24 May 2015

Bring On The Tears

So of course, what is a wedding without a fair amount of crying? As emotional a person as I am, those salty water demons didn't make too many appearances during the wedding. But when other people decide it's time to get sappy: waterworks.

Top 5 Emotional Moments of the Wedding
(in chronological order)

1. Seeing Christopher for the first time.
Unlike most modern weddings, ours followed a different Mass form and procession in which C did not wait for me by the altar, but we processed next to each other after the altar servers, wedding party and celebrant. This format meant that there was no "big reveal," but we met in the narthex of the church. When I saw him, the fact that we were marrying became much more real. I was very happy to finally see him dressed up and I could see we both were taking in the sight of each other. This moment of all moments on the list was one more of excitement than of sentiment.

2. The vows.
In a Nuptial Mass, the actual wedding part (consent, vows and rings) comes after the homily and before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. When we joined right hands and recited the vows, I felt myself choking up hearing C make his promises. I choked up more so when it was my turn and needed to collect myself for a moment. That will be amusing to watch back on the video.

3. The recession.
The consent, vows and rings end fairly anti-climactically, since there is no first kiss as seen at most weddings. With no obvious moment, it's hard to get to the point of thinking "woah, we're married!" I did finally feel this, though, after our recessional. We walked out to O God Beyond All Praising (one of my most favorite hymns) and once the lyrics were over and we were back in the narthex, C just looked at me and I burst I to tears. "I'm just really happy right now," I explained, crying like some silly thing.

4. Sibling love.
After copious amounts of tears and thank youa when we received our guests post-recession, I gathered with my bridesmaids for group photos. As we assembled, my sister kindly informed me that C went up to her at the end and said, "I've always wanted a sister and now I have one." "Oh myyy goooosh," I wailed and burst into tears again. The next day after my family left, my sister texted C and said, "I'm really happy to have you as my brother. :)" Those two are going to ruin me.

5. The speech.
As I understood it, speeches were not something that we were planning to do. Leave it to C to find more ways to surprise me. Near the end of our reception, he invited my step-father to speak to the group, something I am sure the latter was about 3% comfortable with. It is hard not to get emotional when he does, though, and he entrusted me to C's care with all sincerity, which meant much more than he likely knows. C then gave his speech, thanking everyone in turn and finally thanking me at the end. "As some of you may know, Haley and I met at college where I was her TA--" (insert scandalous oooo's here) "--but she has been the one teaching me ever since." I suppose if ever there is a time it is acceptable to cry so much in public, it is at one's own wedding. Additionally, if ever there is a time it is acceptable and encouraged to kiss in public, it is at one's own wedding, which I did in thanks for such a lovely speech, at which point everyone burst into applause.

I usually am such an emotional person that I have been trying to rein tears in as of late (sensitive St Thérèse-living girl through and through). However, a wedding seems like a pretty good excuse to feel everything as it happens and just enjoy it. I am sure, therefore, that more emotional moments are ahead. I'll have to invest in some tissues. 

22 May 2015


I'm getting married in about thirteen hours. It still hasn't really hit me yet. Family and friends have arrived, we had the rehearsal and I just talked to one of my bridesmaids for hours, but it isn't real. I don't know that it will feel real until I don my dress or I enter the church or I say my vows. My mind is still running at high speed thinking about breakfast plans, transportation and the procession order. I feel like I've been waiting for ages to get married, but now I just want all the planning to be done so I don't have to worry about anything.

Then a part of me realizes: I'm marrying my best friend. I'm standing in front of friends, family and God, stating my intention to be with this man for the rest of our lives, through good and bad, helping each other to Heaven.

It's hard to believe that five years ago I didn't know this man. It's hard to believe that our first hello was so recent. I feel as if I have known him all my life sometimes, while at other times I think about all the things we don't know because we have yet to experience them.

