My Country Valentine

My Country Valentine

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I wanted to take a moment to thank God for sending me my best friend James, and blessing us with the most beautiful marriage. It is better than I ever imagined, and sweeter than I ever deserved.

This morning on my way to work, I was listening to Gus Lloyd on the Catholic Channel ask listeners about their song. People called in and said how many years they’ve been married, what their song is, and how it came to be their song. It was the sweetest show!

On our first Valentine’s Day together¬†James made me a mix tape (CD). Songs included Diamond Rio’s “Unbelievable”, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Brian McKnight’s “Back at One”, ¬†and Westlife’s “On Angel’s Wings”, among others. Can you tell we were kids in the 90s?

He also included¬†“Amazed” by Lonestar, and¬†that was the one we danced to at our wedding. That is our song. But¬†we also have a few more that are close to our hearts.

Taylor Swift’s “Our Song” is pretty much the story of our first year of dating. Slammin’ screen doors, sneakin’ out late, talkin’ real slow¬†cause it’s late and your mamma don’t know… you get the idea. We were 20 and 22.

The song that always makes me feel super warm and fuzzy though is none other than Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”. Cause yeah, he got down on one knee… and we planned it all out for the middle (beginning) of June.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone, but most importantly to my handsome,¬†country music loving, best friend and husband James.

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Do you have a song that really speaks to you? What song just makes your heart melt?

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The Honeymooners

The Honeymooners

The other night I came across a bunch of pictures from our honeymoon. So happy, so full of love.. so… exactly like the present.¬†We’re still on our honeymoon, mentally. Of course, we haven’t even been married for 2 full years yet.

Sure, a lot has happened, and we have a lot on our¬†plate right now with his refereeing, my infertility ministry and planning our upcoming UK¬†adventure. But looking at these pictures made me realize:¬†That’s us. And that is all that matters.

We’ve taken¬†a little step back from the craziness of life and dedicated every Sunday to spending time together as a family. Forget the rest of the world.¬†Sundays, we’re back on our honeymoon. Last Sunday, we went to the Walter’s Art Museum in Baltimore. Two weeks ago, we went to the movies. This week, we’re planning on¬†staying in and trying yoga together, then browsing travel books.

By the way, it all started with Whole 30. We’ve made physical health a priority in the last 28 days and it has paid off tremendously in our emotional and relational health as well. I’ve been wanting to make Sunday our family day of rest for a long time, but it wasn’t until our Whole 30 that this became a reality. There’s only a few days left, but I love what this program is doing for my life! I’m so excited to keep¬†living this Whole 30/Paleo¬†lifestyle throughout the year.

One Year Into Happily Ever After

This month we celebrated out first anniversary. James surprised me by planning a whole weekend of fun, romantic dates. Saturday we went to Mount Vernon, which I’ve never visited. As a history person growing up in the DC suburbs, I know, it’s surprising. Sunday morning we went to Mass at St. Patrick’s, the place of our wedding. After Mass¬†we walked around¬†Ellicott City and the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and had dinner at Rusty Scupper overlooking the water. After dinner, James took me to the hotel where we spent our wedding night, and the staff had put up a sign for us and scattered rose petals on the bed. Everything was so beautiful. I cried. In a good way.

That weekend of celebrating was kind of like our first year-¬†happy, excited, totally in love and completely elated. We still feel like we’re on our honeymoon.

Yes, we have challenges, but we’re dealing with them together. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I think, thanks to God’s help, we’re¬†holding hands as we go along.

Year 2 of Connie and James is forecasted to be another fun one. Hopefully we’ll be going to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and Newport Beach, CA in the Fall, and touring the United Kingdom in the Spring. We may continue pursuing the adoption process, but after our last agency visit we learned we might not be in a good enough financial position yet. While I think I might¬†like the idea of spending a few more years to ourselves, the emotional side of infertility is currently our most difficult struggle- but that’s for another post.

