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Filtering by Tag: Marriage

Better than A Dozen Roses

alec vanderboom

Last Wednesday sucked! I don't know what makes some days worse than others as a Stay-at-Home Mother, but last Wednesday was a for me low point. I feel into cussing. Yes, I'm the Carmelite who cusses. Better yet, the Home-schooling Carmelite mother who cusses. With chagrin I realized that I've protected my children from the horrors of public school only so that they could learn directly from their dear Mother's lips the wonderful phrases of "I'm so pissed off at you!" and "this is f***ing hard!"


Just so no one is shocked at my poor behavior come Judgement Day.

By the grace of God, I get myself collected enough to decide that cheap pizzas and a cheap DVD at Target could create an impromptu "Movie Night" in order to hold things together until my husband comes home at 7 PM. I mean, this took all of my brain power. This was an equally heroic task to writing my senior thesis.

When my husband came home the pizzas were baked. The kids were happily watched "Cats and Dogs." We took the teething baby for a long walk around the neighborhood and talked in peace. I cried when I chatted about my day. We came to the conclusion that life is just hard for me right now. This pregnancy is still in a hard, early stage. Home-schooling under new state regulations is unsettling. It stinks to have no friends in a new town and to suddenly lose my husband to a commuter train for an extra 5 hours a day. In the end, I decided that I basically need to just gut through the next few weeks and trust that things will get better soon.

After our walk, I crawled into bed at 8:10 PM, exhausted.

Some time later my husband crawled into bed next to me and whispered "I called in sick tomorrow."

"What?" I said, instantly awake.

You have to understand, my husband never, ever misses work. Jon has stepped over my puking body racked with the stomach flu to get to work on time. The man even conscientiously made plans to return to work on his cellphone from a Children's Hospital NICU room as soon as we discovered that Baby Tessy's emergency heart surgery was delayed for 12 hours.

"I told them I wasn't coming into work on Thursday," Jon said. "You seem like you need me more at home tomorrow."

It was a gift better than a dozen roses.

Jon stayed home from work on Thursday. I got to go to Mass. I got to go to Confession. I had a normal day at home-schooling with my husband backing me up every time I ran into discipline trouble. We're apart for 14 hours a day during the workweek, but I don't feel like I'm doing this job alone anymore.

I love being married!

Our Engagement Story

alec vanderboom

For Betty.

I met my husband in Madison, Wisconsin during my final semester of law school in January, 2000. Since I knew I was heading out of town, I classified our relationship as "fun" and "short term" from the start. My husband himself was waiting start graduate school in Upstate New York in the Fall. Since Jon was leaving Madison as well, I made my first job decision completely independent of him. I choose a new job 500 miles away.

Then came my graduation in May.

I didn't want to leave my boyfriend.

So I paid $2,500 in late fees to take the Illinois Bar in July (instead of studying for practically free in my native West Virginia) just so I'd have an excuse to stick Madison for the summer.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye in August.

Then my boyfriend helped me find a rental home at my new job in Ohio, tied my futon on his red Jeep, and moved me in. He even left me his beloved dog, Sarah, for my protection because he didn't completely trust my new neighborhood.

I remember Sarah and I both pressing our nose against the glass door of my new house, watching Jon drive away in his new red Jeep, off to start his first week of graduate school ten hours away. We'd never, ever discussed our future together and as far as I knew, Jon was still a completely commitment phobic boy who shopped at Urban Outfitter. "At least I know he's coming back," I thought rubbing Sarah's tummy. "He left his dog with me."

Five days later, Jon came down for a weekend visit. I cooked him an enormous eggplant boat dinner. He was hours late from traffic and the egg plant got all burnt and rubbery. After dinner we were kissing when Jon suddenly shot up and said "I'm going to get you that lock down for your garage." Oddest non sequitur I've ever encountered. He was insistent, "No this is REALLY going to bother me. I won't be able to sleep tonight unless that task is done. I'm going out to Kroger to get you one right now."

My boyfriend left for ONE HOUR. I had no idea where he went because the grocery store (Kroger's) was right up my street. "He must have gotten lost," I thought back in the era before easy cell-phone connections.

In boredom, I moved into my living room and started reading a new collection of short stories. In my story, a girlfriend got a surprise proposal-- "that's so unrealistic," I murmurred. Every girl must have some idea that her boy is at least thinking about marriage.

More than one hour later, Jon comes in breathless into my living room. " Did you get lost," I asked?

"No I got an Orange Soda, and Your Lock" he called as he rushed into my bathroom. "He's acting so weird," I thought and went back to my book.

The next thing I knew, Jon was on one knee saying "Will you marry me?" with a bubble gum ring in his hand.

I said YES.

And we kissed.

And then Jon told me how he'd been thinking about getting me a ring during all the ten hour trip to my house but hadn't seen anything on the road. In desperation he fled my house but he still couldn't find anything late at night in a strange, new town. Just as he was about to return to my house empty handed, he saw "a choir of angels singing" over a bubble gum ring machine at Krogers. He spent 2 dollars in Kroger's trying to find just exactly the right plastic ring for me.

I keep my plastic bubble gum ring in an honored place in my jewelery box.

"Stealing" Money from My Husband's Paycheck

alec vanderboom

When Jon and I were newlyweds, we both worked. In our joint checkbook register, we titled the two regular deposits each month as "Jon's paycheck" and "Abby's paycheck." After I became a stay-at-home Mom, it was very hard to break down the label of "Jon's paycheck" in my mind.

For example, here is a stupid example of how sin begets sin. Whenever Jon had to "sacrifice" something fun for the benefit of our new babies, I used to do the child support calculation that I still had memorized in my head from my old work of advising divorcing clients. "How sad," I'd think. "The kids and I take 100% of Jon's paycheck. If he'd divorce me he'd only have to pay X amount to his family each month and he'd get to pocket the rest." (Because that's the unformed spiritual mess I was in my late twenties. Beer, travel, and ski pass money were still more exciting expenses than our new fixed expenses of laundry soap and teething crackers.)

By the time I officially checked "retired" on all three of my State Attorney license agreements, I no longer felt guilty about having "our" single paycheck pay for my contact lenses, or my dentist bills, or my winter coat.

