Monday, December 16, 2013

And the two shall become one flesh . . . and what about their stuff?

The Gospel reading at our wedding was not that for which this post is named, but since the phrase is so frequently employed in marriage ceremonies, it was running through my head a lot this past weekend. Allow me to explain why:

Marriage preparation is all about getting to know your future spouse, discovering potential areas of tension in your relationship, and figuring out how to work through challenges together rather than in opposition to one another. It is a beautiful time of excitement and anticipation and then the wedding day arrives and you “are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6) Woohoo! Mission accomplished! Months of planning have come to fruition and now you are married! Your happily ever after can begin! And then you get home from the honeymoon and re-enter the real world.

Now, I am pretty sure that back in Bible days, a couple’s consolidation of their belongings worked a little bit differently. Girls weren’t out living on their own before marrying . . . were young men even living independently? I guess what I am getting at is – you had some clothes and some livestock and you were good to go. Therefore, Matthew does not go beyond the union of the flesh. If he was writing today, he might have followed up his profound commentary with:
“And their two piles of junk will become one pile of junk, regardless of whether the husband or wife likes the other person’s pile. And this will be the first great trial of a marriage and those who successfully get through it will be strengthened by the Grace of God.”

Daddy arrives with the moving truck!
I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing, but the process of combining our belongings has been ongoing, and has yet to be finished, after 6 months of marriage. While it may have been nice to rip off the band-aid all at once, so to speak, slow and steady supposedly wins the race. Since I have moved so frequently in the last 8 years, I have had many opportunities to pare down my pile of stuff, to decide what sentimental items are worth keeping, and to donate or get rid of what I no longer need or want. I still have some work to do on this front, but what I brought to Texas was pretty much my minimum pile (in my world, craft supplies are part of the bare essentials required for life). All of my stuff and “our” things made it here on one truck in the move from Florida. It all fit easily into the apartment, and while we don’t have all of the major pieces of furniture we would like to someday have, what we are currently living with makes us happy.

Poor Drew, though, moved to Florida in such a hurry three years ago that almost all of his belongings got put into a storage unit in Texas two hours away from Arlington. I think he was scared to show me the inside of the storage unit the first time, and probably for good reason; we were still engaged and in my head I was thinking, “oh my gosh. holy crap. oh my gosh. holy crap.” Drew most likely thought I’d turn and run the other way after he raised the storage unit door and I gazed inside. Since moving here, we have slowly been going through the storage unit, re-claiming the things we want and selling or donating the rest. Once in a while I have a Christmas-morning-moment, like on Saturday when Drew found some “forever stamps” - YES! Or a book I have been wanting to read - YES! Or kitchen gadgets that I thought would be great to have but didn’t want to buy - YES!

The hardest part has been watching my husband go through all of the boxes of books, clothes, pictures, gizmos, gadgets, and odds and ends that represent his life before he knew me. He didn’t get to gradually go through his things like I did, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to decide, on the spot, which parts of his past life to give up and which to bring into his new one. I am sure there is an added pressure on him when I am standing right there saying, “And what about this box? And what is this stuff? And I don’t know what these things are?” Try being helpful while not trampling on your husbands memories, it's harder than it sounds. It might not be important to me today, but since his pile of stuff is part of his story, I want it to become important to me, too.

Each time we pull up to our apartment with a full truck it is hard to see everything fitting into what we thought was an already-full living space, but miraculously, there always seems to be room to integrate his belongings and his memories into our current existence. Somehow, too, we get more organized with each trip home from the storage unit. I am starting to understand my mother’s tendency to purge the superfluous junk that seems to build up inexplicably over the course of time, and although sometimes I think it would be easier to give up all of our stuff and start from scratch, it is also a fun adventure to bring our lives together. I actually kind of feel bad for people who don't get to experience this as newlyweds. When we open a new box I get a little peek at Drew’s past, which is a time and place to which I can never actually go (until I meet the Doctor, that is). My husband has had such diverse interests and experiences in his life, and this is one of the few ways that I can glimpse who he was before I knew him. It has all been a fairly smooth process, and really, when I look past the dust and the clutter, it is a tremendous blessing.

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Having Myself a Crafty Little Christmas

This time of year is inherently wonderful thanks to its religious significance,but also for the generally gracious and giving attitudes it brings out in many people. One of my favorite parts of the season has always been the decorations that illicit such joy and hope in all of us. Wreaths and holly on store fronts, garland and snowflakes draped everywhere, and ALL OF THE LIGHTS! White lights should grow on trees. Just saying.

Sadly, when my family moved from Maryland to Florida, one box that got lost contained some of the items I looked most forward to seeing each year – a couple of wooden reindeer, a Precious Moments nativity, and a countdown calendar with a small stuffed bear that moved among numbered pockets each day that brought us closer to Christmas. My sister and I used to fight every morning over which of us would get to move the bear and, oddly, it is one of my fondest memories. I want my children to someday have the same experience of fighting over Christmas countdowns (is that weird of me?) and for me to smile while assigning them odd and even days to end the argument.

