Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wife of a Grad Student

Being the wife of a graduate student is difficult.  Financially, we've had to make a lot of sacrifices, especially since the teaching job I was hoping for never materialized.  But I'm a thrifty  person at heart (thanks mom!) and I view living on a budget and looking for deals like a game.  I'm very happy and proud when I've found a good bargain and there is a real sense of satisfaction when I look at the budget at the end of the month and realize that although it shouldn't have worked out, we somehow have more money than we did at the beginning of the month.  Of course, it's been very helpful that my husband and I have great faith that God will help provide for our basic needs and that we've reevaluated what is truly a need for us.

What I find truly difficult about my husband's current career as a graduate student is the lack of permanency we have in our lives.  Although I'm sure this is not a common occurrence  among doctoral students, my husband and I are moving in two weeks because his graduate advisor left his university for another one several states away.  A year away from graduation, he (and four others from his lab) made the decision to move with her (to get his research finished, he needs to follow her grant money).  I moved here after we were married last year and I'm not looking forward to another move so soon, yet what really gets me is that we will most likely be moving yet again when he graduates next year and finds a job.  And while he will actively seek positions in Colorado, we really don't have a lot of control over where we will end up.  Obviously, that's not only a problem for grad students but for anyone seeking a new job.  Scarier still, we have no way of guaranteeing that he will find a job at all.  I was sure I would find a job as a teacher.  I'm a highly qualified candidate, with the ability to teach in three different content areas.  A lot of good that did me.

I hate not knowing where I'm going.  I'm a planner.  And I look forward to someday living in a place where I can paint the walls and spend time making it feel like home.  I think this has really come to the forefront of my mind with a baby on the way.  I want to decorate a nursery.  I want to make a place that my child can call home, where he or she will be comfortable, safe and protected.

But these uncertainties, the unknown that makes me so very uncomfortable, perhaps those are the greatest blessings of being married to a grad student.  I'm learning that I don't have complete control and that sometimes I have to learn to let go, to rely on God, to trust in the abilities of my husband, and to realize that I have the inner strength to thrive in less than ideal circumstances.  Although I would love to know where we will live next year, where (and if) my husband will get a job and how much his salary will be, I am starting to believe that it will all work out somehow, that we can be flexible as the circumstances require.  I can get a job and my husband can be a stay-at-home dad (he would actually love that, or so he says) for a time.  We could move in with my parents (my mom is already clearing two rooms for us).

In reality, when I think through what my husband's status of a grad student has meant for us during our first year of marriage, I end up being very grateful.  From the very beginning of our marriage, we have had to learn to be financially responsible, to have those hard talks about money, to learn that wherever home is, it's fine as long as we have each other.  We had a made a difficult decision together about moving to North Carolina and about having children while he's still in school.  I can't imagine that we would have learned as much about each other and about us as a couple if we had entered marriage in the "perfect" circumstances - each of us with great jobs, a house, etc.  I'm not advising anybody to purposely start a marriage during difficult circumstances, but I will say that if you know that God has called you to be together, you shouldn't let society's expectations of the perfect time to marry get in the way.  It is through difficult times that you learn to lean on one another.

I also don't want to be melodramatic about how difficult it is to be married and a grad student at the same time.  Many people do it, and there are certainly more trying circumstances for couples to endure.  If I had gotten a decent job like I had hoped for, it wouldn't have been difficult financially, although the uncertainty certainly still would have been there (including wondering if I would be able to find another good job once he graduated and we had to move for his job).  And there are benefits to being married to a grad student.  Since my husband is finished with classes, he can do his research on his own schedule, which means that we've been able to spend quite a bit of time together that he we wouldn't have been able to otherwise.  And I love being there to support him at the beginning of his career.  I am so proud of him and look forward to seeing him start his first job and flourish in his field.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Name Game

My husband and I have been agonizing over picking a girl's name for our little one.  So much so, that I've been tempted to find out the sex so that if we are having a boy, we don't have to worry about it anymore.  Our boy's name was easy (David after my husband).  But I think we'll be able to keep the sex a surprise after all since (I think) we've finally decided on a name: Lucia.