When I met Christopher, I was a younger, naive, bright eyed freshman in college. I remember the first time I ever saw him enter our classroom and could even pick out the shirt he wore. Now I am still a young, naive, but tired-eyed twenty something. The next time I see him, I will note the way his tie brings out the blue in his eyes. When we face each other for the vows, I will remember each time he has stood before me asking if he could take me home, asking if he could hug me goodbye, initiating our first kiss, grinning at me at the airport, waiting for me to take my first Communion when I was Confirmed, asking me to marry him in front of Notre Dame in Paris...

Our days together have already seemed so long and we have so much to look forward to. I have grown and learned so much by knowing him. Through all of life's highs, lows and question marks, I can imagine no one better to have at my side than Christopher.

Here's to us, C.

God grant that we may find mercy and grow old together. 

20 May 2015

What Pre-Cana Was Like [And What I Wish It Was Like]

The idea I often get is that people respond one of two ways when it comes to Pre-Cana. Either a couple finds it just another thing to check off their list before the Church allows them to marry or a couple returns from their meeting/s gushing about all the great things they learned (TOB, anyone?). That is, of course, if one knows what Pre-Cana is in the first place. For those of you who don't know, Pre-Cana is a wedding preparation program which the Church requires a couple complete in order to marry. The aim of the program is to cover topics like conflict resolution, finance management and sexuality. I think the more important idea, though, is that couples know what they are getting into, namely, knowing what marriage is (you can't exactly retroactively claim you didn't know what the deal was when you sat down and received an explanation of the Sacrament).

All this said, I was pretty excited for Pre-Cana when I learned we would have to complete a session. Some part of me was excited for the potential opportunity to debate, look at Church documents...basically have a quick seminar on marriage. I did some research online of what the meeting would entail and what others' experiences were, but oddly I couldn't really find the latter (which is part of the reason I'm writing this post). Personally, I'd only known one other couple (the woman, M, of which was my Confirmation sponsor) who went through the Pre-Cana process. A couple weeks before our session, I talked with M about her experience. One of the words she used was "interesting."

Uh oh.

So I guess there are three ways people respond: "Eh," "I dig it," or "Interesting."

Only one of my most favorite paintings ever.

My take? A mix of all three. Let's get into it.

Conveniently, we could do all of our work in one day and there was Mass arranged afterward. C and I arrived at the parish school and sat in the cafeteria while couples steadily streamed in. One thing that I noticed was we were almost certainly the youngest couple there, which I found interesting. Monsignor started us all off with a prayer and then our sizable group (maybe twenty couples) moved into a classroom. There were to be four (somewhat interactive) lecture sections led by couples from this parish.

The first session was on communication. Most of it was common sense: be a good listener, work on compromising, respect each other. To be honest, I don't remember much of it anymore (yay, blogging procrastination). If you've read Verily/Thought Catalog "15 Things to Talk About Before Getting Married" articles, you've probably got a good idea of 90% of it.

Our second session was of more interest to me: conflict resolution. Specifically, couples went through a sheet together marking what type of conflict we saw growing up in our own families and what ways we deal with conflict in our own relationship. For example, I saw avoidance (eg. walking away, silent treatment) in my family and definitely do that in my relationship with C. On the other hand, he saw "triangling" (getting a third party to take your side) in his family, but neither of us bring that into our relationship. It was interesting to actually mark these things down and say, "Oh wow, I understand this now," or "Your family is weird. Let's not ever do that." Of course, C managed to make it humorous too when we saw "overwhelming with logic" was an item. "I do this," C admitted, "but I don't really think being logical is a bad thing, so..." (He totally does this; don't come unprepared to a verbal spar with him.)

A lunch break followed, during which we caught up with the priest who is celebrating our Nuptial Mass. He and C went to seminary (good thing C didn't finish that out, right?) together, so they've been friends for a good while now. At lunch we talked with the couple who was presenting for the next session on intimacy. The man gave the couples papers and asked us to write down what intimacy means to us. In my usual over-analytic nature, I sat staring at the paper thinking, "You want an exact definition? To me... so a subjective definition? Do you want examples? Are we reading these out loud? Are we trading them with our partner's? Are we seeing them all hung up and trying to find our partner's? Oops, I haven't written anything yet."

