Wedding - Part 5

Being introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Hammond to a room full of everyone we love was an amazing experience. The deejay played instrumental music that made it sound like we had just won a game show or something, but in a good way. We walked through the door, grinning brightly. The room looked even more beautiful than I had imagined it. Everyone cheered, lots of people standing up from their seats. We made our way through the tables to the head table, which was a round table like the others, but right in the center of the room under the biggest chandelier.

We sat down with our parents to wait for the food—a brunch buffet was set up along one wall of the room, but in the meantime there was a fruit and pastry table open, plus the coffee and tea station. My mom went to get me a cup of coffee, which I was very happy to drink. I was starving, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat much of anything when the time came, either because of the excitement or because I’m a slow eater and would spend most of the mealtime talking.

I was right about that; the lady in charge of catering served our table rather than having us go up to the buffet like everyone else, and my plate was absolutely loaded with a wide variety of everything that was being served. I ended up swallowing just a couple of bites of a ham and cheese omelet, and I think one small slice of Canadian bacon. I did have another cup of coffee after the first, so at least I had my caffeine!

After everyone had eaten, the deejay announced the toasts; Daniel’s brother John, the best man, would be giving one. And although my sister Marie, maid of honor, had originally told me she didn’t want to do a toast because she would be too nervous, she changed her mind while we were at the reception and wrote a speech on her napkin. Marie started to give her toast first, but John took over when she couldn’t stop crying. His speech was very nice; he had everyone laughing but it was also very sweet. Marie tried again, struggling not to cry, with the people around encouraging her. My mom thought Marie just wanted a hug of encouragement when she walked over to our table a sentence or so into her speech. We were all surprised though when, amid many “aww”s, Marie handed my mom the napkin and cried, “Can you do it?”

“What makes you think I won’t cry?” my mom replied, somewhat laughing. So my mom ended up reading Marie’s speech with Marie sitting beside her, listening and crying. It was fairly simple, but beautiful. We toasted with champagne mimosas.

The last piece of the day that I was really nervous about immediately followed the toasts: the first dance, and then the father-daughter dance. But I shouldn’t have worried; Daniel and I were perfectly comfortable, as though we weren’t actually in front of all those people. We sang to each other, along with Steven Curtis Chapman as we twirled, dipped, and attempted to waltz (that part didn’t work out so well). But it was so much fun!

After the two special dances, Daniel and I went around to say hello to every table. I was worried that once we had gotten to everyone, we would have no time to dance any more at all. But we ended up talking to and hugging everyone with time to spare! We cut the cake, took some pictures out in the hall, I tossed the bouquet (which took two tries, since my first toss hit the ceiling) and danced to “Chicken Fried,” “Then,” and “Save the Last Dance for Me” (which, as you may have guessed, was the last dance). By that point, most of the room had cleared out. Daniel and I left to go to our hotel room, which was on the premises since we got a free night in a suite with our reception. I stood in front of the full-length mirror there in my wedding dress and finally started to cry.

I couldn’t believe that the wedding was over. We were married. Really married. All of the emotion of the past several weeks/months came crashing down on me then. Good and bad. I just had never experienced an emotional roller coaster of those proportions before. I imagine having our first child may be somewhat similar…

Once I had calmed down and realized how incredibly starving I was, we went out for dinner at a little Italian restaurant nearby. Of course we changed, but I kept my wedding jewelry on—I wasn’t ready to completely de-bride myself yet. Actually, I wore the jewelry to church the next morning, too!

While we were eating dinner, I couldn’t help but think about how everyone had told us to remember that no matter what, at the end of the day we would be married. Well, it was the end of the day. And we were!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wedding Weekend: Part 4

Our wedding Mass was beautiful. My nervousness didn’t entirely disappear, but it definitely got easier as soon as I took Daniel’s hand to walk to our seats. I had been worried that I would be too anxious to pay attention and pray during the liturgy, but that didn’t end up being a problem at all. I was able to stay focused and prayerful the entire time. And I remember every detail of the ceremony—I heard the organ music, sang along with every song, smelled the incense, and caught the eyes of several people in the crowd to exchange smiles.

The (small) bad part was that I was extremely warm throughout the whole thing, taking sips every so often from the water bottle Caroline had stowed beneath my chair before the ceremony and fanning myself with my program almost the entire time. I was afraid that I would faint; luckily, I didn’t!

My Aunt Alli read the first reading (from Genesis 2) and Daniel’s cousin Mary read the second (Colossians 3). They both did a beautiful job. The Gospel reading was from Matthew chapter 7, about the wise man who built his house upon the rock, which we just love (well, obviously we love it—we’re the ones that chose the readings!).