Is It a Saint's Name?
Of course, right after we agreed on a name, I found the book that would have been infinitely helpful in choosing a name: Is It a Saint's Name?  My husband and I had planned to give our child a biblical or Saint name, however, it was very discouraging trying to find an (easy to use) list of names.  I thought I scoured the internet for a book of this sort, I was convinced that there had to be one out there, but apparently I missed it.  There are websites that helped, but it was daunting trying to scroll through and read the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of names that were listed.  I also tried my copy of the Treasury of Women Saints, but it only lists a small number of female saints.  I'm really tempted to buy this book right now and save it for future children (Why not?  It's only $4), because I'm sure that it won't be any easier next time around.

Friday, June 24, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 17)

"7 Quick Takes Friday" is being hosted today by Hallie at Betty Beguiles because Jen of Conversion Diary had her baby a few days go!  Congrats Jen!

1) Yesterday, I published this post that I promised in last week’s Quick Takes about how my husband and I became open to life after starting out our marriage set against having children in the near future.  It’s long, but I do hope some of you will find the time to read it.

2) I joined Pinterest after reading this Pinterest: A Beginner’s Guide post at SortaCrunchy.  I’m not sure how I feel about it at this point or if I’ll be spending much time on it in the future, but it sure is very pretty.

3) I was very proud of myself getting 97% on this civic literacy exam by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.  In a 2008 survey, 49% was the average score of Americans that took the quiz and college educators only scored slightly better at 55%.  Shameful.  I was embarrassed that I missed one question since I studied to be a social studies teacher, but I will admit that several of the questions were fairly difficult.  Still, I would hope Americans knew enough about civics to get at least a passing score!  Go ahead and take it, I challenge you!

4) We were able to hear the baby’s heartbeat again at an appointment earlier this week and it was so loud!  Our little peanut sounded very healthy.  Even more exciting - I felt some rumbling around in my tummy for the first time two night ago.  It seems so much more real now!

5) My husband’s aunt and cousins are hosting a small (very early) baby shower for us this weekend before we move.  So exciting!  It’s a coed shower and I’ve very curious to see what they have planned. 

6) My grandfather has been undergoing chemo for the lymphoma that returned shortly after he got the all clear earlier this year.  He got the results back from a PET scan yesterday and the cancer shrunk substantially!  The doctor himself was very pleased and surprised by the results - that’s what happens with so many people praying!  He still has to have three more rounds of chemo and it’s really hard on him at his age, but he is determined to do everything possible to be around for his great grandchildren on the way (my cousin and his girlfriend are expecting also).

7) I found the cutest craft for a homemade wedding gift (or housewarming gift, hostess gift, etc.): scrabble coasters.

There is a tutorial here.  I was thinking that instead of the suggested wine, beer, food themes, I could use a love theme, with words like love, hugs, kiss, life, dear, amor, pair, etc.  We are going to a wedding next weekend, but I don’t think that gives me enough time to find extra scrabble tiles (I'm thinking garage sales and thrift shops) and make them.  Oh well, I’m sure there will be a next time!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Open to Life

After my husband proposed to me in July of 2009, we began to talk in earnest about our plans for children.  Of course, earlier in our dating relationship we had talked about children, but only to the extent of agreeing that we both wanted children and that we would like to have four or five.  With our upcoming marriage, we needed to make sure we were on the same page as to when to start our family.

Both of our parents made it clear that they wanted us to wait to have children until my husband graduated with his Ph.D.  When we married in July of 2010, I would be finished with my bachelor’s degree but my husband would have two to three years left in his Ph.D. program.  Our parents stressed the difficulty we would have raising a child on a grad student’s salary and the extra stress a baby at home would put on David as he worked to finish his degree.  Their reasoning made sense and we agreed that we wouldn’t intentionally get pregnant until David graduated and found a job.

