Friday, January 30, 2009

Keeping It All in Focus

I had a little bit of a panic attack last night. This is because I suddenly realized that this week is the end of January. May 16 keeps getting closer and closer, and my list of things to do doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller.

Daniel’s winter break from classes is now over, and he now has another semester’s full schedule of classes to add to his work schedule. For our last three and a half months before the wedding, his time will be almost completely taken up. This means that I have to be extra organized in order to make sure that I plan for the things I need his help with during his sparse blocks of free time. The problem is that I have never been very good at being extra organized. My list is helping so far—color-coded by month that each item must/should be done. It had better keep helping, because if I can’t stick to it… well, that’s a big problem. Here is what is on the list for January (which, as I mentioned, is fast coming to a close):

× Register for gifts
Book honeymoon
Finalize guest list
Give out save the dates
Figure out bridesmaid dresses
× Get marriage license
Figure out DJ
Meet with photographer
Figure out cake
× Finish marriage prep
× Schedule NFP classes
× Confirm reception
× Buy veil
× Buy shoes
× Get baptismal certificates
× Get passports
× Get jewelry

As you can see, it’s looking like a few things are going to be pushed to February. This weekend, Daniel and I are going to finalize the guest list and meet with the photographer. Our plans to meet with a DJ we were considering fell through a couple of weeks ago, so it’s back to square one as far as that goes. I’m thinking of maybe setting up a playlist ourselves and not having a DJ but I’m not really sure… does anyone have any advice on this?

In Family Foundations, the Couple to Couple League’s magazine, Christina Capecchi has been writing a journal-type column on her engagement and preparation for marriage. In this month’s issue, she writes about the stresses of the last few weeks before her wedding and how she and her fiancĂ© have found strength in turning to the tradition and wisdom of the Church amidst all the chaos of final plans. Reading her thoughts as she deals with the stresses that I will be facing in just a few short months was really helpful for me.

Marriage prep with our sponsor couple was also helpful. Although this was nothing I hadn’t heard before, it was a nice reminder to be told that Daniel and I are preparing for our vocation, just like men in seminary are preparing for theirs. And as our vocation, our marriage is the primary reason that we were put on this earth and should therefore be the primary focus of our lives. Everything else is secondary. Marriage is the state of life to which God is calling us, and through it we will serve God for the rest of our lives. Not only that, but Daniel and are going to be responsible for getting each other to Heaven! With all of this to think about, all the small details of the wedding day seem less important—and it gets a little bit easier to breathe.

Friday, January 23, 2009

How to "Test Run" Your Marriage

A lot of people today try to make the argument that a couple should live together before they get married, as a sort of compatibility “trial run.” They claim that this would reduce the risk of heartache and general unhappiness in marriage, and ultimately lower the possibility of divorce. I don’t buy into any of this myself—in fact, studies show that cohabitation before marriage can actually increase the likelihood of marriage ending in divorce later on. This is not to mention Church teaching on the subject.

What I think should really be done to “test run” a marriage is quite different and perfectly acceptable, morally speaking. Before a couple gets married, what they should really do is work on (and complete) some kind of a project together.

Daniel and I have had plenty of opportunities to do this over the past six months since we bought our house. We have been remodeling, updating, and upgrading nearly everything (and believe me, our bank accounts have felt it quite keenly). With projects, I have found that all kinds of things can pop up: issues of control, differences in opinion and taste and how those differences are handled, how mistakes are responded to and taken care of, emotional reactivity when frustrated, etc. Personality flaws such as obsessive perfectionism or sloppy carelessness can also be brought to light. Even further, projects provide opportunities for a couple to practice teamwork and problem-solving together, which are skills that definitely will come into play throughout the couple’s life together.

The first weekend after Daniel and I bought our house, we tore out the cigarette smoke-filled, dog pee-stained purple carpets that had been everywhere but the kitchen (yes, including the bathrooms. Gross, right?). We bought new laminate flooring to install, and started putting it in right away.

My parents must have heard Daniel and I arguing about something while we worked together with one particularly difficult piece of the floor. The two of them laughed and said, “This is why you shouldn’t work on projects together until after you’re married.” This was a joke (just in case you needed that bit of reassurance), but very telling about what projects bring out in people.

Having bought this house well before our wedding day, I can say that I am glad we did it the way we did. Daniel and I are learning a lot about working together and discussing any differences in opinion we have. We are also learning how to balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses when we are working, which is very helpful. I know that we still have a lot to learn—good thing we have the rest of our lives together!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hopes and Dreams

Daniel and I got our marriage license this week (another thing I can check off my list!), and apparently it’s pretty easy to get married in the state of Maryland. We had to raise our right hands to swear to tell the truth. Then we were just asked our names, ages, addresses, social security numbers, etc. and whether we had been married before or were related to one another. We didn’t even have to show identification, which I was surprised about.