The logical solution was that I make my own calendar to replace the one that was lost. One bear, 24 pouches, not too bad. I can handle that. And then came Pinterest. Evil Pinterest. In my browsings one day I stumbled upon something called a Jesse Tree. It is a Christmas countdown based on Bible verses and key people leading up to the birth of Jesus. I was drawn to it because it will give my children a symbol to attach to different bible verses and adds to the Advent focus on spiritual preparation for Christmas. This website was very helpful by explaining the purpose of the tree, the construction of it all, and her links to other resources helped me design my ornaments.

Basically, the Jesse Tree is like the countdown I had in mind from my childhood, but on crack and steroids and skittles. Midway through the project I thought maybe I’d bitten off more than I could chew; after hours upon hours of working on it I was ready to be done! I persevered, though, and completed it this afternoon. It was a “praise Jesus!” moment when I got to hang it on the coat closet door in place of our autumn wreath.

I had briefly looked at Etsy to see how much such a Jesse Tree would cost to purchase, and the one that I liked best was completely hand-sewn and went for almost $300.00. I was a little stunned at the price – I mean, it is felt and embroidery thread. WELL, I now understand the logic behind the cost, and let me tell you that no amount of money can tear my newly made calendar from my grasp! I spent too much time cutting and sewing and pricking my fingers and getting cramps in my elbow and back to ever part with it. It had better not ever get lost in a move and my children had better cherish it and treasure it and treat it very well, or else I will be hanging all the ornaments on the tree myself! Okay, maybe I won’t be that mean, but this was a lot more work than I bargained for. Take a look-see for yourself:

I learned how to properly chain stitch and back stitch.
I freehand stitched that!

First go-around with a satin stitch.

French knots in the house!
Here is what the tree looks like on December 5th.

The back of each ornament is labeled and there are Bible verses assigned to each one as a daily meditation.

Full size shot from December 5th. 

Here is what the tree will look like all filled with ornaments!

I am looking forward to December 24th!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Enjoy the Waiting

Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?

Well, because sometimes, good things come to those who wait.

I was appalled to see this in the mall on November 9th! THE NINTH, people.

Hands down, my favorite month of the year is “Thanksgiving to Christmas.” I love that time when the weather is cooler, decorations are everywhere, Christmas music fills the air, families gather together, and a spirit of anticipation, excitement, hope, and love fills the hearts of non-Grinches everywhere.

This year, more than ever, I feel like my favorite time of the year is being distorted and manipulated into something less joyous and more . . . I can’t even think of the word . . . Selfish? Underhanded? Sacrilegious? It seems to me that instead of celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, retailers have led us to believe that it is all about Black Friday and Giftmas.

All I am thinking about on Thanksgiving is family and food.

It seems that Thanksgiving is now promoted merely as a pregame for a marathon of battling the crowds at the hottest stores to get this year’s must-have items. That is, if you aren’t completely missing out on Thanksgiving with family and friends because you have to work at one of the stores opening at 6am on Thursday. WHO GOES SHOPPING ON THANKSGIVING?! WHY AREN'T YOU IN A FOOD COMA?! Like this one: 
Shopping on Thanksgiving. I don't think so.
It blows my mind every year that people are already camped out in tents in front of stores! To each his own, I guess, but is that television really worth a week out on cold, hard concrete? I guess there could be family bonding in roughing it together, but I think that defeats the purpose. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official federal holiday during the Civil War so that, despite all the trauma in their lives, Americans would take time to be grateful for what they had and the good things that remained, not to think about the things they wished they possessed. Call me cynical, but it makes me sad that retailers have been able to turn even Thanksgiving into an event less significant than a trip to the mall. 

And then there is Christmas. One of the beautiful things about being Catholic is the built-in Christmas preparatory season called Advent. We have three to four weeks, depending on the year, which lead us into the celebration of the birth of Christ. Each Sunday at church the excitement grows stronger as evergreen trees, wreaths, poinsettias, and candles are progressively added to the décor. Then, Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the year, arrives! Even as an adult I feel the jittery anticipation that consumed me as a small child. CHRISTMAS IS TOMORROW!

Obviously, retailers don’t care about religion or the meaning behind the season that boosts their sales so much during the month of December. Okay, fine. But what makes me sad is commercials like those from TJ Maxx/Marshall’s/Home Goods encouraging consumers to “outgift everyone.” For the love! I understand wanting to help people find the perfect gift for their loved ones, but now it’s a contest?! I am going to outgift everyone because I am awesome and I poured a lot of love into the gifts I am giving, not because I am a competitive shopaholic. Gift giving is a wonderful way to show someone you care, but it’s the one-upping/materialistic mentality that ruins it so easily. 

I do love giving someone the perfect gift! Look at Mama's smile!
I like waiting for good things, for surprises, for celebrations. What our society fails to realize is that the period of anticipation is fun! Today, so many people want whatever they think will make them happy RIGHT NOW! Sex, fast cars, big houses, more stuff, more stuff, more stuff. Few have the patience or self-control to simply wait for something. Waiting brings with it hope and it fills me with joy in knowing something good is going to happen. Over-anticipation is like hearing that catchy new tune on the radio - it was good the first five times and now it is just annoying. When we start celebrating Christmas in October, it ruins the specialness of the real Christmas season, which is actually December 25-January 6. This holiday season I encourage you to get excited, find a way to show the people in your life that you love them, help others, sing Christmas carols at the top of your lungs, watch Elf 12 times, and take a moment to think about what all of this is for, and simply enjoy the waiting!
Advent Candles, lit in anticipation of Christmas!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Applesauce (Not a Recipe)

The first time I rewrote a song's lyrics was during my first year of teaching. I was at my morning duty which was outside in the early morning cold. I was thinking about my lesson for the day, about westward expansion, manifest destiny, Indians, cowboys, boots . . . boots with spurs . . . boots with the spurs. . .