However, I still felt really, really guilty about "stealing" money from my husband's paycheck to pay for my private student loans. For our ten year marriage, that cost has floated between $250 to $300. I've constantly been tempted to get quick fixes to take care of "my" debt.

Over time, God has really healed my heart on this issue. Our God is an awesome God. He can do anything. He could have sent a long-lost uncle to pay off my entire student loan debt the moment I decided to follow his call into the land of stay-at-home motherhood. But he chose something more beautiful!

Month by month, my husband has been the one who has happily paid the price the stupid financial mistakes I made before our marriage. (And believe me, those pricey, not-really-needed, private loans WERE a mistake). I went from feeling defensive and embarrassed, to feeling honored.

Every day, my husband tells me that he's so happy that I'm a stay-at-home wife. Then each month, he underlines those words with action. He cheerfully mails a hefty portion of "our" paycheck to "our" student loans.

I affectionately call Jon, "my starter husband for Jesus." Jon is preparing my heart on earth for a spiritual marriage to Jesus in heaven.

What I've learned from coming into my sacramental marriage deeply in debt-
emotional debt,
spiritual debt, &
financial debt-

is that a loving spouse, just like Jesus, will happily pay the price for all the mistakes that I made before we met.

Our old student loans are small potatoes next to the current reality of a beautiful marriage and a happy family life.

I've got the financial balance sheet to prove it.

Real Love Stories

alec vanderboom

Miss Betty Beguiles is back online (HURRAH!) and she's got the cutest conversation going on her website while she unpacks her house. Stop by and leave a comment.

Her basic question: Was it love at first sight? How did you know he was the one?

Here's My Story:

At age 25, I broke down in tears over my sorry dating life in the middle of a tour of Notre Dame in Paris. I said my first Hail Mary (I was Protestant at the time) from a printed guidebook I picked up there in English. I told Jesus "Okay, I'm ready to date your way."

Nine days later I was back in the States having a Saturday night out on the town. My husband saw me from across a crowded bar and he fell in love at first sight.

Our first conversation that night was unusually easy. I didn't know that he'd be my husband, but I knew that I felt unusually comfortable talking to a stranger. I gave him my phone number--something I'd NEVER done to a strange boy before.

My husband was worried about freaking me out with his intensity, so we had a series of weird (to me) non-date meetings--walking his dog in the snow, talking in a coffee shop, etc.

Three weeks after we met it was Valentines Day. My husband showed up to attend Church with me. He left me a special Valentine message based on the movie "Mission Impossible." We were supposed to meet on a bridge overlooking our graduate school at 10 PM.

I went to the wrong bridge!

My husband had given up hope that I was coming. "I guess she doesn't like me," he thought. Just then, I showed up at the other side of the right bridge (in the middle of a snowstorm) carrying a red carnation.

When my husband saw the flower in my hand he said "I guess she does like me!"

Almost ten years into a sacramental Catholic marriage, I still do!

Heaven Touching Earth

alec vanderboom

I wrote about the pain of losing my maternal grandfather, George Gableman, the last solid Christian in my family tree here. At his funeral service, I laid my head down on his casket and said "My friend, you have gone and left me here all alone."

I wanted to share with you the Joy that comes after the tears that I shed during the night.

From 2010-10-09

If you click on the picture located above, you can hear 30 seconds of Heaven touching Earth.

My maternal grandfather, George Gableman, spent almost 50 years wearing a red robe for this choir, the Fairlington United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia (a suburb of Washington D.C.) After his death, my Mom told the choir director that she'd like to donate a new piece of music to the choir in honor of my grandfather.

Everyone expected the choir director to chose something typical like "Go Tell It On the Mountain."

Instead . . .

the choir director chose Schubert's Mass in G which she preformed with 90 voices and a four piece orchastra, all fellow members of the congregation to play on All Saint's Day Vigil.

I heard about the selection and started dancing around for pure joy in my bedroom.
The choir director chose Catholic Schubert, the composure who adored the Blessed Mother, and made sure that selections of the MASS got played in my grandfather's Protestant Church in honor of his memory. "The Catholic Mass" is never played in a United Methodist Church, and I took this selection of music to be a special gift of my grandpa to me.

The music was unbelievably beautiful. I drank it all in. My grandfather was an ordinary guy, who worked a boring government job. The only remarkable thing in his life was his great love for my grandmother and his fidelity to his little Methodist Church. My grandfather made sure that I was baptized during my parent's rebellion from the church. (He was responsible for baptizing a Secular Carmelite!) Last Sunday, it felt like God was sending down angels to dance in celebration of the extraordinary grace that comes from a hidden, humble life spent in dedication to the Sacrament of Marriage.

(Another funny side note: The church bulletin printed out the Latin words of the Mass (The Kyrie, the Agnus Dei etc.) along with their English translation. I sat next to my father during the church service. I had the joy of having my Dad poke me in the ribs saying "Did you see that "Lord Have Mercy On Me"? That line of text is so deep, isn't it?" I kept trying to keep a straight face and so "Oh yes, very deep" without rolling my eyes and saying "Dad, I'm a Catholic. I know the English translation to the Kyrie because I sing it every single Sunday." Each time my Dad poked me with excitement, I kept praying 'God make him a Catholic! He's so close right now!")

The Heart is What Makes a Ballerina a Ballerina, not Her Leotard.

alec vanderboom

At 4:50 PM yesterday, I realized that I lost Hannah’s ballet leotard.

We live in Washington D.C., a city renowned for it’s horrid traffic congestion. Every weekday, men and women sit in traffic for an average of four hours a day. From 8 AM to 10 AM, and 5 PM to 7 PM all the major highways and popular “back road” passes shut down.

This problem is especially acute for those of us who live in Maryland. Eighty-five percent of Maryland's state population lives along one sixty mile stretch of highway that leads from Baltimore to Washington D.C. Even without a daily commute, I still run my life around rush hour traffic. To cope, I use a multiplier of “six” to estimate potential traffic delays. If a kid has a doctor’s appointment at 8:30 AM or a ballet lesson at 6 PM, I estimate that it will take me six times longer to get there during rush hour.

