16 Reasons I Have Been Married 16 Years

Happy “Sweet 16” to my marriage today! After my workout this morning and while I was getting ready for the day, I thought that there was nothing that could really top my husband’s “Happy Anniversary” post tagging me on Facebook. 

Yeah, this is how we do 🙂


So I am not trying to top anything, but I decided to think of 16 reasons we have made it this far.

16 Reasons I have been married 16 years:

1. Complementarity. Honestly, I married the perfect, complementary personality for mine. I’m as Type A as a person can get, I’m intense and I like to make the rules (and enforce them). Craig is laid-back and he is relaxed and he is a rule follower. 🙂

2. Teamwork. We work together. Working two full-time jobs, raising 5 children, keeping a household running…can’t be done effectively without teamwork.

3. Communication. it’s not always face-to-face, because we have worked opposing schedules for most of our marriage, but e-mail, texts, phone calls…we talk to each other.

4. Goals. We set them. Many times we surpass them. Often, I think of the time I found my slip of paper that had goals Craig and I wrote down when i was pregnant with our first child. I wrote down that we planned for three children, I would complete my MBA and be making a certain income. By the time I found that sheet, our fourth child was on the way, I had completed my MBA 6 years before that and I was making about what that goal had stated. It was kind of crazy.

5. Re-evaluate our goals and our situation regularly. Goals are awesome because they can be reached and surpassed, or they can be re-assessed and modified. We do both.

6. It’s our life and we’ll live as we want to (sort of). We live our lives and don’t worry about what others have to say about it. If we would have listened to well-meaning family members, we would not have 5 children (many thought that when #4 came along, that was just too much). And we make job changes and school decisions and all of that stuff together as a team of two. sometimes a team of 7 if the kids’ opinions are relevant. But mostly a team of 2.

7. Place each other first. We don’t get many date nights or trips together without the kids these days, but we both know that the other’s consideration gets first nod as we put schedules together, make vacation plans (even with the kids) or make any other decisions affecting the family.

8. Commonality. Enjoy those things we have in common. We both love the Royals, Chiefs and Jayhawks. It’s a priority to share the games together. We love sharing that with our children, too.

9. Laugh. A lot. My husband is naturally funny with great timing. He makes me laugh more than he makes me cry. It matters.

10. Hugs. I’m more of a  hugger than a kisser. My children appreciate that, by the way — at least where their father and I are concerned. But we give lots of hugs around this house.

11. Respect. There is always the undertone of respect when we communicate, even in disagreement. We also use manners like “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome” and are careful in our speech. Even (and especially) when no one is there to witness it. I love that.

12. Trust. We always trust that the other is looking out for our well-being and that of the children.

13. Attend Mass often. Of course, we go to Mass together (usually) on the weekends. But we also find other times to attend Mass, if we can make it work with our schedules. Because we are not together very often for other prayer times, this seems like a critical piece of our prayer life together as a married couple.

14. Partake of the Sacraments together, when applicable. When I have taken care to go to confession more frequently, I have noticed I am more focused and at peace in my vocation as a wife and mother. When Craig and I both attend confession, I notice a tenderness and understanding that runs through our communication to each other for some time after that. There’s something about acknowledging our human limitations in confession that keeps us grounded.

15. Say, “I’m sorry” when we have wronged each other. Apologizing — a TRUE apology (not one of those, “I’m sorry IF I offended you…” — shows the acknowledgement that one of us has been a jerk and a validation of the person who was hurt. It seems our society these days is so hung up on this idea that we don’t do anything wrong to another person and many seem to justify every behavior. Sometimes it’s good to just take a deep breath, see the hurt you have caused and look at your spouse and say, “I’m sorry for hurting you.”

16. Forgive each other. Knowing that Craig forgives my faults and loves me through it all makes all the difference in my life. Extending that same courtesy to him frees me from whatever ill will I may have taken toward him and helps us move forward.


In general, Craig has supported me in everything. He has been there rooting me on in all of my crazy physical endeavors (marathon, Crossfit, Triathlon — whatever the next thing I want to try), the different jobs I have attempted, and trips to see family. But I would say the #1 way he has blessed me and our family and our marriage has been his support of learning and living our Catholic faith and raising our children in it. He and I share a common goal of joining God in Heaven someday — and we recognize each other’s part in staying on track together and with our children. 