If you have no idea where my brain was going with that train of thought, then good for you. For everyone else, maybe you followed my musings into Flo-Rida's "Low." I rewrote the chorus and then turned it into many, many verses Too many verses. You can see them here, if you want a good laugh. I showed it to my students, who were promptly mortified at my nerdiness, but I think most of them thought in their minds that I was really cool. I started working on some other songs, but I don't think I ever shared any of them with the kiddos. (*For those of you who think I am crazy, this whole song-rewriting activity was professionally presented to me as an effective teaching strategy. I did it myself before anyone told me to, so I am actually brilliant, not insane.)

The reason I have shared this lovely anecdote is to help you understand what you are about to read. Sometimes, without my permission, my brain starts rewriting songs and I have no choice but to go along for the ride.

Lady Gaga's "Applause" has been on the radio a lot lately, and my brain's inner songwriter decided that when Gaga spells out A-P-P-L-A-U-S-E, it kind of sounds like applesauce if you aren't really paying attention. Once I had this revelation it was all over and I no longer had any choice but to complete the new lyrics. Here now, purely for your entertainment and my humiliation, is my autumnal version of the chorus to "Applause."

First, here are Lady Gaga's lyrics:

I live for the applause, applause, applause
I live for the applause-plause
Live for the applause-plause
Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me
The applause, applause, applause
Give me that thing that I love (I'll turn the lights on)
Put your hands up, make 'em touch, touch (make it real loud)
Give me that thing that I love (I'll turn the lights on)
Put your hands up, make 'em touch, touch (make it real loud)
(A-P-P-L-A-U-S-E) Make it real loud
(A-P-P-L-A-U-S-E) Put your hands up, make 'em touch, touch
(A-P-P-L-A-U-S-E) Make it real loud
(A-P-P-L-A-U-S-E) Put your hands up, make 'em touch, touch

Now, my lyrics to "Applesauce:"

I live for applesauce, applesauce, applesauce
I live for applesauce-sauce, live for applesauce-sauce
Live for the way that it tastes like fall to me
Applesauce. Applesauce. Applesauce.

Give me the thing that I love (Applesauce, now!)
Put some cinnamon on top (Spice it up, now!)
Give me the thing that I love (Applesauce, now!)
Add vanilla and nutmeg (Spice it up, now!)

(A-P P-L E-S A-U C E) Spice it up, now!
(A-P P-L E-S A-U C E) Put some cinnamon on top.
(A-P P-L E-S A-U C E) Spice it up, now!
(A-P P-L E-S A-U C E) Add vanilla and nutmeg. 

The most ironic thing about this is that I don't even care for apple sauce. More importantly, you will now hear this in your head every time you listen to this song. You are very welcome. :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Thankful November

In honor of the fact that Thanksgiving is later this month, I am going to keep a "thankful" blogpost going, and I will hopefully be back to update it each day with something for which I am thankful. I always think about the many blessings in my life around Thanksgiving, but I haven't taken the time each day to pick something and really consider my gratitude, so this post will be my attempt to do that. Check back now and then if you are curious . . . you never know, you might show up on the list!

1. I am thankful for my Grandpa. Today is my grandparents’ wedding anniversary and I am so thankful that Grandma is still here on earth with my family (and I hope she sticks around for a long while more!). Grandpa passed away a little more than eight years ago and he was one of the best people that I have ever known. I prayed that my Grandpa would pray for me on my own journey to find a spouse, and what do you know, God sent me a man who is so much like Grandpa it is almost scary. I wish Drew could have met him. Thank you, Grandpa, for being an example to me of a loving, family-oriented, faith-focused gentleman.
Grandpa St. George, being goofy, as usual.
2. I am thankful for and that the Holy Spirit instilled in me the courage to create a profile on February 20, 2011. Five days later, a wonderful man contacted me and I very quickly grew to love him. I have now been married to him for nearly five months and I look forward to every day of the rest of our lives.

3. I am thankful for good, respectful, considerate drivers. In the last few years, with the rise of cell phone usage by drivers, it has become very easy to become frustrated and angry behind the wheel. I would have so much more faith in humanity if I didn't have to spend time on the road. Drew and I have taken several 4 hour driving trips in the last few months, making me realize that for every terrible, rude, dangerously distracted driver, there ARE considerate, aware, and competent drivers on the road. I am thankful that like me, they care for the safety and well-being of the lives of others around them.

4. I am thankful for books. This weekend Drew and I went to Houston to see his sisters perform in Little Women, the musical version of the story. The main character, Jo, loves to write. Writing is so much part of her that if she couldn't tell her stories, she would cease to exist as Jo March. I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. Books and the stories they contain are so special - can you imagine life without them? If I was stranded on a desert island and I could only have one book with me, I would cheat and bring my Nook (with a solar powered charger) so that I could have an entire library with me.