When we said our vows during the Rite of Marriage, I had absolutely no problem either remembering the words or projecting them so that everyone could hear me. And I will never forget the look of love on Daniel’s face as he spoke those words to me, too: “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

We had a little bit more trouble with the rings. First, we couldn’t get them off the pillow easily at all because the ribbon bow had turned into a knot. Then I really had to push, with both hands, to get Daniel’s ring over his knuckle. Now that it’s on there, it definitely isn’t going to be coming off without a fight—and that is perfectly fine with me. I love seeing that ring on his finger!

Everyone was smiling. Everyone was happy. Cameras flashed. The Mass continued, and Daniel and I received the Eucharist for the first time together as man and wife. The liturgy ended with the lovely Nuptial Blessing that Caroline and Leeanna posted for you last month, and just like that, I got a new name! Actually, not “just like that” at all—it’s taken me the whole month to get most of my name-change stuff finished. I only made it to the MVA to get my new license this past Wednesday! But I heard Father Rick say, “Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Hammond,” and then Daniel was kissing me. It was pure and simple bliss.

I forgot to take my bouquet from Marie when Daniel and I walked back down the aisle at the end of the blessing, which made me feel funny because I had nothing to do with the hand that Daniel wasn’t holding. But I’m laughing about it in all the pictures.

After hugs all around in the sacristy while the rest of our guests made their way to their cars, we took pictures with our immediate families and the bridal party in front of the altar before leaving for the reception. My cheeks were killing me, but in a different place than they ever had before as a result of having to smile for lots of cameras. The pain was more directly under my eyes, in the muscle covering my cheekbones, whereas in the past (high school and college dances and graduations, etc.) it had hurt closer to my mouth. I guess that is because I was more genuinely happy than I had ever been before!

On the way to the reception, with Daniel driving my Dad’s car since it is nicer than either of ours, I discovered that I am rather a fan of riding down the highway in a white dress and veil and having everyone who passes us do a double-take, pointing out to their own passengers the bride and groom in the other lane. It’s such a silly thing, I guess, but I’ll admit that it made me feel a little bit like royalty. In the meantime Daniel and I were so busy laughing together, reveling in the fact that we were really and truly married, that we missed our exit. The next exit wasn’t for several miles, so we lost at least ten minutes just turning around and backtracking to find our way.

We made it to the resort eventually, of course, and stood in the hall with our bridal party waiting to be “presented” to all of our family and friends in the banquet room.

Now, I’m going to pick up at the beginning of the reception next week for a several reasons: 1) Because I know how much you all love the anticipation, 2) To avoid my word count going way over my usual entry, 3) Because I am getting very tired and want to go to bed, and 4) So that I can enjoy reminiscing about my wedding day for yet another week!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wedding Weekend: Part 3, The Big Day!

When the alarm on my cell phone went off at 6:10 on Saturday morning, I sat up immediately and swung my feet to the floor. I didn’t hit snooze at all, which was a surprise to both me and my friends even though it was my wedding day.

I showered, brushed my teeth, and put on capris, flip-flops, and a button-up shirt that I would be able to change out of without ruining my up-do. With a Quaker breakfast cookie and a cup of chamomile tea from the hotel’s continental breakfast in hand, I rode to the hair salon for our 7:30 appointment; all but two of my bridesmaids were getting their hair done there. And since I had already had my hair consultation two weeks prior, I knew exactly what I wanted and the lady was able to get started right away. The food I forced myself to eat while she was working tasted so dry—stupid nerves. The butterflies in my stomach were stronger than ever.

Luckily, I guess, having a morning wedding meant that I didn’t have to spend all day being nervous. There wasn’t time for that. By the time my beautiful up-do was finished it was already after 9:00, and we planned on leaving the hotel by 10:15.

While Marie and Laura were still having their styles done, the rest of us rushed back to do our makeup, get dressed, and pack up our bags. I did my own makeup, which took me about fifteen or twenty minutes, and got dressed with the help of my bridesmaids. Once every detail was in place, I felt like a princess… but there wasn’t time to stand around feeling beautiful, either, so we grabbed our bags and hurried out to the cars again.

When we arrived on campus, the parking situation was horrible because of the fire department picnic going on that day. We had to park in the grass next to the chapel, and a few raindrops were beginning to fall. As I was unbuckling my seatbelt, horror of horrors, I looked down and noticed that the chain of my necklace was broken! That put me over the edge, and I started to flip out.

With my necklace hanging in two pieces from my neck, I made it into the vestibule on the right side of the chapel that was serving as the bride’s room. My cousin and bridesmaid, Maria, went into the sanctuary to bring back her sister, my cousin Catherine. She is the one that made my jewelry for the wedding, and that wonderful girl even thought to bring her tools with her to the wedding just in case! So she took my necklace out to her parents’ car to fix it and had it back, good as new, in less than five minutes. Crisis averted.