In the third session, we submitted our papers, which were read aloud but kept anonymous. That didn't stop me, though, from knowing which one belonged to C. Hello, definition (especially easy to pick out from all of the example-filled definitions). We were also prompted to write love letters to our future spouse to be read at a later date. Effusive as I can be, five minutes is not enough for a love letter, so I wrote a few nice things down and said I'd come back to it. C's love letter said, "I'll write you a letter later. IOU." (because of course we traded at the end of the day). The rest of the session continued and, while some of it was a little too saccharine for my comfort in a public setting, none of it was 8th grade health class awkward. No ridiculous diagram or strange conversation stories to relay here, thankfully. The couple curtailed the most chance for that by handing each couple a small NFP (natural family planning) booklet to read at their leisure.

Finally, the fourth session was on spirituality. I had been looking forward to this session the most because spirituality is one of the unusual aspects of Sacramental Marriage when compared to civil marriage. I can read articles and books, ask other people, view relationships in television or movies...but there isn't a guarantee that they're going to tell me how spirituality plays its part in marriage. This session was different from the ones before: while the previous three had been interactive and like a bit of a chat, this fourth session had the couple reading from pages they had printed out. "Okay," I thought, "they're just shy and not in love with public speaking. I dig that." But the format of the presentation quickly became less important than the content. This couple described their struggles individually and as a family as their son battled cancer. It was the shortest presentation, but it had the hardest impact, as the couple told the story of how they met, to how their son's cancer kept coming back, to the day their son died. Their presentation reminded us of the commitment, perseverance and hard work that are required in marriage. There's no walking away, not even when your worst fears become reality. This is a life-long commitment and you're going to need a lot of help and grace from God (or at least I will).

All the sessions completed, we went over to the rectory's chapel for Mass and afterwards received certificates saying we completed Pre-Cana. Phew!

So what did I like?
  • I liked when the sessions were interactive and got me to really think about what our relationship is like. The conflict resolution sheet was the best bit of paperwork I did all day.

  • I liked when the instructing couples gave us real life examples. A topic like marriage needs practical, not just theoretical, study.

  • I liked getting to see and talk with our celebrant, who is an awesome priest and friend. Father, C and I have similar senses of humor, too, which made lunch enjoyable. 
This is me when my academic spirit is crushed.

What would I change?

  • I would have liked to have less couples with more in depth discussion and more of a chance to learn from a variety of resources. The way this session was set up, though, makes me think that's just a different style for a different time and place.

  • I would have liked to do more interactive things with C, working individually and together, to really work through everything as one unit. That's what we'll be doing for the rest of our lives, right?

  • I would have liked more practical spiritual, especially Catholic, advice/ideas. As a convert, there are so many things I don't know about what it's like to have a Catholic family living a Catholic life keeping a Catholic home with Catholic practices. I may have to turn to some book and blogosphere resources for this.

  • I would have liked more discussion on NFP. They at least provided us with a small booklet of information, but maybe mentions of why NFP instead of birth control, or why not birth control in the first place, how it is not the "rhythm method," the nature of marriage and how sexual intimacy is tied up into it... If I didn't know the Church had good reasons against birth control and was just given a booklet and was already of a contraceptive mindset, I wouldn't have been encouraged to look beyond contraception based on that day.
All in all, not too bad. The student in me was a little disappointed, but we got the work done and are set to marry. For any disappointments, I can still do independent reading and research and talk with other Catholic couples I know. We're now at two days to go. [TWO!! How did that even happen?] I'm pleased we're prepared on this front.

10 May 2015

This Mother's Day

Mother's Day.

To be honest, this holiday didn't stand out much when I was younger (wicked child am I, I know). In my earliest school years, we would create some craft for our mothers, often involving cut-out colored paper hands, markers and glitter. I remember one craft in particular which lies somewhere in a bin of my school accomplishments (my sister and I have one each which my mom has kept) that includes a pink heart and some sort of frills. I was maybe five when it was made and I'd bet it was another idea one of my school teachers had.