5. I am thankful for my students. I calculated that in the three years I was at Citrus High School, I taught 261 students! That number blows my mind. Although there were some students after whom I will be naming my gray hairs, I loved them all and I probably learned more from them than they did from me. If we were talking about current crazy events in the news I would sometimes rant, "I just don't like people. Someday I am going to live in a cave far away from all of them." After seeing the offended looks on their faces I would clarify, "Okay, I don't like grown-ups. I like YOU guys. You are still growing and you aren't permanently broken yet. You are salvageable. That is why I like teaching you." Some students in this country have done terrible, violent, hateful things to their teachers, classmates, and communities (but that is an issue for another post), but the majority of students want to learn, whether they admit or not, and they want to grow up to be great adults. They made my life insanely stressful at times, but they also brought tears of laughter to my eyes, and that is why I loved them so much. If you need an example of the beauty and goodness of students, watch this video about a middle school football team. Grab a tissue before you watch it.

6. I am thankful for my faith. For as long as I have been making memories, God has been a central part of my life. Born and raised Catholic, the traditions, history, and teachings of the Catholic Church have formed and shaped me into who I am today (and I think who I am is pretty decent). I don't know who I would be now without the love, mercy, forgiveness, blessings, and grace bestowed upon me on a daily basis by my Creator. Faith does not always come easily and at times it is put through difficult trials. I am lucky that I have always chosen to hold onto God, even through the toughest times; without Him, I have nothing for which to be thankful!

7. I am thankful for those rare moments when I am in the car and a Wilson Philips song comes on the radio. This probably sounds ridiculous to some of you, but Mama used to turn up the volume on those songs and my sister and I would sing along with her at the top of our lungs. Aside from Wilson Phillips just being awesome, it is the memories attached to their songs that make me smile most. Drew and I were driving to Houston last weekend and while trying to find a decent radio station, we came across, "Someday somebody's gonna make you want to turn around and say goodbye . . ." Turn it up and sing along!!

8. I am thankful for the people who taught me to solve my own problems. First of all, my parents, who were always willing to help me, but never offered to do my work or solve my problems for me. They were a wonderful support system, fostering my independence while letting me know I was loved and cared for. Thanks, Mama and Daddy!

The next person I think of is Ms. Sumner, who was my Software Applications teacher in high school. Anyone who has dealt with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or Access knows that sometimes the programs have a mind of their own. Ms. Sumner wouldn’t answer our questions until we had asked multiple classmates, and consulted the “paper clip” dude who represented the Help Wizard. Even then, she would ask us questions to help us fix our issue and she taught us to teach our classmates when they asked for help, rather than grabbing the mouse and doing things for them.

I didn’t think about this much until I became a teacher and realized that most of my students hadn’t received the same do-it-yourself-with-support education. In an age of Siri and Google and trophies for all, they expect someone else to fix it for them.

An experience yesterday really drove this whole thing home for me. I was at Walmart, waiting in one of many long check out lines, when a WalMart hero walked past and said, “I can help you on 9, ma’am.” Isn’t that the best when it happens? It is like an angel was sent to save you from frustrated ponderings of how WalMart never has a sufficient number of checkout lanes open. Well, the angel, appropriately named Gabe, probably doesn’t work the cash registers often. I assumed this much because he was wearing a dress shirt and looked a little uncomfortable as he scanned each item, and I had to remind him to scan some of them (brownie points to me for being honest!). Finally, I was waiting for him to authorize my debit payment and he just kept pushing random buttons. He turned to his associate and said, “I am trying to remember which one is the debit key, because these are unmarked.” The newly formed duo kept pushing buttons. I turned around, looked at the register behind me, pointed, and said, “It’s that one.” It literally took me five seconds to figure it out and everyone acted like I was a genius. Use your resources, people. Oy ve.

Anyway. This made me appreciate all the more my parents and teachers who strengthened my mind and gave me the confidence and with-it-ness to be able to tackle the challenges that I face in my life.

9. I am thankful for the food that I eat everyday. Not everyone is able to feed themselves well each day, and I am so grateful that I am able to purchase groceries to prepare healthy meals for Drew and I. With two mouths to feed and one income, I have had to learn more about budgeting and planning menus ahead of time, which is a totally new concept for the girl who used to hit up the grocery store nearly everyday after work once she had decided what she wanted to eat. I enjoy the challenge, but I am grateful that for me it is just that - a challenge - rather than desperation or malnutrition that I face when I go to the store. I pray for the homeless and the hungry and the unemployed, that they are able to find resources to help them make ends meet, and that people who are able to give to the less fortunate feel it in their hearts to do so.

10. I am thankful for three day weekends. Who isn't, though? Having an extra day to spend with Drew is such a blessing! Long weekends were extra special when we were dating, because it gave extra time together when we lived nearly 300 miles apart. Three day weekends give us the freedom to have a guilt free lazy Sunday - going to a later Mass, eating lunch and watching Mary Poppins while in awe that the movie is still as good as it was when we were kids, chilling out in the living room free from pressure to get stuff done - because we have Monday to be productive! Woohoo!