I say we agreed not to intentionally get pregnant, because we acknowledged that there was always the possibility that I would “accidentally” become pregnant.  We knew that we would use Natural Family Planning since we believed it was the only moral option available to postpone pregnancy.  I feel very fortunate that the Archdiocese of Denver, where we were married, requires NFP classes for all couples going through marriage preparation, because that meant there were many options available to us for good instruction with knowledgeable teaching couples.  I learned the basics of charting and was confident that I would be able to effectively avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

However, many people (my own parents among them) were very negative about NFP and constantly told me that it would not work.  On several occasions, my parents attempted to change my mind by describing how disastrous it would be if I became pregnant before my husband graduated.  My father “assured” me I wouldn’t go to hell if I used birth control, after all, did I think my mother was going to hell for using birth control?  My mom constantly reminded me that if NFP worked, there wouldn’t be so many large Catholic families in the pews of our church on Sundays.  It didn’t occur to her that maybe there were so many large Catholic families because they chose to have many children, that maybe there was something about the Catholic faith that embraced children as gifts.  But then again, at that point, it didn’t occur to me either.

Despite attempts to persuade us otherwise, my husband and I remained determined to use NFP.  My husband is a very strong Catholic who was raised in a devout family and I know that he would never have consented to use any kind of artificial birth control.   If I hadn’t had his strong support, I can’t say that I would have been strong enough not to have bent to the pressure to use birth control.  I would like to say that I would have stuck with my morals through thick and thin, but my main motivation to use NFP came not from my desire to do God’s will but to prove my naysayers (especially my mother) wrong.  I would use NFP and I would not get pregnant!  This thinking was detrimental and poisonous to our relationship as husband and wife and to our spiritual well being.

At that point, if I were to get pregnant, we would have viewed it as a failure.   Of course, we would have gotten over the initial disappointment and would have welcomed our child into the world, but it is a dangerous mindset that would describe the conception of a child as a “failure” and a “disappointment”.  Although I was using NFP, I was missing a important facet of the Church’s teaching on procreation: that NFP was not to be used in the same way that artificial birth controls usually is, separating the procreative “consequences” from sex.  NFP is only to be used to “postpone pregnancy” (I love this phrase, so much more consistent with openness to life than “avoid” or “prevent” pregnancy) if there is a “just” or “serious” reason.  Here is the passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that explains the Church’s teaching on postponing pregnancy:

For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children.  It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood.  Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality. (CCC 2368)

And the corresponding passage in Humanae Vitae:
Those are also to be considered responsible who for serious reasons and with due respect for moral precepts, decide not to have another child for either a definite or an indefinite amount of time.

My husband and I weren’t blatantly disobeying or ignoring the Church’s teaching.  Throughout our dating relationship we were committed to making our relationship as Christ-centered as possible and as we approached our wedding, we were even more determined to start our marriage in a holy state.  But it is now obvious that we didn’t have the knowledge we needed to do this. 

No one had ever told us that we should not postpone pregnancy unless we had just and serious reasons.  Even our NFP class presented it as an “moral” alternative to birth control, comparing it’s effectiveness with birth control pills, condoms, etc.  Never was it mentioned that there should be a different mindset toward children and procreation that came along with NFP.  So our mindset defaulted to that of our society at large: We shouldn’t get pregnant until we want to.  God wouldn’t enter into our decision until we decided that we wanted to get pregnant, then and only then would He be needed to help us get pregnant on our terms.  I know, how arrogant that sounds!  We had turned God into an errand boy that we would beckon when we needed Him!  Had I really thought about our approach to family planning, I would have been appalled, but I didn’t initially have any reason to question it or think about it too deeply, so I never did.

So, in light of all this, you may be wondering what significant incident changed my mind?  The simplest of things really - a conversation over Facebook.  Yes, Facebook!  A few months before our wedding, I was chatting on Facebook with an acquaintance from my church whose own wedding was coming up as well.  I knew that she was planning to use NFP as well, and I asked her a question that had been bothering me for some time - Were she and her fiancé planning to abstain from sex on their wedding night and honeymoon if it happened to coincide with the fertile time of her cycle?  Her response shocked me - they had taken NFP classes but couldn’t come up with a good enough reason to use it, they were simply going to leave it in God’s hands and welcome a child if it came. 

Not a good enough reason? I thought.  Her fiancé just graduated and didn’t yet have a job!  How could they possibly support a child?  She had a job, she told me, and her husband would have all the time before the baby was born to find a job.   Besides, they trusted God would provide.  Her response sounded  a little irresponsible to me, but it seemed like they had thought it through.