All of this background explains why 4:50 PM, I had exactly 36 minutes to find Hannah's leotard, dress her in the leotard and black ballet tights, pin her hair in a secure bun, find her missing black ballet shoes, and buckle her seat belt, (along with her two younger siblings properly outfitted in their own winter coats, scarves and mittens) in order to make it on time for a ballet lesson at six o'clock.

The incomparable Ms. Meetz, Hannah's ballet teacher, does insist that her students show proper respect by being on time, properly dressed & stretched and with hair that is properly secured and hazard free.

So at 4:40 PM when for the 1500 time on a Monday when Hannah begs, “Can I please put on my leotard? Is it time yet for baaaaa-lllll-eeett!”

I look up from my email to the computer clock and realized: “Wow, we are actually in danger of running late today.”

“It’s time! Go find your leotard and your ballet shoes.” I delegate this simple job to the almost grown-up five year old of the house while I start to finding missing socks for the non-verbal and less-obedient members of Benjamin clan.

‘I can’t find my leotard!’ comes a familiar call five seconds later.

“It’s in the Hall closet, in a white Target bag,” I call back.

Without a moment of pause, Hannah says, “I looked in the Hall closet. I can’t find it.”

“I know I put it in there while I cleaned up for the party today. Look again.” I answer firmly.

“Mom. I can’t. PLEASE!” The dramatic please takes up all 800 square feet of our small apartment.

I join my daughter at the Hall closet. The white plastic Target bag containing the hot pink ballet leotard and the separate white plastic Payless bag containing a pair of size 13 black ballet shoes and 2 extra pair of black ballet tights are both missing.

At noon, five hours before, both bags were sitting on the pile of shoes by the front door. They had gotten stashed somewhere in the forty minutes of clean-up time before our Candle mass party at 2 PM.

For the next twenty minutes Hannah and I searched and prayed fervently to St. Jude. I have absolutely no memory of where I moved Hannah's ballet things.

We search in the closet we search in the kitchen. We search in the laundry baskets; we search in the “catch all” dining room hutch. I search her dresser drawers, I search her clothes closet. We eventually find the Payless bag which contained two pairs of tights hanging up on a hanger under a winter coat, and the ballet shoes wrapped in a box hidden under 15 pairs of unused summer shoes in the bottom of the Hall closet. Rather than helping, these finds convince me that my mental state during the frantic clean up was a bit disordered. I have no idea where I could have easily stashed a beloved hot pink leotard in the five minutes before guests arrive.

The Lord gave me my beloved husband for many reasons, not the least because I’m, in my own family’s words “not a good looker.”

Here’s how my husband approaches something that is mislaid. “Hmmm. This is an interesting puzzle. I wonder where the item would logically be?” With the ease of someone completing a Sunday cross-word puzzle he starts at a logical corner and easily moves out in concentric circles. He has the calm expression while he searches as someone who completes astrophysics problems for fun.

Here’s I how I look for something. “I can’t believe it’s gone. I can’t believe it’s GONE! I spent ninety minutes at Payless today tracking down the elusive size 13 ballet shoes with three kids in tow. And last Monday, I spent 120 minutes at Target tracking down the elusive size 6X leotard with three kids in tow. Now it’s only lesson two, and we’ve already lost all the pieces of the ballet costume. AHHH!”

I’m sure every mother can relate to these moments.

Here’s where I’m unique. I have a social anxiety disorder. It never occurs me to that it is permissible to send your kid to ballet lessons without her ballet leotard.

In my mind, good mothers are responsible, competent and respectful. Good mothers have kids who show up on time for lessons, with their hair pinned back, dressed as the instructor requested and ready to jointly experience the Art of Dance.

Hannah's love for dance class is so intense, she's turned her ballet teacher, Ms. Meetz, into a beloved, strict aunt. I trembled at the thought of “disrespecting” Ms. Meetz's class with sloppy sweatpants. In my disordered, socially anxious mind, a lost leotard is equal to blowing a raspberry in Ms. Meetz’s face.

When I get anxious, my thoughts start to spiral and I get tempted to slide into sin. “This is an impossible job, mothering.” I started to say in a well-worn interior monologue. “Who can expect me to entertain, cook dinner and keep on top of the ballet costume. . . “

When I start the inner-pity party it’s ease to lose my temper and start yelling at whoever is currently preventing my “very important work” at the moment. Sometimes that’s my husband, Sometimes that’s one of my children, Sometimes that’s myself. The yelling fest that follows is always, always awful.

Yesterday, I had this sharp sticking point of truth. Yesterday, was the feast day of my Beloved Spiritual Mother.

Even in my distracted, anxious state, I knew that Truth. You can’t host a beautiful Candle mass party for nine young children, and then turn around fifty minutes and start yelling at your own children. That yelling fest is going to be the part that sticks in their minds, not the lovely blue tulle party favors.

“You can’t yell right now,” I warned myself in the second person. “That is going to undo all the work you did today on that party for Mommy Mary.”

So I kept my temper.

I cried anxious tears. I rumbled through a lot of carefully packed items. I urgently retold the same thing to Hannah “I’ve got no idea where you ballet leotard is honey. Only St. Jude knows. We’re going to have to pray to him to help us.”

I knew that St. Jude knew where I’d stashed the missing leotard. I also knew that I wasn’t finding the leotard.

Slowly it downed on me that maybe I wasn’t supposed to find it. Maybe the best way to honor my Blessed Mother wasn’t by being “perfect” or having the Saints help make up my mistakes, but by putting Hannah in some less than fantastic clothes and having her attend ballet lessons anyway.

I found Hannah’s Gap skirt that looked like a ballet uniform and her double sleeved pink & grey cotton shirt with the giant red heart embroidered on it. I put it on the bed as an alternative.

Several more moments passed. I kept looking, I didn’t find anything. (I’m such a bad “looker,” I think Hannah was the one who found her own missing ballet tights.).

At 5:15, I admitted defeat. I got Hannah’s long hair pinned up in a secure bun. Hannah, of course, after watching her Mother freak out inside Hall closets for twenty-five minutes was in panicked state herself.