11. I am thankful for all of the veterans in the several hundred years of American history. Not much of my family has served that I know of (we only got here a few generations ago), but I did have a great-great-Uncle who died in the Philippines during World War II, and several of my husband's family members have served in the military as well. My Grandpa was in the Merchant Marine and the presentation of a flag to my Grandma at his funeral was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. We also have family and friends who are currently serving in all branches, and when I take time to really think about the sacrifices they make on a daily basis, no matter how great or small, I realize that I am so blessed that there are friends and strangers willing to protect my freedom. I think it is quite appropriate that Veteran's Day is only weeks before Thanksgiving, reminding us just how much for which we have to be grateful each year.

12. I am thankful for sunshine! Yesterday Drew and I went on a 5.5 mile walk on a tree-lined path with the sun streaming through the branches; I love the feeling of moving between shadow and sunlight and the noticeable temperature difference. The sun feels good on your skin and all the way into your soul and can drastically impact your mood. It seems that cloudy days come in pairs or triplets here in Arlington, making the sunny days that much more wonderful!

13. I am thankful for central heating. We had our first freeze of the cold season here last night, and though 32 degrees isn't the coldest weather in the world, it IS cold. I am so grateful for the roof over my head and the heat that flows out of the vents in our apartment. I pray for the homeless and those who can't afford to pay for heat on cold nights.

14. I am thankful for cute animals, laughing babies, comedians, and blooper reels, and the fact that all of them can be found on YouTube. When I am having a tough day or a frustrating moment (like I was last night), a quick YouTube search can be enough to brighten my mood. Laughter really is a great "medicine," so here are some items to make you smile:

15. I am thankful for Ibuprofen. It doesn't always make me feel better, but when it does, it is like a small miracle. *I should add that I am also grateful for the combined effect that caffeine has when added to the ibuprofen miracle.

16.  I am thankful for having a handy husband. I am clumsy and I break things fairly frequently (it is why I shouldn't be trusted with nice things and why I could never be a waitress.) First of all, my husband never makes me feel bad about breaking things, even though I get upset with myself. Secondly, half the time he is able to fix whatever I have done! Last night he fixed the kitchen timer after I dropped it and it stopped working. He is so good with computers and technology that I feel so lucky to have snagged him before any other lady could! Now if only he could fix all that stoneware I have broken . . .

17. I am thankful for all of my nieces and nephews, present and future. I married into a large, growing family, and I was Aunt Angie before I even said, "I do," to Drew. It is amazing to me how quickly these tiny people accepted me as one of their own. Every moment spent with my precious nieces and nephews easily becomes the cutest moment EVER and serves to remind me just how miraculous a gift they are and that all human life needs to be cherished, loved, and respected.

18. I am thankful for music. Has anyone ever asked you, "If you had to live the rest of your life without one of your senses, which would you choose to give up?" It seems like an impossible choice, but I don't think I could be able to live without hearing. Well, of course I COULD, but I couldn't choose to. I began reading and playing music when I was in third grade! I love listening to almost all genres of music, hearing the layers unfold each time I hear a song. The sense of smell is one of our strongest, because our olfactory sensors are linked directly to our brains, but for me, so many songs are linked to particular memories in my life that I can't imagine not having music in my life.

19. I am thankful for crafts. Paint, wood, felt, fabric, thread, paper, yarn - I love it all and I love getting to take raw materials and create something new from them. I am especially grateful that, at least for right now, I have the time to indulge myself in learning new crafts. I feel particularly spoiled, because every day I get to do the things that I used to do for fun and always wished I had more time for. I am blessed!

20. I am thankful for my brilliant and curious husband. Drew and I were driving home from San Antonio on Sunday evening when we drove past a sign that said it was 32 degrees outside. There was no way that was possible, so Drew and I launched into a discussion of whether or not there was a temperature scale in which 32 degrees would make sense. We didn't talk about it again until this morning, when Drew was browsing the inter-webs and reading to me about the various temperature measurements and how their creators established their scales. It made me feel smart and blessed to be having such a discussion before 8 am! (I guess I should enjoy it now before we start having babies.) Drew thinks out loud, and sometimes my brain gets overwhelmed by his genius, but I love trying to imagine how his thoughts work their way through his head. A friend of mine told me that I was never truly happy in my past relationships because I hadn't ever dated anyone who was as smart/smarter than me, and I think he might have been right. I have met my match and I thank God everyday!

21. I am thankful for Citrus High School and the three years I was a teacher there. The first time I attended a faculty meeting I had to pinch myself - Is this all real? Am I really a teacher? I thought the same things every time I unlocked my classroom door. I was so lucky to land my first teaching job in Inverness, Florida, where I got to work with a staff full of some of the kindest, funniest, most awesome people I have ever met. CHS is as pretty close to a family as you can get. It is the kind of place where your boss and coworkers show up in the ER waiting room to make sure you are okay, and it is the kind of place where I heard, "I am so happy to hear about your engagement, but he isn't taking you away from us, is he?" Some days were really stressful, but there was always someone to listen to me and to offer advice. I grew so much in my confidence and personality as a teacher in a supportive environment. I loved my job, but mostly I loved the teachers and students who enriched my life on a daily basis. I miss them terribly but I am so grateful for the blessing of their place in my life.