So, happy anniversary Craig. 16 years. Mostly good times and a few sorrowful times and we’ve faced it all together. I love you.


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14 Years And Counting

Fourteen years ago, Craig and I said, “I do,” and began this life together. We had big dreams — of financial security, trips to take, fall Sundays filled with football and friends and family, KU basketball games. I remember our first year together…we spent a lot of time watching T.V. in the evenings while I did cross-stitch. Craig still worked the weekends at the comedy club doing improv, sometimes I still waited tables while he did. We could sleep in on Saturdays and go have dinner and beers on Monday nights while we played trivia.

That’s the thing about young married love — it’s limitless in all the good you can imagine.

A couple of weeks ago, Father spoke in his homily about what it’s like starting out as a priest (he was celebrating 20 years as a priest that weekend) and all the good things to look forward to — marriages, baptisms, daily Mass — but he mentioned that he has grown the most through being there for people through their suffering — death, grief, heavy crosses to bear. He likened the fact that he could never have imagined what it would be like to walk through the hard parts of life with people when he was a newly ordained priest because he hadn’t been there before. Then he likened it also to what it must be like for newly married couples who set their sights on the “better” and the “in health” and the “richer” and don’t realize just what they signed on for with the “or worse” and the “in sickness” and the “poorer” until some more sorrowful things happen during their marriage.

I’ll be honest. Before this last year, my marriage to Craig seemed to be mostly “for better” and “in health.” Marriage was, for us, pretty much what we looked forward to on that day fourteen years ago. Yes, during marriage prep, we heard all the counseling and advice that marriage can be hard work. But like many young couples, we just didn’t know how that could be. We loved each other and knew we would support each other through anything, not really understanding what kind of difficulties could lie ahead of us. And for most of our marriage, we haven’t suffered what we’d consider any stifling negatives.

Experiencing the loss of a child is indescribable. And it’s the only thing that Craig and I have experienced together that no one else can completely understand. Fourteen years ago, as I married Craig, I never dreamed we would bury a child. 

It’s not been lost on me that a loss like that could put some serious strain on our marriage. But, the flip side of that is that it could make our marriage even stronger than it was before. Especially if we take the opportunities presented to support each other, to hold each other, to continue on in this life together and grieve our son together. 

I wouldn’t have wanted to go through the loss of a child ever in a million years. But if I had to experience such a profound loss, I’m glad I had Craig there to carry me through it. I believe that he has been the strength that has moved the healing to the point where we have gotten. He held me and cried with me for days after we lost Gregory. He deflects things and people that could upset me. He listens. He’s been supportive of my need and action for grief counseling. He’s put up with my lack of attentiveness to the house. He’s supported me as I have gotten active and begun running again. He lets me cry, even though it’s been over four months since we said goodbye to Gregory.

So, this year, I toast you, my Love. While I wouldn’t want to relive some parts of this year, I couldn’t imagine going through it all with anyone but you.

Craig and me on Father’s Day 2013

I am linking to Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary and posting every day this week! Click HERE to see who else took the challenge!

UPDATE: How could I not share the link love with my NFP and Me buddy? It is Katie’s Anniversary today, too. We are Anniversary buddies! Go say hi and tell her Happy Anniversary, too!

The Story of Us and How We Met

Grace at Camp Patton did a two posts a couple weeks ago on how she met her husband and how they ended up getting married. Then she put up a linky-thingy so the rest of us can share our story, too. So, I realized I never told this story on my blog before.

The night I met Craig was about a year after I ended a 4-year-long relationship. I had not had anything serious going on during that year. It was the year I kind of got to know me a little bit and stopped worrying about finding the right guy to impress others and thought about the type of guy that would make a good husband. I’m not saying I didn’t party it up or anything over that year, but it seemed that I knew the men I went on dates with were not marriage material — at least not the type of guys I was figuring out I wanted to marry.