“I can’t go to ballet class without my leotard!" she whined. "It’s my favorite one!!!!”

“I know, honey,” I said with more gentleness. “I lost your leotard. My job, however, is also to get your hair pinned up and get you to dance class one time. We don’t want to be late for class on top of everything.”

A friend called to check in for a later chat. It felt good to hear her voice because on top of everything else, on Monday I’d started my period. This event marks the ninth month of a straight “no” to our “please let us have another baby” prayers during our nightly rosary. On those days I’m so tender now. I took the loss of a leotard as a mental “See I can’t handle the three children I currently have well, so that’s why God isn’t giving me a fourth.” I haven’t even connected my fragile mood with my period until I heard the reassuring warmth of my friends voice. (Thank you Meredith!)

I’d had gotten all three kids into their seatbelts in the back of our PT Cruiser at 5:25 PM, when my husband showed up on his bike. (My husband bikes to work to allow me to have our one car. He’s a gem).

“I got home as I could. Can you take out Maria and Alex while I go look?” he said.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to look.” I said. “She’s already in the car. I’ve got to get going soon because of rush hour traffic.”

My husband took the chin-strap off his bike helmet and said seriously, “What is she going to wear! Let me look.”

I realized that my two desperate requests for advice and joint prayers to St. Jude during my desperate hunt for the leotard have convinced my beloved spouse that this is an emergency equal to Alex’s bloody, needed three stitches lip. (Actually, Jon was more calm when I reported that I was off to Urgent Care with a bleeding Alex than he was last night with the news that Hannah would be the only one out of fourteen ballerinas without a leotard. He didn’t rush home early from work on the “our boy needed three stitches” day.)

Now that my spouse was convinced this was a tragedy, there was nothing to do but check my “this won’t be so bad as long as we’re not late” plan and follow him into the house. I left Hannah in her car seat and carried out Maria and Alex. I stayed in the house, thinking that I could help Jon look. Since I’m not a good looker, my help consistently mainly of holding a crying from a sore tooth Maria. I sat on a chair and rocked the sad, sad baby. I watched the digital numbers change on the electric clock.

“Jon, it’s already 5:35.”

“I’m going to find it. Just give me a moment,” he called from deep in our bedroom closets.

I rocked sad Maria back and forth. I watched the numbers change from 5:39 to 5:42. “Don’t say anything” I commanded my agitated lips.

Finally, at 5:43 Jon came to my chair and sad “I can’t find it.”

“I need to go now because of traffic. Pull the Lasagna out of the over when the timer goes off. We’re going to be fine,” I asserted firmly as I handed a doubtful husband my sleepy baby Maria.

When I got to the car, poor Hannah was a crying mess. “Why did you leave me out here for so long! Where is my leotard.”

“We didn’t find it, honey. I’m sorry.” I gave her a little hug and got her seatbelt refastened.

This was not the answer my five year old wanted to hear. “I can’t go to ballet without my leotard. It’s my favorite. I can’t go!”

“Hannah,” I said meeting her gaze. “We can stay home. You can do a make-up class. But think about how sad your teacher will be today without you. You can do the class without the leotard. The heart is what makes a ballerina a ballerina, not her leotard.”

Taking her mystified look as permission, I got myself strapped into the front seat and shifted into reverse.

“What are you talking about the heart of the ballerina, Mom?” Hannah asked through gulps of air.

“Your heart is what makes you a ballerina. Not your costume.” I said with Holy Spirit confidence.

Driving in awful traffic across two major highways, I had the pleasure of telling my oldest about my role as Peasblossum in Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream. I was only nine, but a real costume designer from New York City made my fairy costume. I had a big speech which opened the whole Enchanted Forest scene. I got to dance around with these gorgeous frothy sea green wings. My wings dropped off my arms and danced around during my speech.

During one performance, I forgot my wings in the green room. I was ready to turn back to get my needed wings, when Oberon (an adult) caught me. “You don’t have time to go back. Your cue is coming.”

“I need my wings. I can’t do my opening speech without them!” I pleaded.

“You’re Peasblossum, with or without your wings” Oberon insisted.

I went on stage and felt naked, without my wings,” I told Hannah in the car. “I found out that people believed in the Enchanted forest because of me—not my fabulous designed in New York City costume.”

“I just shared with Hannah the subject of my college admission essay,” I thought. I also remembered that kind Oberon died of complications from AIDS about six years after our meaningful conversation. I was in the middle of a prayer for his soul when Hannah’s voice interrupted my thoughts.

“Mommy, what does 5 5 5 mean.” Asked Hannah reading the dashboard clock. “Do my lessons start at 5 5 5? Are we going to be late????”

In front of us there was a solid row of red brake lights. We were in the midst of yet another traffic jam.

I covered up the clock with my left hand. “We on God’s time now, Hannah, we’re going to get there on time.” In my mind, I refused to mentally review how many times I had checked the clock earlier inside our house. “It’s important to listen to your husband” I repeated calmly to myself. “God will take care of it.”

We got lost. Hannah’s ballet class takes place in the posh dance room of a posh new middle school in a brand new, almost looks fake subdivision. All of the streets in the subdivision look exactly the same. I ended up on some dead-end street with no middle school in sight.

“We’re on God’s time. It’s Mary’s Day.” I kept reassuring myself as I drove lost through the suburb.

We did make it. We were the last student who slipped inside the door as Ms. Meetz started to close it at 6:01. I’d frantically changed Hannah from street shoes into ballet shoes immediately outside the door.

“Oh you forgot her shirt” a grandmother called in a thick Spanish accent. “Do you want me to open this door?”

I looked at her in confusion. “You forgot to change her out of her tee shirt. My mom just wanted to remind you,” a younger mom said with clearer and more confident English.

“She’s only wearing a tee-shirt,"I sighed. "I lost Hannah’s leotard today. It’s missing. That’s why we are late.”

The two ladies nodded sympathetically. “Oh yes. It’s so hard.” Their daughter (and granddaughter) was named Iris. We had a friendly chat about five year olds and ballet lessons and a necessary love of pink while looking through the windows of the dance studio.