No matter what lies ahead, we know we can continue to be as happy as ever, as long as we keep God first, always.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Pepperoni and Pachelbel

Pepperoni and Pachelbel

When we left our home in 2010 to move in with my grandmother, I felt as though my childhood had officially died, and my family with it. I love my grandmother very much. Losing my home, though, was something that affected me greatly. Throughout those years, James was my rock. Spending time with him was my home. It gave me something to hope for.

Now I feel more like myself than I have in years. I made pumpkin bread on Saturday. On Sunday, I made homemade pizza while listening to Super Hits of 1720. James didn’t even know I had that CD, that’s how long it’s been. I had forgotten how happy I get while listening to Pachelbel and Bach. Harpsichords just do it for me. Go figure.

My life has changed so much. Every day I wake up and thank God that I am finally married to James. I still can’t believe that it actually happened!¬†I am¬†so overwhelmingly happy.

Romans 8:28 We know that all things work for good for those who love God,who are called according to his purpose.

 

Three Blessings of a Long Engagement

Our wedding is finally upon us! I don’t know which is more exciting: our wedding (in 17 days!!), our honeymoon (St. Thomas!!!), or finally getting to live in our¬†beautiful home¬†together.

Looking back over our 2 year engagement, there is¬†so much to be thankful for. At the onset, I was not¬†excited about having to wait 2 more years after having been¬†dating for over 3 already. Now that all this time is behind us, I’ve seen how God has really worked in our lives over the last few years.

First,¬†we were able to buy a house. True, we do not live together, and 10 months of owning a home and letting my fianc√© live there¬†without me¬†has not been the most “fun” thing in the world. But, it gave us something to look forward to. It gave us security knowing where we are going to live after the wedding. And it gave us experience in sharing the duties and expenses of running a household. It was definitely an adjustment. The first few months were the most difficult, getting used to all of this. But now that it’s been almost a year, we’ve gotten the hang of things, and we’re happy.

Second, we were able to focus on preparing for our marriage, not just the wedding. We took our time with our Pre-Cana (marriage prep that Catholic couples go through). We met with a lovely couple on Sunday mornings after church. They would make us breakfast, and then we would take our coffee into their sunroom to discuss the big issues: marriage commitment, loving one another, faith, money, children, in-laws, and anything else we could think of. It was a wonderful, positive experience that we will cherish forever.

Finally, over the course of the last 2 years, our relationship with both sets of parents has developed. Not only did we adjust to our newly established permanence, but our parents had the time they needed to adjust to their children growing up and being married.

I still do not recommend 2 year engagements for everyone. In our case, I still don’t think we even needed it. But seeing the blessings that have come thanks to the added time, I am glad that things worked out the way they did.

Marriage Advice from a Pumpkin Patch

I told James that I wasn’t going to be happy this Fall until I had carved a pumpkin, baked a pie, and raked leaves. Check numbers 1 and 2.

My Jack-O-Lantern of 2012

We got our darling pumpkin from a redneck on the side of the road. First thing he says when we pull up is, “So who’s paying?” When we said that I was the one with the cash, he said “It’s always that way with young people. The girl pays and the guy’s just standing there.” “Well it’s all both our money anyway,” we said. “Oh, are y’all married?” “Almost,” we answered.

So began the conversation. He told us about how he and his wife divorced after 10 years and then became best friends until she was struck by a car and died. You could see the heartbreak in his watery blue eyes. He told us that the worst thing you can do in a marriage is be jealous. “If y’all go to a party, doesn’t matter who she’s talking to, as long as she leaves with you that’s fine.”

I guess the moral of the story is that marriage is hard enough, so don’t sweat the small stuff. Like my grandfather used to say, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half-shut after.” What is it about “forever” that makes people start getting petty and forgetting their friendship? I hope we always remember that we are best friends, and that nothing is ever more important than this.

Movin’ On Up!

On July 27, we closed on our house! My mom was calling us Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner (our wedding is not for 9 months…¬†I¬†think she’s excited).¬†For the last month, we’ve¬†been busy¬†getting the house in shape. Terrible excuse for neglecting my blog, I know.¬†It’s amazing though (since the house is still new to us) that our¬† 8 Billion chores are actually super fun right now. We’ve been having so much fun making a home together.¬†I can’t wait til we’re married so I can live there too!¬†It’s amazing how much closer we have gotten through all of this. This is seriously going to be the longest 9 months of my life.