But I continued to ask her questions, Didn’t they want to have “alone time” as a couple before they had children?  Her response: they would have at least nine months to be alone, plus they had time together as a couple before they married and it was God’s plan that married couples should have children.  Well, of course I too believed it was God’s plan for marriage to produce children, but God didn’t care when… right?

But God surely wouldn’t mind if they waited as long as they used NFP, I added, as if trying to convince her to change her mind.   Thank goodness she was patient with me.  Unwittingly, I had become just as much the naysayer as my mother had been for me.  Then she told me something that I had never heard before, that NFP was only to be used if there were valid reasons to postpone pregnancy.  And she went even further, to detail for me the many people she knew who had been open to life and who God had blessed with children and a way to provide for them. A couple who got pregnant on their honeymoon and were never able to have children again.  A young couple who was raising two little ones on the husband’s grad school salary (this one particularly hit home). 

The conversation ended shortly afterward and the subject never came up again.  Although she surely gave me something to think about, it was easy for me to rationalize our use of NFP as “just” due to my lack of a job and David’s paltry grad student stipend.  Sure, other people didn’t see that as enough of a reason, but they weren’t being realistic.  My parents had raised me firmly under the belief that “God helps those who help themselves”.  We would have children in a few years as soon we were financially stable and ready for a child.

Yet I couldn’t brush her words completely out of my mind.  I mentioned them shortly afterward to my fiancé and I was very happy when he confirmed my thinking - he too had never heard that NFP was only to be used to prevent pregnancy in serious circumstances.  Since he came from a devout family, if he hadn’t heard of it, I was sure that it wasn’t the Church’s teaching.  Only overly zealous Catholics took it to that extreme, we assured each other, we surely were doing nothing wrong by being responsible. 

And so this was the mindset that we took into our marriage in July of 2010.  Sure enough, my original fear had materialized and we abstained from sex on our wedding night and throughout our honeymoon to prevent pregnancy.  For the first few months of our marriage we were fastidious about our charting out of fear of becoming pregnant.  During the time of month when we had the green light to marital relations, we didn’t enjoy them fully because the fear was still there.  We realized we couldn’t fully enjoy God’s beautiful gift of sex because we were trying to fully disengage it from it’s life-giving aspect.  I felt that we were somehow being cheated of the marital unity that God intended for us.  And every time I thought about this, I was brought back to that conversation I had over Facebook months before. 

Instead of dismissing and rationalizing these thoughts yet again, I decided to research them.  I scoured the internet for the Church’s teachings on postponing pregnancy and for practical advice (“What are just reasons for postponing pregnancy?”).  I ordered and read many books on the topic (the most helpful of these was Called to Give Life: A Sourcebook on the Blessing of Children and the Harm of Contraception by Jason T. Adams).  I began to realize that I was wrong, that serious reasons were necessary for postponing pregnancy and in turn this made me angry.  How had I grown up in the Church as an active member and never been told this before?  Why did it seem that the Church was reticent to give this information to its members?  (My opinions as to the reasons I never heard about this before will have to be a topic for another post.)  

Unfortunately, none of the websites or books had the answer to the question I was looking for: What is a “just reason” to postpone pregnancy?  (translation: Someone PLEASE tell me we have a just reason to prevent pregnancy!)  At this point, I was definitely hoping that God wasn’t calling us to be parents just yet.  I was enjoying our newlywed life just the two of us and didn’t quite yet want the responsibility of a child.  I was having fun!  But I know that I owed it to God, to my husband, and to myself to actively question (together with David) the validity of our reasons to wait to have children.  And if we came to the conclusion that we didn’t have just reasons, we would submit to the will of God, regardless of our own feelings. 

I want to be very careful here, because I do not want to seem like I am making blatant judgment calls as to what is a just reason or not.  Every couple has different circumstances and only that couple, through prayer, discussion and collaboration with the Lord, can determine whether their circumstances are “just reasons” or not.  Of course, some situations are more clear-cut than others, for example medical conditions that would endanger the life of the wife if she were to become pregnant are much more easy to classify as just and serious than financial difficulty due to one spouse being a grad student.  Yet, just because my husband and I decided that his measly grad school salary was not good enough of a reason to postpone pregnancy doesn’t mean that another couple in a similar circumstance should conclude the same. 