Because my husband had kindly come home to watch Alex and Maria, I had an unusual amount of time to chat and to gaze for a long time through a door window at Hannah. She’s so big. She commands that room with such confidence. All the former sadness and panic were gone.

Afterwards I walked through the middle school hallway and gazed curiously at the Art Displays.

At about 5:45 PM, as clear as day the voice of my former therapist came into my head. “It’s not a crime to lose a ballet leotard.”

Giving birth to my second newborn in eighteen months, and the no job, no health insurance, and parental disapproval that accompanied this second birth, triggered my first experience with panic attacks in January 2005. While I termed everything in my life "a mess," there was one particular thing that lead to repeated panic attacks. I’d misplaced Alex’s social security card in the hazy post-partum period after his birth in October 2004. Our urgent need for a tax refund in early January of 2005, meant that I faced the unpleasant task of appearing in person at the Social Security Office in Madison, Wisconsin in order to request a duplicate card. My mind shut-down in fear. I had heart palpitations when I thought about facing a United States government employee and having to admit that I'd lost such an important, official document as my son's Social Security Card.

I needed help. I found a therapist who was so kind and gentle with me. I think we spent a full one hour session on this single issue. She said “I understand that you’ve got a sensitivity to authority figures in your life, and this unknown stranger in the Social Security office stands for the full authority of the United States Government in your mind, however, it’s only a lost card, it’s not a crime.”

Me, the girl who aced three years of Law School Exams, looked at her with skepticism.

“Oh, it’s a crime.” I responded.

My therapist looked at me with raised eyebrows.

“It’s sort of like a crime,” I asserted.

My therapist calmly replied “It’s not a crime.”

“It’s bad. I'm irresponsible. I lost an official piece of mail from the United States Government that I was supposed to safeguard for my minor child.” I said.

“A lost card social security card is unfortunate. It might even cause this unknown government agent to have to do a lot of extra work. It might be a big hassle to go wait for three hours in the Social Security Office waiting room with a newborn. However, it’s not a crime!"

"Abby, if you show up and say that you lost Alex’s Social Security Card they are not going to lock you in jail. You’ve got to start telling your panicked mind: THIS IS NOT A CRIME!”

“This is not a crime,” is the mantra we used through three months of therapy to get my mind out of the frequent anxiety/panic attacks as a new mother and back into more normal functioning mindset.

When a gentle voice said: “It’s not a crime” in my mind at 6:40 PM in the middle of Lakeland Middle School it was a mental short hand for all kinds of reassuring thoughts and feelings.

I realized in that hallway that I’d blown this leotard thing all out of proportion.

I'd let my disordered thinking see an emergency when there wasn't one in front of me. Moreover, on their, Hannah and Jon probably wouldn't have blinked at the "no leotard for ballet class thing." They are both very balanced, calm individuals. Yet because they loved me, my daughter and my husband had followed me on this trail of anxiety and panic. I’d caused Jon to leave work early. I’d caused Hannah to cry and get anxious.

The Mom is the emotional center for the family. I might never heal this social anxiety and my great fear of upsetting authority figures. That weakness already has a negative impact on my family.

Yet at the same moment that I realized that sad thought, I also had this happy one.

I didn’t yell.

I didn’t yell.

I had a panic attack on the high range of a seven or eight and yet I didn’t yell. I didn’t fall into sin.

By me not yelling, Jon and Hannah could recover fairly easily and painlessly. Their night wasn’t “ruined” due to their own hurt and black responsive mood. Hannah was happily dancing out her heart now and Jon was tending to a teething baby and rescuing almost burnt lasagna.


I might never be able to be a) the Competent Mom who doesn’t misplace hot pink leotards or the Social Security Cards of newborns, or b) the laid-back Mom who rolls with the punches.

I might always be the Mom who floats between slightly frazzled and overwhelming frazzled. Yet I could model resilience. I could model how to have an amazing “I got to be line leader even without my leotard” for my daughter or a “we can work together under an urgent traffic deadline” for my husband.

A gentle, yet still imperfect Mom is a good goal for me.

I love feast days in the Catholic Church. I love the minor days, the ones no one notices in the daily rush of Ordinary Time. The liturgical year is filled with mini Ash Wednesdays. Times that stretch us with feast and fasting.

Happy Candle mass Our Lady. I love you

A Sacramental Marriage

alec vanderboom

I married my husband, Jon, on June 2, 2001. We honeymooned for a week in Vancouver, Canada.

During our engagement, I worked as a poverty law attorney. I had to ask for three continuances on my trial dates. The trial dates all concerned divorces.

“This is ironic”, I thought as I carefully typed “Please grant me a continuance on the above captioned matter as the Plaintiff’s Attorney, Ms. Abigail Rupp, is unable to attend the final hearing because she will be on her honeymoon outside of the State of Ohio” three times on my law firm’s letterhead.

I did a lot of divorce work that spring of 2001. “I hope this doesn’t happen to Jon and I someday,” I thought as I watched a woman jump on the back of her soon to be ex-husband and pummel his neck in a court hallway during a break in the divorce proceedings. “Once these angry people had said vows,” I thought. “Probably in a church. Now they were causing a ruckus in a public place. At least neither one is one of my client!” I pushed the uncomfortable comparisons away as a courthouse clerk called a security guard to break-up the melee.

On my last court appearance before my wedding, my favorite Magistrate, who had heard dozens of my Domestic Violence Abuse Restraining Order cases, waved at me from the bench. “I hear you are getting married Ms. Rupp.”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

The Magistrate took off his glasses and punctuated his serious words with jabs at me. “If that new husband of yours ever tries anything funny with you, I mean ANYTHING, you race up here and see me!”

I started to laugh. “Yes, Your Honor. Jon’s a gentleman, your Honor. You don’t need to worry”

“I mean it Ms. Rupp. You don’t know how many young ladies that I’ve had up here," (he jabbed at the witness chair). "Those ladies who cry and say they never saw it coming. Never. Saw. It. Coming!”

“Yes, sir.” I nodded with more seriousness.