I saw my parents, all of my siblings, and a couple of aunts while I waited in the bride’s room. Caroline had left to fulfill her groomsmaidenly duty of ushering with the boys, but of course my bridesmaids stayed with me. Our photographer took some pictures. And the figurative clock kept ticking (there was no clock that I could see, so I had no idea how quickly time was passing). When someone announced that it was around five minutes to 11:00, my bridesmaid Michelle suggested that we pray a Hail Mary. I’m so glad she did; I had been thinking during the drive from the hotel that when we got to the church I would pray a whole bunch of Hail Mary’s to calm myself down, but since we had arrived I had completely forgotten. So, my bridesmaids and I stood in a circle, joined hands, and prayed. I can’t say that my nervousness instantly disappeared, or anything like that, but I did feel better knowing that I had at least looked in the right direction before I walked up the aisle to my beloved.

The next thing I knew, the girls were all lining up in the back of the church, with my Dad and me in the rear. The organ processional began and I caught a glimpse of Daniel as his brother walked him up the aisle, but it was not until everyone else had gone and my dad and I were the only ones remaining in the back that I could look up and really see him. I told myself as we started moving forward that I was just going to look at Daniel the whole way up; if I looked around at everyone who loves me staring at me and smiling, I would be too overwhelmed and I knew I would cry. I think I did tear up, but only a little. I just kept looking at my very, very soon-to-be husband and smiled (a very nervous, non-toothy smile, but still a smile).

And I’m really sorry, I honestly did not expect to have to drag this wedding story on for another week… but I’m going to! To be continued yet again… be sure to take a look at our wedding photo album!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wedding Weekend: Part 2

Just to let you know since some of you are wondering, there is going to be a wedding photo album posted on here very soon—I think by this time next week. Daniel and I are anxiously awaiting the photographer’s pictures ourselves! As for today, I hope none of you are bored by the fact that this entry is mainly going to be a list of events, but I’m picking up where I left off.

Caroline, Nicole, Marie, Daniel, his brother, and I got to the reception hall around 2:30 to start decorating. Another bridesmaid, Michelle, met us up there, as did my Mom and my Aunt Alli. We spent a little over two hours moving tables, assembling centerpieces, and arranging the personalized favors on a table by the door (which would also serve as a way of directing guests to their assigned seats). When we were finished, the room looked perfectly beautiful.

By that time we were in somewhat of a rush to get to the chapel, where the rehearsal was scheduled to begin at five. When we arrived on campus, we discovered that the big field right next to the chapel was all set up with party tents, grills, and loudspeakers. Apparently the local fire department was having their big “spring fling” picnic right there all day on Saturday, and no one in campus ministry was told about it until a few days before—therefore, we also were not told. Naturally, I was a little bit… shall we say, worried? That sounds like a nice way of putting it. I will leave it up to your own vivid imaginations to envision how I was feeling in my night-before-my-wedding stressed state. But I tried to put that worry away; there was nothing that could be done about the situation, and I had enough to be thinking about.

The rehearsal went well, as straightforward as rehearsals go. We had one run-through. I carried the ribbon bouquet made by my bridesmaids at my shower. Next came the rehearsal dinner, which was casual. We reserved the party room at the local Pizza Hut and ate their new pasta dishes, which were pretty good although I didn’t have much of an appetite. As the meal came to an end, I was really getting close to tears. In a few minutes, Daniel and I would be parting ways and I wouldn’t see him again until I was walking down the aisle. And that was extremely scary.

I hugged my family as I was leaving (except for Marie, since she was my maid of honor and would of course be staying with me for the rest of the night). I kissed Daniel good-bye. My bridesmaids and groomsmaid ushered me out the door and across the parking lot to the store, where we picked up two bottles of wine to drink at the hotel. Everything felt so strange, as though I was someone else. The ball was already rolling, but in those minutes after I watched Daniel drive away, I wanted so much to stop it.

When one of my bridesmaids asked how I was, all I knew to say was, “I’m just not feeling very favorable towards weddings right now.” Which was true. I knew that I wanted to be married to Daniel more than anything in the world. And I wanted the Sacrament. I just didn’t feel like I wanted the wedding. It was just too out-of-the-ordinary, too disconnected from my everyday life. I wasn’t just Sarah, the girl I had been my whole life. At least that’s how I felt. I was “the bride.” The disconnect was too large for comfort. The different-ness from my normal day-to-day world was somewhat, for lack of a better word, painful. I don’t really know how to explain how I was feeling.

But my friends took care of me. Almost as soon as we got to the hotel I felt more relaxed. I received a couple of gifts, gave the girls their jewelry for the next day, had a glass of wine, and talked for a few hours. Brushed and flossed my teeth, washed my face, laid out everything I needed for the next morning, set my alarm for 6:10 (our hair appointments were for 7:30) I shared a bed with Marie, the sister with whom I shared a bedroom for eight years of my life, and my cousin Maria and friend Laura slept in the other bed in the room. This was my last night as a single girl/woman. It took me a little while to drift off, but once I did, I got more sleep, and better sleep, than I had any night for weeks before that.

I warned you I might do this again—to be continued! Tune in for part three.