In our case, our justifications just couldn’t hold up to the “just and serious” criteria.  Yes, my husband is a grad student, but we were surviving well on his salary and the small financial contributions from my job.  If we were even more careful with our finances, we would be able to survive on his salary alone.  We looked more into the cost of having a child, and while I won’t claim that it’s cheap, we also realized that perhaps the cost was overinflated.  We would breastfeed (if everything went well) and use cloth diapers.  We would buy baby items second-hand and I wouldn’t get every toy or contraption made for little ones.  We could make it work.  And there it was, the decision I was hoping to avoid was there - we should no longer postpone pregnancy.

Yet suddenly we realized that the decision we were hoping we wouldn’t come to was the one that would make us ultimately happy.  We not only decided that we would stop postponing pregnancy, but we would actively seek it.  Once we looked carefully into our situation and realized that we no longer needed to be afraid of having children during a time that our society would have deemed “difficult” or “imperfect”, we realized that we were excited to have a child.  Our fear had masked the desire that God had put into our hearts to have a little one.  In December 2010, five months after we were married, we started using NFP to conceive.

The change in our relationship was remarkable.  We were instantly more relaxed and in sync with one another.  And yes, our intimate time together was much improved.  Instead of feeling relieved each month when I realized I wasn’t pregnant, we were sad, but we trusted God’s timing.  In March of 2011, we conceived and we couldn’t be happier.  Everything is just the same as it was when we got married, everything except our hearts.  My husband is still a grad student and we are living on a small stipend.  In fact, our situation would seem even less welcoming to a child than it was when we were first married, as we are moving in about three weeks for my husband’s schooling to a place where we do not have family or a support system.  Yet we are so at peace with our young, growing family.  Our hearts and lives are very different than when we married less than a year ago and we look forward to the future together in the way that God intended it: open to life.

We have decided that after our little one is born, that we will not be using NFP in the foreseeable future.  We recognize that there may be reasons in the future that we will need to postpone pregnancy, but we are much more confident in relying on God’s timing and his protection regarding our family.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Exploring Obedience, Part 2: Abraham

This has been a long time coming, but I promise I didn't forget my word of the year!  If you missed Part 1, you can revisit it here.

I don't think I need to discuss how the story of Adam and Eve represents the consequences of failing to obey God, so I'll start with one of my favorite examples of obedience in the Bible: the story of Abraham.  
The Lord said to Abram: "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from you father's house to a land that I will show you"... Abram went as the Lord directed him. (Genesis 12:1, 4)
Have you ever picked up and moved away from your family, your friends, your community?  Last summer, I did just that, I moved from my home in Colorado, from my parents and grandparents, my brother, my friend, my parish, from all that I knew in order to marry my husband and be with him.  It was difficult.  It is still difficult.  But when I miss my family, I can book a plane flight and go visit.  And if I can't wait to visit, I can pick up the phone and talk to my mom, email my dad, text message my brother.  I send cards and letters to my grandparents.  I go on facebook to keep up with my friends.  I think you get the point.  When Abram and Sarai left their land, they truly left it.  They knew they would most likely never return.  God did not tell them where they were going.  They had to trust Him, follow His commands.  And so they did, they obeyed.

How many times does God ask small things of me, and yet I am unwilling to obey?  He asks Abram to make a life-changing move and Abram obeys.  But I can't even devote an extra five minutes to prayer?  Either I'm short-changing myself (and God) with my disobedience or Abram was superhuman (if you know more about Abram, you know that he wasn't perfect, so most likely the fault is mine).  Not only do I not obey God, I try to shut him out (as if ignoring Him was any better than purposefully disobeying).  God asks me to listen to His commands and I purposefully close my ears because I don't want to take the risk that He'll ask me to do something I don't already want to do myself.  I'd like to think I'm the only one who does this, but I've seen this to be pretty endemic to our society.

You may say, "But wait, you forgot to mention that God told Abram that he would reward him greatly if he picked up and moved"  Well, that's true:
"I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curst you.  All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." (Genesis 12:2-3)
Even though the promise came from God, believing this took great courage.  Abram was old and Sarai was barren.  I recently read the book Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler, in which Feiler notes that Abram had no reason to trust God.  Why you might ask?  Well, our faith recognizes Abram as the first monotheist; therefore, even theconcept, much less the existence, of a single, all-powerful, steadfast God would have been unfamiliar to him, as it was to the generations before him.  He took a great leap of faith in trusting this untested God.