I lived in Topeka, KS at the time. I was working in Lawrence as a telephone company relay operator. I drove to Kansas City with my friend, Bridget. On the way to KC, Bridget relayed a conversation she’d had with her mother in which she told her where we were going that night (we were going to Comedy Sportz — think improv sports — kind of like that show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”). Her mother relayed to Bridget that her (Bridget’s) cousin, Craig, worked there. So Bridget was letting me know we might see him.

I had no idea what “worked there” really meant. I mean, I probably had ideas of bartender, waiter, that kind of thing. hahahaha

The show began and this format of improv sports has a Referee who is kind of like the emcee of the whole thing. And I immediately told Bridget that the Referee who came on stage MUST be her cousin. She looked up and said, “Oh, yeah…that’s Craig.” You see…Craig is the spitting image of his Uncle, who is Bridget’s dad.

There is a “halftime” of the show and while out in the courtyard smoking cigarettes (don’t judge my young, stupid self 🙂 ) Bridget called Craig over and we said hi and she introduced all of us to him. He let us know that after the show, they were planning to go hang out at The Quaff, (which is a really cool bar downtown that Craig and I still like to go to if we ever get time out without the kids). So, Bridget told us girls that we’d head over there.

And, so we did. Craig was there with his Comedy Sportz friends (couple guys and a girl) and we played darts and drank some beer. Then plans were made to go to one of the girls’ houses (I think her name was Brenda) for the after-the-bar-closes party. The whole time we were at the bar, I was talking to one of Craig’s friends and he ended up driving me to Brenda’s house.

When we got there, we played a game of “I Never” (if you’ve never played that…then, I’m sorry) and through that Craig kept talking to me even though I was kind of being rude to him. But then he said the words that changed everything… “There were five of us in my family growing up…”

Ding-Ding! Because then I said, “There were FIVE of US in MY family growing up!”

And then he said something about going to Catholic school.

And then I said something about going to Catholic school! But then I clarified, I only went through 8th grade.

So….I didn’t give him my number yet. And actually, Bridget had to have her graduating-from-law-school party and invite him before that happened. 

But, yes, she invited him to come to her graduation party, he called out of the shows that night and showed up all by himself not knowing anyone but Bridget, really, but knowing that I was going to be there. We spent all night at that party talking and I gave him my phone number and he called me the next night.

The rest is history.

The end.

The front page of our ancient Wedding Album


 PS: We got married about 6 months before it was mainstream for wedding photographers to do digital! So I have the negatives from all my wedding photos and am just now shopping around to have someone put them in digital format! So, I took a couple pictures of my pictures, LOL

Yay, we got married!!

 

NFP Guest Post At Carrots For Michaelmas!

I am really excited to tell you that today, I am featured with a guest post at Carrots for Michaelmas. I was so excited when Haley e-mailed to ask me to write a guest post about my experience using the Marquette Method of Natural Family Planning (NFP). Although, she may not realize just how excited I was since it took me about a month to get it to her! But she graciously accepted it when I sent it and today it is featured on her blog. Please go visit Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas and read about using Marquette Method of NFP!

My husband and I have used NFP to space and grow our family for almost 12 years. We have five children here with us, and one in heaven, but as I’ve written before, we don’t have a large family because NFP has ever failed us. The first NFP method my husband and I learned was the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) as taught by Couple to Couple League at the time. Over the years, I have come to appreciate the way we were taught because they had some Theological “oomf” behind them. This appealed to our intellectual desire to understand the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality and not simply do NFP because we were told to do so. Understanding God’s plan for marriage and sexuality has kept us motivated and rooted in faith with regard to NFP over the years. Without the theological understanding, we might have given in to the frustrations and opted for something non-natural (like sterilization or contraception).

It’s easy to get sucked into “method wars” among NFP’ers. I try not to do that anymore. But early on, when I heard about the Marquette Method, it was often accompanied by a comment about how it’s not necessary to spend all that money on an ovulation monitor when you can just monitor your physical signs and get the same result. I found out 8 years after we started using NFP that the Marquette Method was actually a better fit for me, considering my body, my lifestyle and our family set-up. Read more here.
 