As I became older and my schools decided such things were juvenile or activities we could accomplish on our own, I turned instead to my mother. "What do you want for Mother's Day?" I'd ask. I'm sure she'd think to herself, "You know that's kind of like asking someone what they want for their birthday. If you're going to do something, you should just do it." But she would always respond, "Nothing." or with something I thought ludicrously silly: "A vacation."

After my sister was born, she went through the school projects, but I can't remember really doing anything of our own volition. Aside from flowers passed out during church (the pro of Mother's Day being held on a Sunday), the day would go by fairly unnoticed. Perhaps our dad would want to take her to lunch, but it still then was never fancy.

That is something that strikes me today. If anyone wants a job which requires long hours and a variety of skills, earns no vacation days and receives almost no thanks, become a mother. People will be thankful for you, but they won't always say it. People will appreciate you, but they won't always say it. People will love you, but they won't always say it.

This Mother's Day is more of a shock to me than usual as I think, "This could be the last Mother's Day that I am not the mother," and that half totally freaks me out and half makes me believe my mother is an absolute superwoman whose powers of strength, perseverance, forgiveness, protection and love know no bounds.

At this time I feel selfish. How do I learn to be selfless? At this time I feel unprepared. How do I learn to be prepared? At this time I feel incompetent, restless and reckless. How do I learn to be capable, calm and sure? How do I learn to always love someone more than myself? How do I learn to love my very flesh and bone outside my body?

How do I endure all the unknowns? Will he be healthy? Will she be kind? Will he be intelligent? Will she be faithful? What if there are complications? What if I become incredibly ill? What if they become incredibly ill? What if I can't help them? What if I lose them? What if I'm a really bad mother?

The questions and what ifs could continue. What finally brings some peace is knowing that I am not the first to have questions and I have an excellent model of motherhood in my own mother. She exudes calm even if inside she isn't. She has answers for my worries (even if it's only the very direct and seemingly unhelpful, "You just have to deal with it." Mom, keeping it real). She has been my biggest supporter since the very beginning, and I know the beginning wasn't the easiest time for her.

She has been with me through first pregnancy surprise, through my six weeks early arrival, through living kind of in the middle of nowhere, through tantrums at daycare, through first days at school, through family turmoil, through changing houses and schools, through frenemies and teasing boys, through peanut butter obsessions, through "What is this incredibly noisy thing you said is my sister?", through cross country moves, through final grades anxiety, through late night Harry Potter book releases, through piano recitals, through sibling fights, through broken friendships, through first relationships, through friend drama, through early "I need coffee before I even say hi to you" mornings, through friend deaths, through family deaths, through dog deaths, through first generation university applications, through moving away by myself, through homesickness, through "Do I belong here?", through "I can't do this," through "I miss you," through "I met a boy," through "I'm marrying this boy," through more moves, through "I don't know what I'm doing," through "I'm not good at this," through "What do I do?"...

She has been with me through everything and oftentimes knows me better than I know myself. She sees my mistakes but does not pass judgment. She sees my successes but does not overly praise me (much, anyway. She is a mom after all). She keeps me grounded when I'm too flighty. She raises me up when I'm in despair. She defends me against anyone or anything that could do me wrong. She works tirelessly to support me and my sister. She has been with me through everything and I've rarely thanked her.

This isn't a colored paper hand print inscribed with "Mom" and doused in glitter. This isn't a pink frilly heart. This post can't be found in your big blue bin. But it is a thank you, for everything you've given me. It is an I love you, for everything you are. It is a please teach me to be like you.

Thank you, Mom.
I love you, Mom.
Please teach me to be like you, Mom.
If I'm half as good a mother as you, I'll be just fine.

03 May 2015

Mayday: 18 Days to Figure Out How to Be a Decent Wife

I have been thinking about the blog for the last couple weeks: I should come back to it, I should write more, I should, I should, I should...