We also applied for our passports the same day, which we will need for our honeymoon. Here’s a tip: if you’re applying for a passport, bring a photo with you to the post office (or wherever it is you’re applying). Daniel and I thought it would be easier for them to do our passports if they took the photos there and didn’t know it would cost any extra money. It did-- $15 bucks each, on top of the $100 each for the passports themselves! Crazy.

Anyways, looking for inspiration for this week’s entry, I asked Caroline what she wanted to know about that I hadn’t written yet. She said she would love to read about Daniel’s and my hopes and dreams for our future together… so if you aren’t interested in that, you’ll have to take it up with her. Unfortunately, Caroline isn’t her real name so that will only work if you already know who she is!

So here’s what Daniel and I want our lives to be like from May 16 forward. We already have a small house (which you know) on two beautiful acres of property only seven minutes from my family, which is where I’ve always wanted to live. In about five years, we hope to build a larger, Victorian style house on the land. We already had a plan picked out even before we settled on the land—counting our chickens before they had hatched, I know! Thankfully, we got the property.

Daniel should finish school and receive his master’s degree in clinical psychology in May 2010, which will hopefully allow him to get a bump in pay that is enough to allow me to stay home with our children when we have them. Ever since I was a very little girl, the only aspiration I have always been sure about was my desire to “be a mom.” To me, this meant that I wanted to do what my mom did. She stayed at home with me and my siblings while my dad went to work, and although I didn’t personally know anything different, I always loved that she was home. I know that for most of my childhood, it was not at all easy (financially speaking) for my parents to live and take care of their children on one income that was itself not very high. Daniel and I are blessed to be starting off on better financial footing than my parents did. If they could make living on one income work, I know that we can too, even when it does involve sacrifices.

That point aside, I have also always dreamed of being a novelist and writing from home. We joke about how I just need to “hurry up and write my best-seller” so that we won’t have to worry about money anymore. Maybe someday…

Daniel loves the job he has now working with children with special needs, mostly autism. He would love to continue in that field for the foreseeable future, and maybe someday work towards getting his doctorate degree. Maybe. I am not a huge fan of that idea myself, but we’ll see!

So I’ll be at home taking care of our children (four or five, or whatever God wants to give us), writing stories, and teaching Sunday school, which I also love. Daniel and I will never move from the land we own now, but we will travel the country with our kids on vacations, and travel Europe and the Holy Land when we retire. And we’ll never be bored! That’s what big families are good for, right?

There you have it. That is what I want for Daniel’s and my life together. I know that Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his mind a man plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps.” I hope that God doesn’t have anything too different figured out for us! I think I like Proverbs 16:3 better: “Entrust your works to the LORD, and your plans will succeed,” it says. That’s exactly what we plan to do!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Our Christmas celebration

I hope that you all had a very merry Christmas! Ours was wonderful. Daniel and I exchanged gifts at my house on Christmas Eve in the afternoon, in front of our own real, water-guzzling Balsam Fir. We had been two of those crazy people that went to a Best Buy store at one in the morning to stand in line and buy one of those computers on an incredible Black Friday deal… since we did that, we considered our computer our gift to each other and limited each other to one small gift each for Christmas.

I gave Daniel a four-way sterling medal on a steel chain—one of the ones with an image of the Miraculous Medal, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Christopher, and St. Joseph in the parts of the cross. He gave me a computer program for designing home plans, landscaping, interior design, etc. (which may seem boring to you, but it is the kind of thing I love).

We had dinner with my family on Christmas Eve and Daniel exchanged gifts with my family, then we went to mass at 8:00 at my church. It was just the two of us, since my family had gone to the 4:00 children’s mass. Afterwards, we came back to my parents’ house again to wrap presents for a while until Daniel left at around 11:00. I didn’t end up crawling into bed with my long-asleep little sister Annie (ten) until almost 1:00.

After multiple excited wake-up-calls from seven-year-old Paul, beginning at 3:00 in the morning, the whole family eventually woke up and assembled to go downstairs at 7:00. And our traditional Christmas morning commenced. In my family, we always look at our Santa gifts and sort through our stockings first, then we all sit down for coffee and cinnamon buns. After that everyone takes turns, going from youngest to oldest (Edward to my dad), opening presents one at a time. That way, everyone gets to enjoy everyone opening their gifts and seeing each other’s reactions. This is definitely a tradition I want to continue with my own children. It makes our Christmas morning last into the afternoon (and it keeps wrapping paper and ribbon messes to a minimum).

I didn’t get to see Daniel at all on Christmas day, since we were each celebrating with our families at home. On the 26th, I drove to his parents’ house to spend the day with his family. It was definitely quieter there than at my parents’ house, but it was nice.

Happy 2009, everyone!