22. I am thankful for marching band. When I auditioned for the Quince Orchard High School marching band, I prayed that I wouldn't make it. However, the band director was impressed by me and at the encouragement of a friend, I decided to join, not really knowing what I was getting into. I spent 8 years marching in high school and college, where I made life-long friends, traveled the country, and even ventured into Canada. Marching band pushed me outside my comfort zone, developed me as a leader, gave me something to do to keep me busy, turned me into a Gator fan, kept me in shape, and gave me a way to relate to my students when I became a teacher. Honestly, one of the most fun moments of my life was dancing to Thriller in front of 90,000 people. How many people get to do that? And it is something I never would have done by myself, but being with my 300+ band peeps made it an experience to remember and one I hope to share with at least one of my future children. :)
Watch this and see if you can spy yours truly:

23. I am thankful for friends old and new, near and far, and for all the joy they bring to my life!

24. I am thankful for my new family. Getting married to Drew was the best decision I ever made, and along with him I have been blessed with his wonderful family. They are a big, loud, passionate, loving, fun, Italian family and I wouldn't have it any other way!

25.  I am thankful for sunshiny winters. It has been cold and rainy here since Friday, which isn't terrible - it's actually kind of nice to have wintery weather - but one thing I really appreciated about living in Florida is that even during the winter, most days were sunny. :)

26. I am thankful for video chat. It was essential to my dating relationship with Drew, and because of it we probably spent more time "together" than we would have if we had lived in the same town. Now that we are married, we are still able to keep in touch with family and friends via chatoic Google Hangouts. I even got to play a game over Face Time with my family who are in North Carolina visiting friends. It's even better than a phone call for people who are far apart.

27. I am thankful for car trips free from traffic. A long journey can be made much more aggravating when accidents and construction projects lead to miles of back-ups. But when you arrive at your destination after 8 hours of smooth sailing, your mood is much happier! After growing up in the D.C. area, I appreciate favorable traffic conditions more than a lot of people can fathom.

28. I am thankful for family. This was the first year that I did not spend Thanksgiving with my family, but I did get to celebrate the day with my sister and her husband's family and it was still wonderful. As long as you are with people you love and who love each other, you can't really go wrong. :)

29. I a thankful for my family. This is kind of like yesterday's post, but more specifically, I love my parents and siblings so very much. They have made my life so blessed and rich and full of laughter and joy. They have supported me without question and without fail through all the ups and downs that I have faced and I don't know what life would be like if I didn't have them to bust my chops and build me up.

30. I am thankful that our apartment building has a boiler that has yet to ever run out of hot water for us!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

River Legacy Park and Oktoberfeast

One of the best things about being married to Drew is getting to experience his sense of adventure. On our many trips out to Home Depot in the last three months, we have passed by a sign reading, “<-- Historical Marker,” and every time we drove by we wondered, “What is back there beyond that gate?” Last Monday Drew declared, “At some point this week I’d like to go check out that historical marker.” I thought it was a brilliant idea and so on Saturday morning I grabbed a water bottle and my camera and we headed out for our adventure. Drew had looked at the area on a map online and told me there were a lot of walking paths at the historical marker, but we had no idea what to expect. What a treat we found! It was a beautiful, cool, fall morning along the West Fork Trinity River. The path was lined with trees in the midst of changing their leaves from shades of green to deep oranges and rich reds and yellows. Halfway through our walk we happened upon an open area with parks full of young families, work out areas being used by the strong and brave, and open meadows begging to be enjoyed by picnickers. We didn't see the map of the paths until the very end of our walk, but fortunately, Drew brought his GPS with him and so we were able to get out of the park without having to walk an insane distance. Here are some pictures from our explorations:

This was in the parking lot!
This was just the beginning of our beautiful walk through the park.

How gorgeous is this?!

Be a handsome one.
Follow the red dashed path.

Drew WOULD cross the "Do Not Cross" tape to get closer to the edge of a cliff. His inability to back away from a dare often works to my advantage. "I dare you to not do the dishes!" Muwahaha!

Be adorable.
Something HUGE was swimming in the river.
Drew shouted, "TURTLES!" and half of them promptly jumped into the water.

"Bee" a good one.

I am rather proud of the composition of this one.

Be a strong one. His upper arms strength baffles me. All I can do is hang pathetically from the bar, and even only that hurts.

My exact words were, "Drew, we need to have kids while we live here so that they can play on this playground."
I love this picture so much.
Here is the whole River Legacy Parks system.

Here is the part that we explored. I think we went roughly from "You are here" to "Restrooms." Our round trip was a little more than three miles.

We wrapped up our day with what I called “Oktoberfeast.” Although Oktoberfest takes place in Munich at the end of September, I herby state that the last Saturday of October occurring before Halloween should be dedicated to eating German inspired foods, thereby called "Oktoberfeast". We had sausage cooked in beer, warm potato salad, sauerkraut, green beans, and a balsamic and basil tomato salad. We sipped on beers as we ate and for dessert we indulged in a creamy pumpkin ice cream.

It was an absolutely perfect day. I told Drew that we had the kind of day I always imagined we would have after we were married . . .  exploring new places together and simply enjoying one another’s company (and eating good food!). We are so blessed!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Part 3: "Don't Forget" Advice for the Bride and Groom

Good morning and happy Friday! Today I am posting the last part of the "Advice for the Bride and Groom" mini-series. The whole premise has been that Drew and I provided a mad-lib-like questionnaire at our wedding reception. One section read:

My advice for a happy marriage is to always ____________, never ____________, and don't forget ____________.