I started my marriage with mental images of my former clients. Wives who got beaten with ten-pound electric fans. Wives with husbands who left them at age 40 to date nineteen-year-old girls. Wives whose husbands got on drugs or got into gambling or who committed serious theft. Wives who universally said, “I have no idea how this happened. My husband changed. He wasn’t like this when we dated.”

“That’s not going to happen to Jon and I,” I thought regarding divorce in general. “We’re different.”

I whistled in the dark.

Fast forward to July 2002, when I first told a lawyer friend that I was newly pregnant with baby Hannah. “So your going to have a baby?” she said. “Now you and Jon have to work together for at least 18 years,” she said.

I looked at her with confused eyes.

“Because of the child support and visitation schedule. Even if you split, you can’t really be out of each other lives until the baby turns eighteen” my friend clarified.

“Um, that’s okay,” I said “Because I want to stay married to Jon for eighteen years. More than eighteen years, I hope.”

My friend nodded her head as if to say “You poor sap.”

It’s as if the whole world expected Jon and I to break up one day.

When I got engaged to Jon in September of 2000, I thought I was pretty committed.

“I’m going to stay with him for life, unless he becomes a cocaine addict or a compulsive gambler.”

Those two things seemed pretty remote. They were small loopholes in my overly tidy lawyer mind.

I thought it was pretty big of me to let go of the “I’m automatically out of the marriage if my husband ever crosses the line with adultery” which was the mantra I’d use to mentally reassure myself during every sad Lifetime movie starting at age 13.

“I’m in here for pretty much ever and ever, unless something goes terribly wrong” I told myself during our nine-month engagement. “I’ll give my marriage my best try. Divorce is only an option for rare cases. Still, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.” I thought."There doesn't seem to be any way to predict which marriages go sour at the start of a relationship."

I didn’t know that God had other plans.

I didn’t know that my 6 foot 4 inch guy with his goofy grin happened to hide a giant fishhook in his heart.

God put Jon in my life in order to yank me into the Catholic Church. That “yank” from my comfortable “I’ve got this whole religion thing figured out” into a new reality of the mystical body of Christ led to some major changes.

No contraception.

No missing Sunday Mass.

No divorce.

I first learned about the “No Divorce Rule” from a Catholic Deacon in Rochester, New York. That fishhook had yanked me on a nine-hour drive in February, through dual snowstorms in Cleveland and Erie, to stand blinking in a ‘dispensation marriage interview’ inside a sacristy of a Catholic church.

I went along with the quaint “we need multiple meetings with the prospective bride and groom in person, even though the bride lives nine hours away and has an extremely demanding job” – out of religious tolerance.

My fiancé was Roman Catholic. I was Methodist. (Protestant, a reform branch of the Anglican Church.) Before granting approval for our marriage, his church demanded multiple in person meetings, a pre-cana retreat, verified baptism cards and weekly church attendance. My friendly pastor, listened to our funny “how we met story”, handed us a taped copy of “Men Are From Mars/ Women from Venus” tape and then started to ask if we wanted a unity candle.

Clearly all this Roman Catholic marriage prep was “excessive” and “really, really strange.”

And yet oddly reassuring.

“We make entering into marriage hard because this is it for him,” the Deacon said pointing to Jon. “Once you both have a valid, sacramental marriage, Jon can never remarry. If he does, he can not receive Communion.”

“Wow, a serious no divorce rule,” I thought.

[The “No Divorce Rule” is how I categorized it in my unformed mind. It’s really a “no remarriage because only you get one shot with a valid sacramental marriage” rule.]

That rule gave me comfort. I like the reassurance that if Jon left me at 40 to marry a nineteen year old (as happened to one of the families that I babysat for in middle school) that a priest in a black shirt and white collar would proclaim “NO COMMUNION FOR YOU, go back to your original wife!

I warmed up to the Deacon in spite of the odd, non-heated sacristy and sailed through the rest of the marriage interview. I particularly loved the “This is an odd question, but one we must ask. Did either of you participate in the death or demise of a previous spouse?”

I got shivers of recognition. “That question is in interview because of Mary Queen of Scots” I said in my happy, I love history voice. I explained the royal struggle over her deceitful second husband.

The Deacon was a little taken back.

“Wow this Church is old!” I remember thinking. I had such respect. I realized that this "institution" learned about a troubling aspect of the human heart back in Medieval Europe and now diligently screens new marriage candidates in the 21st century.

Our Deacon ended up being a convert from the Baptist faith. (God had me drive through two snowstorms for a reason!) He was the first one who explained to me the beauty of the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ. He gave me dignity as a Protestant Sister of the Faith, equal in the sacrament of Baptism. The deacon explained the Protestant Reform for the first time not in glowing terms of “healthy reform” to me but in the painful realities of the heart.

“We want Jon to promise to raise his children Catholic because he is being fed at Two Tables. You are fed with the Table of the Word also. You are nourished with the same Holy Scripture. Yet as a Catholic, Jon is nourished with a second Table, the Table of the Eucharist. We want his and your future children to be fed at two tables as well.”

“We are all one family in Christ,” the deacon said. “When Luther and the other Reformers broke away from the Catholic Church it was like a painful divorce in a family. No matter what, we are still related. We are still one.”

The Deacons voice cracked during this statement. “Divorce.” The Church got Divorced just like families got divorced. “It hurts,” I thought. “The church wants all of us divorced Protestants to return home someday."

After this realization, I went along with the various requirements of the Catholic church more cheerfully. I received the most beautiful love letter from my husband during our Saturday Pre-Cana retreat. I helped Jon locate a Catholic priest in the town where we were going to be married.

The Catholic priest in my hometown of West Virginia said he liked “Remote control weddings.” He didn’t like to preside at inter-faith ceremonies. “I just push all the dispensation buttons from far away, like on a remote control.” He did insist on meeting us in person, which required now a 12-hour trip on Jon’s part. Our interview lasted exactly four minutes. Afterwards, the priest took us outside and talked to us about carpenter bees.

“Well, that was odd,” I said. “At least it’s over."

"That’s the last check-mark for the Catholic Church,” Jon responded. We held hands down the priest’s driveway and drove to the florist who designed my prom corsage to pick out blue cornflowers and yellow freesia for my wedding bouquet.