NFP Awareness – For Marriage

This week is Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness week.  And TODAY is my 13th wedding anniversary.  The beautiful irony that my anniversary always falls during (or very close to) NFP Awareness week is not lost on me.  NFP was a “game-changer” in my marriage, in my opinion.


Today, I wanted to write a post to encourage couples who might read it to just give NFP a try.  An honest-to-goodness try.  That is all Craig and I agreed to do at the beginning of our journey 12 years ago.  There are many things I could point to that have happened in our marriage as a result of NFP, but here are a few.


Because we tried NFP…


we grew in our understanding and acceptance of the Catholic faith
we learned to be more open with each other about sex
we grew in respect and understanding for each other
sex, fertility, having babies became a safe, sacred space in our marriage
the physical observations led to treatments of hormone imbalances and luteal phase defects
and because of the above, I believe we have avoided some heartbreak due to monitoring my progesterone early and often in pregnancy

These days, there’s not a lot of encouragement to forego hormonal contraception, devices or barrier methods.  There is a huge amount of encouragement to have one or two (sometimes three) kids and then get sterilized.  But it’s possible to have one or two (sometimes three) kids and continue on in life without altering your body or ingesting harmful chemicals or putting a barrier between you and your spouse.  


While openness to five (so far) children has been a part of using NFP for my husband and me, it is not necessarily the plan for everyone.  If there are reasons to limit the number of children, NFP is very good at accomplishing that.


So, I want to say to couples out there that might happen up on my blog today…


If you find yourselves in a place where you need to space babies or postpone pregnancy for a time, there is another way different from “the pill” or sponges, or diaphragms or condoms or IUD’s or any other form of hormones.  There is a way you can use that doesn’t require sterilization.  There is a way that is good for the environment, good for your body and I would challenge you to consider that it’s good for your marriage.


NFP is another way.  NFP is reliable.  There are many methods of NFP, perhaps you will find one that works for you – different bodies have different challenges.  We have used Sympto-Thermal, a variation of Creighton and now, Marquette.  We’ve successfully avoided and achieved pregnancy for 12 years.


It might be hard, but in the end…it’s all at least a little bit hard.  Sometimes I think that because something is unknown, it seems like it would be too hard.  Many times, I think we humans sell ourselves short in the self-control department because it takes work and discipline…and as humans, we’re naturally averse to work and discipline.


It might be easy…you never know.  Maybe you’ll be happy to understand what is going on with a woman’s body.  Maybe it will excite you to learn something new, follow the rules and see how it works!  My husband and I have been blessed with a temperament in our marriage that has made conforming our reproductive lives to this way using NFP peaceful and positive.  It’s true that our Catholic understanding of marriage had a big hand in that, but I think that a mature view of marriage – Catholic or not – lends itself to opening the marriage up to include a holistic approach to family planning.


My husband and I could have been married all these 13 years and never tried NFP.  I honestly can’t even think clearly about what our marriage and family would look like.  My faith tells me that God planned and intended each of my children for the times and places in the world they have arrived.  It scares me to think I was ignorant and would have had the power to change that if we hadn’t given NFP a try.  


I’m so glad we agreed to try NFP.  It’s made a world of difference for our marriage.

  

Revisiting This Whole Wanting More Children Topic…

Almost as soon as I posted this last week, I started questioning my words. No, not questioning where I am emotionally with the idea of “being done” but questioning the use of the word “want” with regards to children.  I received some comments on my Facebook posting of the blog that made me think and continued the conversation via inbox there.  Thank you, to that dear friend of mine, for the thought-provoking commentary, it was well-accepted and needed.  🙂


Then, I read Leila’s post today and I knew I had to revisit this.  


Because even though I knew what I meant when I wrote my words, I worry that my published words may lead others astray and that’s a responsibility that I do not take lightly.


A few years ago, I had another blog, that…in a fit of early pregnancy hormones I deleted (I mused for about 15 months on a blog called, “Musings of a Catholic Lady.”)  On that blog, I once displayed my heart with regards to how many children I wanted and that I knew that no matter how many children I was blessed with, I would want them all because God wanted them and wanted me to have them.