We don't have that excuse, the Lord's existence has been established for us and if we proclaim to be a Christian (or a Jew or Muslim for that matter), we acknowledge that there is one God, that He is all-powerful, and that He fulfills his promises.  As for the promises He offered to Abram in return for his obedience, hasn't God also offered to give us bountiful rewards if we follow his commands as well?  Namely, ETERNAL LIFE?

Technically, we shouldn't even need a reward (or as I like to think of it, a bribe) to follow God's commands, but I believe that He realizes our weaknesses in our fallen state and sent Jesus and the prophets to remind us that the sacrifices we make in doing His bidding are not in vain.  He also sent them to us as role models, and we would be wise to follow their lead.  As for me, I'm going to start by reminding myself of Abram's obedience when I'm filling willful (which for me just might be all the time...I chose obedience as my word of the year for a reason!).

Unsure of where to start my biblical exploration of obedience, I searched for "obedience" in my trusty Where To Find It In The Bible, which expertly directed me to this passage.  This is one of very few religious books I can't live without it.  If you don't have one, get one!

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 16)

1.  I am typing this late at night after a long day (during which I didn't take a nap, if that helps you clue into how tired I am), but I enjoy "7 Quick Takes" so much that I really didn't want to miss out.

2.  I went to a Cubs game today.  They beat the Yankees!  It was very exciting, although admittedly my husband is the Cubs fan, not me.  If you must know, I love both the Angels and the Dodgers (and no, I can't pick one over the other).

3.  I just learned a new game tonight - Fill or Bust.  It was really fun, to the point of being addicting and I think it would be a great game to play as a family.  I'll have to keep that in mind, although it will be many years before our little one will be able to play.  The game says age 9 and up, but David's little cousin in only 6 and could play it as long as someone else helped with adding up the score for him.  I'd never heard of it before, and if you haven't and you love discovering new games, you should try it out.  Since it's just a card and dice game, I assume it's relatively inexpensive.

Fill or Bust Great Card and Dice Game  

4.  I just found out that my cousin and his girlfriend are expecting a baby about five weeks after us.  That means that both my husband and I have a cousin that's expecting (well, their significant others are) and we each also have a second cousin whose expecting (actually, in both those cases, it's also the significant other whose expecting).  Why is it that I didn't know a single person who was expecting or who had a baby last year, but this year, there are four (five including us) in just our families?  

5.  My husband's aunt and uncle know a young couple that is moving to Raleigh about two weeks before we do.  How is that for a coincidence?  They are stopping by the house to meet us tomorrow so we'll know someone in our new city.

6.  My mom has been going to garage sales recently to look for baby things.  Since she lives so far away from where we will be, there isn't much she can buy (only small things she can mail or bring to us when they come out to help us move), but since we are planning to visit over Christmas, I suggested she find something for the baby to sleep in while we are there.  There is no use buying something new for only a week or so, but I thought she might be able to find something that will work for $10 or so at a garage sale.  Well, apparently she's found tons of baby clothes, a couple baby carriers, a car seat (so we don't have to fly with one), and a whole wardrobe of maternity clothes for me.  She is very excited with all she's found and I'm thrilled for the help, since we don't have much money, but she may be going just a tad overboard.  And I think she forgot all about finding something for the baby to sleep in.  How exactly do you reign in a (very excited) first time grandmother?

7.  When my husband and I were married 11 months ago today, I could not have imagined that less than a year later we would be joyously awaiting the birth of our first child.  In all the discussions we had about children prior to our wedding, we were firmly decided that we would wait at least the two years it would take for my husband to finish school before we would start trying to have a family.  Yet less than five months after our wedding, we were actively trying to get pregnant.  Those first few months that we were together as husband and wife, we felt and increasing need to reevaluate our reasons for postponing pregnancy and in turn began to read more of the Church's teachings on marriage, sex, and family.  I can't possibly fully explain how God changed our hearts so quickly and drastically in a "Quick Take", so look for an upcoming post devoted to this topic!