On Wednesday I shared the "always" advice and yesterday you got to read the "never" advice. Today I am going to wrap it up with the "don't forget" advice. I think this section is my favorite. Some guests were silly with their responses and others gave advice that touch my heart and soul. These really are things I don't want to forget. Married couples can fall so easily into a routine that they forget about the little things, and sometimes the big things, that make a relationship special. This is the lengthiest section, so take your time and enjoy it!

My advice for a happy marriage is DON’T FORGET . . . 

  • you’re on the same team and your differences are opportunities to build your marriage and make it stronger, not an excuse to tear it apart <= I think our society's divorce rate is so high because many people have forgotten this.
  • to celebrate all your milestones
  • lunch dates are romantic, too
  • to keep God first <=Most definitely!
  • to tip your waitress <=This came from the same friend who told us to never eat MSG Chinese.
  • to trust and have faith in one another
  • to floss (x2) <=Morning breath is less severe when you floss before bed. Just saying.
  • to dance <=We like to sing, too :)
  • life comes in waves, take each with understanding and love
  • how much I love you <=We love you, too!
  • to keep Angie supplied with chocolate!
  • how much you are loved by friends and family!
  • to always say “I love you” (x4)
  • to always cheer for the GATORS!
  • laugh, love, and dance!
  • love is patient, love is kind <=I love this bit of advice! I feel like this needs to be daily mantra.
  • to properly cite your quotations <= If only I could have made my students understand this!
  • to do the dishes
  • to have fun and enjoy yourselves and everything and everyone that surrounds you
  • to bring a towel <=everywhere? all the time?
  • cheer for UF over everyone else <=Go Gators!
  • what today feels like
  • to cheer for UF over AU and A&M <=Go Gators!
  • to flush
  • to visit your cousins in Philly (free rooms…)
  • some things really are meant to be private . . . bathroom = ALWAYS!
  • you two are meant for each other (x2)
  • to say “good morning, I love you” each day
  • to always appreciate each other
  • to kiss and forgive
  • how much you love your spouse
  • love is not a high or low feeling – it is what you do
  • God united you, loves both of you, and loves you together!
    <=Such a sweet reminder
  • birthdays (x2)
  • to be thoughtful, kind, considerate, and prayerful
  • children absorb every single thing you do and everything you say, so make it all what you want them to be
  • to take it one day at a time
  • to turn on the baby making factory! <=This one cracks me up!
  • know you could have done A LOT worse!
  • to never let the sun set on an argument (making up is half the fun!)
  • to pray!
  • the love that brought you together
  • to keep learning
  • to “show” I love you instead of just saying it
  • to brush your teeth
  • she is always right
  • crying is blackmail <= I was slightly offended by this one until I remembered that the words, "remember that time you made me cry?" have actually come out of my mouth before.
  • Sunday = Church, then sports
  • ask for what you want
  • yes and no are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question
  • if something can be interpreted two ways and one of those ways makes you sad or angry, pay attention to the other one <=Great advice from a seasoned married man. We need to take the positive approach when communicating with our spouses.
  • to visit me all the time
  • call me often!
  • to give each other a kiss hello, goodbye, and goodnight
  • God set you both up for a reason
  • cherish every “I love you”
  • to pray together everyday (x2)
  • take in every moment
  • cherish each other
  • we are always there for you <=We are blessed with amazing family and friends.
  • kiss each other a lot, especially when you’re stressed
  • to say “I’m sorry”

What did our guests forget to remind us to not forget?

To summarize the three posts in this short series: Our friends really want Drew and I to love each other, kiss a lot, take care of our oral hygiene, dance, and profess undying loyalty to the Florida Gators. How special that we have these thoughts from the most important people in our lives to cherish throughout our married life, to help us remember our wedding day, and to share with our future children and grandchildren. I can't think of a better gift we could have received!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Part 2: "Never" Advice for the Bride and Groom

Never tell your husband he is bad at taking pictures with you.
It doesn't help.
And it makes him feel sad.

Yesterday I began sharing some of the advice that Drew and I were given on our wedding day. The "always" advice was very sweet and fairly tame. Now onto the "never" advice! Many of these things my husband and I would never do anyway, but I noticed that these little tidbits are especially important because the things we have been reminded to never do or say are the things that come most naturally to us; this is where we have the most work to do to fight against our instincts and improve ourselves. As you read through the list, remember that the word "never" goes before each piece of advice. If you forget that, it starts to sound a bit strange!

My advice for a happy marriage is to NEVER . . . 