Of course, our wedding day was just the beginning. That “remote control” priest sent in the official paperwork and also slipped a wedding invitation to a happy woman rarely invited to Protestant services, Our Blessed Mother.

Our Lady sat in the back. I didn’t acknowledge her. Our Lady didn't mind. She still gave us some Wedding of Cana wine, an engraved invitation to become her special friend, and gigantic pile of wedding gifts which Jon and I are still unwrapping.

The surprise find in November 2008 was a joint call to become lay Carmelites.

(To understand how rare and precious this gift is you have to realize that there are only 26,000 Lay Carmelite women in the WORLD and 3,000 Lay Carmelite men in the whole wide world! To discover that my husband is a fellow Carmelite and moreover desired to start his novitiate on the same month that I started mine is so rare, it's almost mathematically impossible.)

I’m still unwrapping all our Catholic wedding gifts. I’m still learning that my marriage has cosmic significance. How my faithfulness to my husband, reflects the faithfulness of Christ’s church to Christ. How my little daily acts of sacrifice can heal the whole world.

I’ll never get written up in my Law School Alumni Magazine in my current work as a common wife and homemaker. There are no gold medals for finding lost wallets or fixing frayed buttonholes. There are no silver trophies for my discovery that the dented can shelf at Safeway contains Manning's All Natural Hominy for only 59 cents per can.

There’s only the simple peace that comes from living a steady marriage commitment in a midst of the broken world.

Considering all the heartache that I’ve witnessed and personally experienced, I think that’s more than a fair wage for my daily labor.


alec vanderboom

Every Saturday my husband wakes up at 5:30 AM, takes a shower, grabs his Catechism and heads to a Catholic Men’s Group, called Men of Emmaus, which meets in our Church basement at 7:30 AM.

We only have one car, so Jon needs to either catch the bus or catch a ride. If it’s the bus, Jon has to scramble to find six quarters and walks a half-mile from the bus stop to our Church in the cold. If it’s a ride with his friend Wes, he usually gets treated a free Starbucks coffee.

Bus or car. Sunshine or Sleet. If he’s physically present in Gaithersburg on a Saturday, Jon makes it to the Men of Emmaus Meeting.

Father Francisco warned us at Mass this week, “The people who complain, will always complain.” I’m in the complaining category. While many members of my Women of Prayer Group would adore having their husband’s take an interest in the Catechism, I’ve previously complained “Every Saturday? You really have to go EVERY Saturday?”

“Saturday is supposed to be my Mom’s Day Off!,” I thought fiercely.

The sum total of my “increased” work due to Jon’s weekly meeting happened to be the following: entertaining three kids for an hour, dressing them in church clothes, moving our bed out of living room and back in our/ Mimi’s bedroom, buckling three car seats, and transporting the kids from the car to a church pew in a timely manner before 9:00 AM Mass.

Such a tiny, tiny amount of work to build up the kingdom of God.

Such a tiny, tiny price to pay to have my husband absorb the Catholic Catechism with other men!

Eventually, not through any helpful or cheerful thoughts of my own mind you, it hit me that while we “sacrificed” Jon for 1 1/2 hours on Saturday, he returned to us rested and renewed the whole rest of the weekend.

Soon I actually embraced my “extra” work, telling myself as I struggled to move the floppy IKEA futon mattress back onto my unused IKEA bed frame without further tearing the already broken hand-holds, (we’re a five member family in a 2 bedroom apartment), that my recently widowed friend Theresa & Jon’s co-worker who is still-single-not-by-choice at age 40, would both ADORE having to cover a husband’s usual jobs on a Saturday morning. I did my tasks more cheerfully as a sacrifice for them.

“Offering It Up.”

I thought that was the end of the story.

I didn’t think that I would personally benefit from my husband hanging out regularly in the Church basement with some Catholic men.

Then yesterday, a friend from Virginia emailed me that a porn shop is opening up in Old Town, Alexandria. The new shop with the disgusting shop window display is next door to a toy store, two blocks from a historic waterfront where families eat ice-cream on lazy Saturday mornings, and ten blocks down from a Pauline Bookstore, one of 12 in our whole country, run by the Pauline Sisters, or as I affectionately call them “the librarian nuns.” My friend wanted us to send an email to the Mayor stating our displeasure. She warned us that the First Amendment Issue probably prevents the city from doing anything.

I told my husband this sadly over lunch.

“I’m on it!” he said.

Twelve hours later, Jon forwards me an email from the head of Men of Emmaus. Encouraged by successful efforts by a Catholic men’s group in Pennsylvania, these Maryland men are on it. They want to pick a date to picket and pray. They want to go down early and scout out “parking places.” They want to rally the Catholic Men and Knights of Columbus in the area to join this case.

These men are committed to winning the battle against pornography. They are starting with my friend’s problem neighborhood, fifty minutes away from our parish church.

It is amazing to see these modern Saint Georges fight the dragon.

Ten years ago, I read Larry Flints’ First Amendment Cases with blasé in law school. Back then, I didn’t have a son whose “custody of the eyes” I had to protect. I didn’t really understand the evils that pornography does to marriage, and life, and the dignity of women. I didn’t feel physically ill when I thought of those dear, chaste sisters having to go to work with such evil on shop windows on their street.

“I’m on it!” my husband said.

He’s a Catholic man.

A man who protects his family from both physical and spiritual harm.

I don’t have to worry about my son or my daughters growing up leaderless and adrift in the hostile currents of our present culture.

I’m so honored to be Jon’s wife. You can be sure that I’ll be buckling those three car seats with a little more joy next Saturday morning. Praise to the Lord.

Marking Time

alec vanderboom

Eight years ago, I flew to Sydney to visit an Aussie friend whom I met in college. My August trip celebrated the end of the Bar Exam and the start of my first real job in September. An ocean crossing as the last hurrah of student travel before real life and real responsibility began.

I toured the Olympic Park in Sydney a few weeks before the Summer 2000 games began. I checked out the impressive architecture and took fake photographs as an athlete. I remember the famous Opera House, the kangaroos who lounged on golf courses, and the kolas who seemed to drip from the trees.