Over the past year, #5 – Vincent – has grown, learned much and captured my heart as only a unique little baby boy can.  And…I have wondered if he is the last blessing I receive in my womb.  I don’t know if he is, of course.  In wondering that, I have wondered whether Craig and I would actually TRY to conceive in the future and that led to the posts I have had as I try to work out my feelings about continued childbearing and family size discernment. 


There is a difference between accepting new life (whether you are open or not) and actively working to achieve that end.  We know through our use of NFP and our history that we can increase our odds of a blessing behaving in certain ways and “taking a chance” isn’t the same thing as active pursuit.  It could be that I should have used the words “active pursuit” instead of “want” somehow as I discussed this discernment.


I don’t intend to diminish the sadness I feel about the window of fertility closing.  I am sad.  The thought of never giving birth again and the thought of never cuddling a tiny piece of me close to my heart in the wee hours of the morning during the early weeks (or not-so-early as the case may be) of a newborn’s life gives me great pause.  Should the message from God ring loud and true (sometime in the span of the next 8-10 years) that my time is up, I have a feeling I will be sad enough to cry about it.  But I worry that my post last week did diminish this and since that was not my intent, here I am to clarify.


A much wiser woman than I once wrote in a space I cannot remember, but I know it was on the internet that she and her husband are open to more children, but they hope that God has finished.  Perhaps that is more the sentiment I hope to convey.  


In the end, I truly feel as I said then…that should we be blessed with another baby, we’ll want the baby, because God wants the baby and wants us to have the baby.  


Should it be the case, that God has not finished with us, I am confident that we will love and cherish her/him and know that our family wasn’t complete until he/she came along.  

 

I Don’t Want Any More Children

Disclaimer:  I think I’ve made it pretty clear before, that I strive to want what God wants for me.  However, I’m also human and sometimes I get the urge to say (or write!) something that betrays my human nature and desires.  This is one of those times.

I don’t want any more children.
At first, I thought I should write, I don’t THINK I want any more children.  But then I knew…that was not true.
Next I thought that perhaps I should write that I don’t want any more children…RIGHT NOW.  And that would be more truthful than I don’t THINK I want any more children, but it still might not be completely truthful about how I feel.
I don’t want any more children.  I don’t necessarily want to be all that open to more children.  I’ve had five and today I think and feel like that’s enough for me.  I’m 38 years old, I’ve been a mother to young children for 11 years now.  
Today I feel like I need to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Today I need to know that the need for diapers will end.  Today I need to know that there will come a day when I will take all my children to the amusement park with no stroller and we can all stand in line and ride the same ride at the same time.  I need to know there will come a day when I can head out for a run and leave the kids at home for 30 minutes (all of them).  Or heck, maybe I can bring them all with me and not worry that someone is going to run out in the street unaware of a car coming right at them.
I know, this is some kind of sacrilege, right? I feel like I sound ungrateful. 
It sounds harsh. Honestly, if you read my blog very often, it almost sounds like the blog has been hijacked or something.  Does it not?
But this is how I feel today.  
But today…I hope we’re done. 
I’m nervous to write this.  Ever since Craig and I committed to living our marriage in accordance with the teaching of our faith, we have always remained reluctant to put ourselves in the “we’re done” category because…what if?  What if we take a chance some cycle down the road and God blesses us with another baby?  What if things get confusing and we don’t know what’s going on and all of a sudden, we find out another baby is on the way?  What then?  
Well, here’s what then…we do what we’ve always done and we accept that baby and we love that baby and realize that our family wasn’t complete until that baby came along.
Today I realize that it is okay if we are done.  We’re busy.  We’re crazy and loud and we have a lot of fun.  We’ll continue to be all of that if our family grows…or it doesn’t.
No, I won’t abandon NFP and go get anything permanent done and I won’t start pumping my body with carcinogenic hormones or buy out the store’s supply of barrier contraceptive products.  
Something clicked today and I realize life will be okay – life may even be very good – if we continue to feel called to avoid pregnancy for the long haul.  Surely there will be days like the one last week when it’s hard and annoying and unpredictable.  But perhaps there will be many days like today where it’s easy to know the course and I am able to start actively looking for that light at the end of the tunnel.