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 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.’”


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!