Have a blessed weekend and check out the rest of the "7 Quick Takes Friday" posts graciously hosted at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Our Engagement Story

When I read that Betty Beguiles is hosting engagement stories, I couldn't resist, I just had to write mine!

When David and I first started dating, he lived about an hour away.  About four months after our first date he moved several states away for graduate school.  At that point, we really had to make a choice as to where (and how quickly) our relationship was going, because long distance was very hard on us (me particularly).

After we had been dating about a month I remember thinking, "This is a man I could marry and live a very happy life with."  But the key word there was "could", it wasn't yet "will".  When he moved, our relationship could have gone two ways - we could have broken up or we could have made a commitment to each other to make it work.  After a lot of prayer and discernment, we decided to stay together and the first time I flew out to visit him in Indiana, he gave me a promise ring.  We saw each other almost every month throughout that school year, usually when he flew out to visit me, although I did visit a few times.  

Toward the end of the school year, we started discussing marriage in earnest.  I only had one year left of college, and it didn't make any sense for us to be geographically separated any longer than necessary.  But I also wasn't willing to move away from my family and friends (and best job prospects) to live near David if there wasn't a greater commitment involved.  And it was quite obvious that God had put us together and was calling us to marriage, so why wait any longer?

My grandmother offered me the ring that had been my great grandmother's wedding ring to use as my engagement ring.  It was beautiful, almost exactly what I had wanted when I thought about the engagement ring of my dreams (and I had never even known it existed).  The only thing that was missing was the center diamond (when my aunt had inherited the ring, it wasn't her style so she took the center stone from the setting and made it into a new ring).  This made it even more perfect, as I had always dreamed of a sapphire engagement ring.  I told David about the ring and he asked me to bring it with me the next time I visited.

Knowing that David already had the engagement ring, my family anticipated that he would propose sometime that summer.  We had planned a family trip to stay in cabins near Blue Mesa, a place my family had vacationed together every two to three years since I was a preteen.  My family was so convinced that this was where and when he would propose that my grandparents packed champagne so we could celebrate afterwards (although they were careful not to let on to David about that)!  I thought that it would probably happen too, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.

Two days before we were set to leave Blue Mesa to return home, David still hadn't proposed.  When we were alone, my mom said to me "What is wrong with that boy?  He hasn't even spoken to your father yet."  Time was running out and it didn't look like there was a proposal in my near future.

The next morning, David and I left early to go to the lake that we had visited with my parents a few nights before on the pretense that we were going to meet a family friend was camping near the lake.  We hiked around the lake "looking for his family friend" until he found the perfect spot in front of a hill of wildflowers where he promptly got down on one knee, opened a box with the ring, and asked me if I would marry him.  He looked so nervous, his lips were trembling as he spoke.  I said yes. 

His family friend was real enough and lived in the area, he wasn't camping at Rainbow Lake that day.  Although I don't necessarily condone starting your engagement with a lie, I have to hand it to my husband for knowing that had he just asked me to go on a hike with him, the whole family would have been alert.  Like the gullible girl I am, I didn't suspect anything even though that entire week I was waiting for that moment!  The only person who was on to him was my dad.

It turns out that he had talked with my dad and asked for my hand days before, on the same day we had previously visited the lake.  My dad had told him, "Tonight, when we visit Rainbow Lake, pay attention to how we get there because it might be a place you'd like to propose."  My father, in his infinite wisdom, had kept the conversation from my mother because she just can't keep a secret.  

We stayed there a little while savoring the moment for ourselves, then returned to the cabin to tell my family.  By some miracle, they were all there - my grandparents, parents, brother, uncle and cousin.  As I tried to get them all together in one room to make the announcement, my grandmother pulled me aside and told me that whatever I wanted to do could wait because I needed to make lunch for David - he must be so hungry!  Just like my grandmother to worry about feeding everyone first.  I finally convinced her that the food could wait, pulled her into the room the others were in and announced that we were engaged!

That night, we had a champagne toast after dinner with the champagne my grandparents wisely brought in anticipation.  We were married one year and one day later.

Now that you are done reading our engagement story, find the links to other great engagement stories here.  I've only read a few so far and I can't wait to read the rest.  They are fabulous!