Meanwhile, my car broke down and we had to get a new one. My ride of choice? A shiny red 2012 Chevy Cruze 2LT.

2012 Cruze, via Chevy’s website

We test drove the 2013 Dodge Dart and were severely disappointed with the sluggishness of the engine. The 2012 Ford Focus was very fun to drive, but it wasn’t very roomy inside. The Cruze¬†was spacious for its class, and the engine had a whole lotta¬†pep! Hit the gas and off it goes. My kinda car. Add the sunroof and nav system, and I’m in vroom¬†vroom¬†paradise. 40mpg’s sealed the deal.

Adjusting to life with adult financial responsibilities is definitely a challenge, but I think we’re up for it. We’re learning to balance the budget and finding new ways to save. I think I need to start having so much fun doing free stuff that I don’t have time to remember that my spending cash is zero. I mean sure,¬†we can no longer do that trip to Williamsburg I’ve been dying to take this fall, but¬†we can spend a Saturday driving out to the country to hike trails and look at stars. Besides, James and I are long overdue for a picnic. Now we have the perfect opportunity to sit back and enjoy our new life together.

Rumpelstitskin, Belle, and the Bachelorette: Fairy Tales and True Love

Now that Once Upon a Time is over for the season, what is there to live for, really? I cried excessively as Prince Charming and Snow White were reunited in Storybrooke (just thinking about the moment he cried “Snow!” is making me teary-eyed),¬†yet¬†I was disappointed that Rumpelstiltskin did not react as much to Belle. I thought that after years of missing her, he would have given up his magical pursuits to be with her.

I supposed that would have been too much like a fairy tale. As much as he loves Belle, it’s just not enough.¬† The moment the curse was lifted and¬†she remembered him, we didn’t¬†get a beautiful, sweet, romantic¬†moment full of “I’m sorry” and “I love you.” He¬†was too absorbed in his own¬†power to¬†live happily ever after with Belle. I wonder if that will be a significant part of next season’s story line.

In other fairy tale news, the Bachelorette is quickly turning into an obsession. I love Emily Maynard; she’s so sweet. Hopefully, as a single mom, she’ll bring a¬†bit more class to the show. Still though, you wonder why a single mom who’s been engaged twice would trust reality television to find a good husband. I hope it works out for her.

Why is it that we all love fairy tales, no matter how old we are? Maybe it’s because in today’s world, true love is often a rare, elusive dream. I wonder if the reason it’s so rare in the 21st century is the lax sexual morals of the last 50 years. “Free love” is one of those instances where you get what you pay for. Real, true, Corinthians 13 love comes from total selflessness and giving. It comes from a philosophy¬†in which the¬†love between a husband and wife is¬†one of the most¬†beautiful and sacred of gifts. Love¬†is patient. Love is kind. And when people do their best to live beautiful, honest, selfless lives, they find the truest love the world has ever seen.

 
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. ~1 Corinthians 13

Cheesesteaks + Football = Love

Cheesesteaks + Football = Love

This weekend, James and I took a mini-vacation to Philadelphia. It’s one of our favorite places to visit. James is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Soul arena football team, I am a huge fan of Philadelphia’s colonial history, and neither one of us believes in setting a limit on cheesesteak consumption.

Surprisingly, for all the times we’ve gone to Philly and checked out historic sites and football games,¬†we’ve never really spent much time in City Center. Even more surprising is that for having lived 26 years in the Megalopolis, James had never seen a skyscraper up close. I had a feeling it would be a new thing for him. I knew he has never been to New York City, even though it’s only 4 hours from where we live. So while we were driving through the middle of Philly, I pointed through the sunroof and said, “Hey, Look up!” He peeks up through the roof and says “Holy Shit!!!” It was his first close encounter with a structure that was nearly 1,000 feet high. This was his first view:

Comcast Center, Philadelphia's tallest building

2012, the year of engagement. That was almost the title of my Facebook¬†album for the pictures from this weekend. After years of dating and worrying that things will never¬†fall into place for you to finally get married and¬†start a life together, it happens.¬†Suddenly,¬†you have people¬†running around worrying about caterers¬†and guest lists, and 800,000,000 details and decisions that threaten to take the focus away from what’s most important, the relationship that is¬†on its way¬†to becoming¬†indissoluble. I¬†love the commitment and the promise of a future together that comes with engagement.¬†I love knowing that a wedding is just a number of months¬†away. But I do miss that, before we were engaged, every date was purely about getting to know each other. I want more of that. I’m really glad that the Catholic Church requires some marriage preparation sessions. I’m looking forward to spending more time focussing on each other, and not so much on wedding details.

So, during this year of engagement, James and I will be doing everything we can to keep our focus on us, and not our wedding. We’ll be making memories, seeing new things, and learning as much about each other as possible. Sure, we have a lot of business to attend to, with finding a place to live and picking¬†out a cake. But I’m trying hard not to stress about wedding decisions. The most important thing we’ll be doing this year is beginning to form our new identity as a family.

Will Rumpelstiltskin and Belle have their Happily Ever After?

First of all, I just want to¬†say that making Rumpelstiltskin¬†the Beast was GENIUS. I’ve been re-watching Sunday’s episode “Skin Deep” all week. Rumpelstiltskin as the Beast made the fairy tale become so much more real. Beauty and the Beast (Disney version) is a beautiful story, but severely flawed in the sense that you’re teaching little girls that¬†controlling¬†men with severe temper issues can change overnight if you love them enough: so not true in real life. Once Upon a Time’s version, though, gave the Beast a whole deeper dimension. He’s been through¬† a lot in his life, and is currently cursed with a deep dark power. Though he loves Belle,¬†he doesn’t believe¬†that she can’t truly love him back. In order to love her, he has to give up his power, a sacrifice that he was not willing to make.

Now we have a very interesting turn of events. Regina and Mr. Gold now officially know that each other are in fact Rumpelstiltskin and the Evil Queen. Mr.Gold/Rumpel is severely angry with the Queen/Regina, as it was his distrust of her that led him to assume that Belle was working for Regina. He let Belle go, and then the Queen told him that Belle committed suicide. Rumpel is severely hurt, damaged, grieving over Belle and harboring seething anger towards the Queen. The Queen/Regina now knows for sure that Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin remembers everything, and she is keeping Belle (who is alive) hidden in an underground psych ward.

So what’s next? I really hope that Belle and Rumpelstiltskin¬†have another chance at the end. I’m sure Regina will bring them face to face again to try to¬†undo Rumpelstiltskin’s¬†power. In a surprising turn of events, Rumpelstiltskin is starting to become a character that we feel for, now that we know he was a normal man once and that all his anger and craziness stems from the many¬†horrible things that happened to him.

Does loving the Beast ever work out?

In this episode, the Queen¬†says, “I would never tell a¬†woman to kiss the man who’s holding her captive! What kind of message is that?”¬†This brings us back to the whole¬†issue with the message¬†of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. It’s true, emotionally¬† or physically abusive¬†men almost never change, and a woman should never stick around to find out. That being said, is there anything positive that we can glean from this? Is it ever possible for someone to change?

Magic and fairy tales aside, true love changes people. When someone is truly loved, and truly loves someone else, they change into a better person. Sometimes it’s not so obvious, and sometimes it takes a while, but it happens. I remember once, when I met a cousin of mine’s girlfriend, I knew immediately that he would marry her. For the first time in¬†his life he seemed completely grown-up, mature, strong and stable. It’s not that he wasn’t a good person before, it’s just that once he met her, he started to shine. They’ve been married almost 3 years.

When you know you are loved, you want to be better, at least for that person. You stop thinking about “me” and start thinking about “you”. True love can transform people. It’s what we were designed for. Maybe that’s why, in the fairy tales, true love’s kiss solves all the problems. In the real world, it’s not an instant change, but it can be just as real.