I am not always motivated by "I should." I am a professional procrastinator. I put off things, even things I want to do, most of the time for no decent reason at all. Sometimes the only way to do something is to force yourself to do it. Now, that doesn't sound the best when it comes to blogging: why force yourself? One should blog because they want to, not because they "have to." But where creative pursuit or stress-relief were my reasons before, now I feel like I have to write because I will want to be able to look back at this time and remember it as it really was.

The last year of my life has really been the first year of my life of adulthood. I spent the first year after college living at home working part-time at a bakery and teaching my sister full-time at home. Even though I was 21 at that point, beyond the age at which people are considered adults, I still felt like a child. Being under your parents' roof does that, I suppose. I loved that year because it gave me valuable time with my family, made my relationship with my sister--which was practically nonexistent before I left for school--stronger and gave me a bit of time to figure out what I wanted from life.

When I left home last May to work in Texas for the Summer, I was taking a leap both from the nest and into something unknown. I learned so much that Summer about the Catholic faith, my values and myself. Eventually the Summer ended, though, and I moved to the East coast to find work and plan a wedding. The last nine months have been up, down and sideways, stressful, exhausting and difficult, thankfully laced with celebratory, ridiculous and relieving.

May 2015 has been a goal post, a destination, for me for over two years. "Once I get married," I'd think. "I just need to do this and then..." "Well after this, I'll..." Now that May 2015 is here and the wedding is less than three weeks away, I have two questions: "How prepared am I?" and "What happens next?"

"How prepared am I?"

Now, by this I do not mean that suddenly I have cold feet and am questioning what I am doing throwing my young, carefree life away, as others suggest to me with both mouths and eyes. Instead I mean, "How can I possibly prepare for this?" How does someone prepare for such a huge change? I've done Pre-Cana (why did I not blog about that? I probably should), I've submitted my paperwork, I have a dress. Super. But I'm not just having a wedding. I'm getting married. I'm going to be married until one of us dies (hopefully many years away).

How does anyone prepare for the rest of their life with someone? How could I possibly do all the research for something like this? How do I learn to be patient and forgiving and selfless and loving enough? How do I learn to stop clamming up and walking away when I'm upset? How do I learn to give of myself out of a desire to give and not out of a desire to receive? How do I learn to see my husband-to-be as human as I am? If he is really anything like me, I would save myself generous portions of selfishness, stubbornness and irrationality by becoming a hermit. Then I wouldn't need to depend on anyone. Then I wouldn't have to disappoint anyone with my own problems.

But then I wouldn't get to grow and learn from mistakes with someone else. Then I wouldn't get to learn true charity, to love as Christ loves. Then I wouldn't get to become selfless and make myself small in order to magnify others. Then I wouldn't get to have children and learn and experience everything that goes with them that I can hardly comprehend right now. Then I wouldn't get to depend on someone and let them depend on me.

I am not near ready for my entire life with someone else. That only comes with actually living out life. Just as the thought of having five kids now totally freaks me out and actually having that many children would be easier if they came along progressively, so marriage. A whole life won't happen all at once: it will go by, year by year, and, if I'm smart, I will learn as we go how to be refined into a better wife and a better person by it.

"What happens next?"

Well, some of the answer is straightforward. After the wedding, we're spending the weekend with all the family visiting us. The Monday after, we'll go back to work. In August, we'll move to Texas where C will continue his graduate studies to get a PhD.

But what after? Will I keep teaching? Is different work ahead? Will our new move and new school be as good as we hope? Will we travel to the dozens of places I want to see? Will we make good, lasting, supportive friends? How soon will we start a family? Will I have problems in that whole area? What then?

The questions continue and always increase when I consider the future. I always want to know what's coming next, but it is just like I discovered marriage will be: I can't know until time moves as it will. I cannot control every part of our future, but I do know at least a few things that I want and at least a few things that I do not want.

Until then, I'll keep going. Keep reading, keep learning, keep giving, keep forgiving, keep asking for forgiveness, keep loving and keep praying for lots of help.

Spoiler: I'm going to be asking Our Lady for tons of it.