  • fight unless it’s important
  • spend too much time apart <= We have had enough of that, already!
  • eat MSG Chinese food
  • poop your pants <=At least not until we hit 100 years old.
  • kick dogs or puppies
  • storm out – stay and talk it through
  • stop dancing
  • confuse "your" and "you’re," especially if Angie is watching <=Amen!
  • eat the last piece of cake in the house unless you’re Angie <=Drew will cut sweets in half over and over again until I give in and finish off the last bite. :)
  • poo with the door open <= gross
  • go to bed angry (x10)
  • give up
  • hold grudges (x3)
  • hold anything back (x2)
  • stop loving
  • boil chicken after midnight <=????
  • domestically abuse each other <= seems like solid advice
  • bottle things up (get it all out!)
  • nit pick <=This is one of my biggest weaknesses.
  • force the other to change
  • put yourself first (x2)
  • put each other down in front of others <=I can't even say how many times I have read or heard this advice!
  • say “never”
  • say “no” to the other’s dreams <= More importantly, encourage those dreams!
  • lie
  • make housework a competition
  • criticize each other out loud <= I need to work on this one, too.
  • say anything you’ll regret later
  • have a better friend than each other <= BFFL!
  • stop listening
  • stop celebrating
  • not call to tell her you’ll be late
  • be sarcastic to each other <=EPIC fail on this one. We speak sarcasm fluently.
  • cause your spouse to not trust you
  • cheat
  • root for the ‘Noles <= NEVER!! Unless they are playing someone I dislike more. Like Duke.
  • fight over money <= We need to have some before we can fight over it, lol.
  • do whatever you want when she says, “do whatever you want”
  • squeeze the toothpaste from the middle <=RIGHT?! WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS?!
  • take a small moment for granted
  • compare and get snarky
  • take life for granted
  • take the other for granted

Tomorrow you'll get to see the "don't forget" advice, which is full of fun!

What other "never" advice do you have for us?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Part 1: "Always" Advice for the Bride and Groom

For Drew and me, planning for our wedding day was all about us (duh?). No rules to follow or standards to meet. Throughout the months of preparation I read a lot of articles explaining the etiquette surrounding various aspects of a wedding, and then I decided that most of the rules were silly or stress-inducing and that Drew and I would be better off doing things however we felt was best (live on the wild side!). Pinterest and every other bridal magazine would have you believe that do-it-yourself-all-the-way-country-chic is the way to go for weddings, and while it is a beautiful theme, it wasn’t for us. We did do a lot ourselves, because it was important to us that our guests got to see our personality as a couple through the little details of our wedding, not so that the reception looked as though it popped out of The Knot (and we saved a lot of money that way, too).

There is nothing more fun than celebrating milestone life moments with the people you love the most. And as much as the day was about the new Mr. & Mrs. Smith, it was also about the many people in our lives who helped us make it to the wedding day.

We wanted to give our special guests a chance to show off their personalities in the midst of being bombarded by ours, so we put a questionnaire on the back of everyone’s dinner menu:

We recently read and LAUGHED our way through each card. We are going to enjoy looking these over for many years to come. It's amazing how well some of our family and friends know us and how bold some of them were with their responses! The “advice for the bride and groom” section was quite entertaining, especially when we had cards from married couples; I have to wonder if some of them collaborated on filling in the cards! 

For example: 
(Husband) Always dance together, never remind your spouse you are right, and don’t forget you really are . . . just pretend for argument's sake.
(Wife) Always remind him you’re right! Never let him know you’re reminding him! And don’t forget making up is sometimes worth the fight!

And here are a few clever favorites:
Always have fun, never sweat the small stuff, and don’t forget it’s all small stuff.
Always go out (on dates), never walk out, and don’t forget to make out. 
Always kiss, kiss, and kiss some more, never stop kissing, and don’t forget to kiss and make me lots of nieces and nephews!

This advice is too good to be kept to ourselves so I am here to share it. Instead of typing out each card like those above, I am going to compile each of the three parts to make life easier for all of us. As you’ll see, some of the advice is serious and some of it is goofy (which may or may not have been alcohol-induced). Here are some of the shiniest gems from the “always” section that were appropriate enough to share:

My advice for a happy marriage is to ALWAYS . . .
  • say, "good morning" and, "goodnight" to each other
  • remember you’re in it for the long haul
  • talk to each other (x3)
  • laugh (x2)
  • think before you yell . . . and compromise
  • treat yourselves
  • keep God first (x2)
  • go to church
  • hug
  • find something in each fight for both to improve on
  • make sure to visit Sarah in Kenya
  • remember why and when you fell in love
  • dance (like no one’s watching)
  • plan for the unexpected
  • be honest (x2)
  • smile (x3)
  • listen and be forgiving
  • fight after you’ve eaten <= Why?
  • say “I love you” (x3)
  • live each day better than the last
  • love each other for who you are
  • love each other (x2)
  • put the other before your wishes
  • hold hands, commit to God, and forgive
  • ask God for “spiritual eyes” to see each other truly
  • say “thank you”
  • forgive
  • talk through a disagreement
  • say “yes dear” (x2)
  • respect one another and compromise
  • make time for one another
  • see the best in each other!
  • kiss and make up
  • spend time together
  • be honest and loving
  • assume she’s right <=obviously
  • stay positive
  • pray together
  • try to attend Gator games!
  • listen to the wife
  • say “I love you” with phone calls
  • ask the other about their day
  • say “I love you” as much as you can
  • have fun
  • make notes for each other
  • kiss each other
  • remember the wonderful things the other does <= We were just talking about this last night. After only four months, we already know how important this is.

Everyone seemed to give rather sweet and touching advice in the "always" section. Tomorrow I will have the "Never" advice for you, which gets goofier, I promise. :)

Do you have any "always" advice for newlyweds?