Friday, June 10, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 15)

1.  It makes for a very happy Friday for me when I get the chance to write my "7 Quick Takes", although I will admit that recently I've felt that they've been a little shallow lately and I've been having to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find enough tidbits in my fairly boring life to write about.

2.  I think people expect that my life should be very exciting since (a) I'm a newlywed, (b) I'm moving several states away in six, no make that five, weeks and (c) I'm expecting my first baby.  Well, my husband and I are homebodies and we really enjoy it (I'm not complaining!), but sitting around listening to him play the guitar and our daily ritual of playing cards, while enjoyable to us, doesn't make the most interesting blog fodder.  We are still weeks away from the move and it's too early to do much packing (what could have been done early has already been done) and I can't do much to prepare for the baby except read baby books and take care of myself until after the move.  I definitely don't want to move anything that I can wait to buy until we are there.  

3.  I am so bored sitting around all day now that the school year (and thus my job) is over.  We had company over for dinner this past weekend and so we cleaned our house until it looks just about perfect, and there hasn't been much but laundry to keep up with since.  I need a hobby!  

4.  I actually do have an exciting week coming up: a week in Chicago with my husband's aunt, uncle, cousin and her kids!  On the agenda: visiting with a few friends from high school, going to a Cubs game with my husband's old roommate and his fiancee, a trip to the Jelly Belly factory, a four-year-old's dance recital, soccer games, and a trip downtown to the aquarium and Sears tower.  

5.  My parents are taking their vacation time to help us move.  They did the same things last year when they helped me move here after the wedding.  And they are planning to do the same next year after my husband graduates.  Aren't they the best?  I hate moving and can't imagine giving up my vacation three years in a row to help someone else do it (although I'm sure I would do it for my kids some day too!).  I know they dread it, but they've never complained and I never even asked them for the help (nor did they ask me - it was assumed that it was their parental duty).  

6.  My mom went in for a bone density scan a few days ago and got a call yesterday saying she has osteoporosis - and she's only 50!  She doesn't see the doctor to discuss the diagnosis and treatment until next Thursday, so I don't have much to go on right now, but it's very upsetting.  And it makes me angry, because my father, brother, and I have been trying to get my mom to exercise for years.  Exercise, especially weight training helps prevent osteoporosis.  When my mom told me over the phone, she said "Just my luck!"  No, mom, it's not just luck.  She knew there was a family history of low bone density and she still didn't do anything about it.  I have to stop myself from being angry with her because she can't do anything about it now and I know she is upset and scared.  Prayers for her would be appreciated!

7.  I'm only 15 weeks pregnant and I am already unable to sleep because I am always so uncomfortable! This is going to be a long sleepless pregnancy for both the husband and I if something doesn't change soon.  

Please visit the rest of the "7 Quick Takes" hosted at  They make for such fun and insightful reading (I'm always finding new blogs I love this way!).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why I Love My Husband (vol. 3)

Because he has been practicing the guitar recently and came across a song in a book of classical Spanish guitar music that sound like a lullaby.  He's been playing it "for the baby".  And he played it for me last night when I was uncomfortable and having trouble falling asleep.

He's been buying really healthy organic vegetables and watching what I eat "for the baby".

While I'm a little nervous about becoming a mom, he is so excited to be a daddy.  Even though it comes with a lot of extra responsibilities to support our growing family. 

My greatest fear

My greatest fear as a parent is that my child with not grow up to love and honor God.  No, that's not politically correct to say.  I'm supposed to wish my child happiness above all else.  Or physical safety.  Or the freedom to be "who he/she is".  But those concerns are far secondary to that of my child's soul.  If you are a Christian and truly believe in all that Christ taught, then you must believe that there is a hell and the scariest thing for your child is that he/she end up there.  I know it's perhaps a bit early to worry about it.  It will still be months before the baby even leaves my womb, however I can't help but fear for his/her soul.

How could I not?  We live in a culture that stresses anti-Christian messages in a multitude of ways.  As my child's mother, I have the ability (and responsibility) to teach him/her the faith, but how can I compete with all the adverse messages my child will receive?  Yes, many wonderful Catholic parents are able to raise wonderful Catholic children that carry the faith throughout their lives, but I've seen just as many loving, faithful parents whose children reject the face and live a life far different from what they have been raised in.  How do I keep from letting this fear eat me alive?