That trip also marked the time I had this strange feeling of loneliness for a certain non-serious boyfriend named Jon.

We were in the middle this swimming pool at crazy STA student resort in Queensland, Australia, off the Great Barrier Reef. My friend wanted to know if I'd gotten an email from Jon.

"Yeah, he sends me sweet notes saying that he misses me. I'd forgotten to sign the check for the rental deposit in my new apartment. Jon sent me four emails trying to track me down and tried to call my parents. Then he just left this sweet note saying that he was sorry for all the frantic emails, he decided to just pay the $300 deposit for me to make sure the apartment stays open until I come back."

My friend hopped off her lawn chair and looked me in the eyes. "This is serious. Paying your security deposit. This could be the one."

I remember changing the conversation pretty quickly. Some thoughts are too personal to speak out loud.

That trip to Australia was so meaningful not because of the emails I found in internet cafes, but because of how often I missed Jon. No one traveled as well as him. No one could appreciate art museums and new fangled palm trees. No one listened to my stories in the same way. No one was him.

I called him to picked me up in the airport. Jon sounded a little unsure about coming to pick me up. "Should I just take a cab?" I asked. When I saw him, I felt a little silly. I kissed him with reserve, just in case all those "serious" signs during my trip were only in my imagination.

Jon said that our shy, awkward greeting was not the "camera spins around kiss" that he'd expected. He picked up my heavy backpack. We walked out of the airport without holding hands.

I didn't know that a homemade engagement ring sat in Jon's pocket.

He proposed to me two weeks later.

I watched the Olympics 2004 with my husband, my one year old, and a giant belly which contained Alex. We had just moved to Madison, Wisconsin. We had one TV propped up on a milk crate in our bedroom. We watched the whole two weeks together as a family while Hannah chased our two dogs around our bed.

We could watch the whole event because Jon and I had just quit our jobs. The future we'd carefully charted back when we were single got all smashed up when we converted to Catholicism. The law degree. The adjunct teaching job. All those high career aspirations formed during a painful time in graduate school, none of it seemed to matter when a sweet baby girl with blue eyes entered our lives. If Alex appeared a little unexpectedly nine months later, we were doubly blessed. We got shoved out of our old roles by necessity.

I remember rubbing my belly with great hope.

In February 2006, my husband and I watched the Winter Games on an even older TV set in my grandfather's basement. The business venture which seemed so brilliant in Madison had failed. We'd been living with various relatives for 4 months while Jon searched for work. Jon finally landed a decent job in January.

Yet February was such a bleak time. We owed money to everyone. I couldn't see us moving into our own place until the bills were repaid. That meant months longer of living with a 2 year old and 1 year old in the decaying basement of someone else's house. (Alex ended up getting a minor case lead poisoning from the old, peeling paint.) My husband disliked his new job. Jon missed working from home. He disliked the two hour commute. He disliked being so far away from us each day.

We went from a family which spent every hour together for two years to a family who "lost" their Dad for up to 15 hours a day. I used to get so lonely that I'd wake up at 5:00 AM to walk Jon to the bus station. Standing in the dark with him at the bus stop was the only time we ever got to talk.

In the middle of this miserable feeling of living a life I didn't want, the Olympics were a bright light. Each night we could at least catch some ice-skating and ski jumping together. On a little TV, with the bad lighting and peeling lead paint, the Olympics were a gift. Something to focus on far bigger than ourselves.

In a few days, the 2008 Olympics begin in China. I'll be watching on another old TV set, with rabbit ears, that is currently perched on top of the sweater rack in my kids' closet. I'll be watching the track and field events with three kids, one dog, and one husband.

Today I got to explain to Alex "you've never seen these Summer Games. The last time there were held, you were still in my tummy."

"And you, Miss Maria. You were not even a twinkle in your Daddy's eye!"

I don't know where we'll be in another 4 years. I know I'll no longer be able to watch the games on old TVs with rabbit ears! I hope to be able to share the couch with a few more Benjamin bodies. Even if that doesn't happened, I've been greatly blessed. I didn't know the treat I had in store for me back when I was first missing my "could be serious boyfriend" in Sydney's Olympic Park.

Wedding Anniversary

alec vanderboom

Today is my seventh wedding anniversary! We celebrated by getting a special blessing for our marriage during the 9 AM Daily Mass. Many thanks for Our Lady for sneaking into my sedate Methodist wedding and injecting some true Wedding of Cana Wine.

I daily reap all the blessings of having a sacramental marriage to my loving husband as a result of my one simple act of obedience. During the crazy period of wedding planning, my dream of a joint Catholic/Protestant wedding service suddenly seemed like to much trouble. "Let's just use my minister and get the marriage blessed in the Catholic church afterwards," I suggested after a tiring discussion of how to coordinate Catholic wedding prep plans between Ohio (my home), New York (his home) and West Virginia (the place of our wedding.) "I can't explain why, but I really think it's important now to have the wedding recognized by my church from the start," my nervous groom suggested. (This was a complete flip from the hands-off, "whatever you want", & "don't bother with that stuffy Catholic stuff" which had dominated Jon's speech during the countless hours of pervious discussion we had on this subject.) "Okay, If it's important to you, then I'll come" I answered. So I drove through three hours of heavy snow in Cleveland and Buffalo to hit a pre-cana retreat session with my then barely Catholic fiance.

That simple sacrifice made our "mixed marriage" blessed by Jesus Himself, and over-flowing with graces. Today as we stood for our anniversary blessed with three noisy children (and one saint in heaven), we were a "mixed" marriage no longer. Now we share one heart, one fleash, and one Faith.

In Praise of My Husband's Hands

alec vanderboom

(In Honor of the Feast of Saint Joseph the worker)

Last September, my husband came home and complained of pain in his right index finger. The tendon was so inflamed the pain shot all the way down his arm into his elbow. His workload had tripled after his firm took on two new clients. Now, my husband couldn't bend his knuckle or hold a knife.

Since all of my medical knowledge comes from worker compensation hearings, I immediately started freaking out about carpal tunnel syndrome. I looked up the facts in our little "do it yourself" health care manual from Kaiser Permenente.

"You need to ice your tendon for a half hour after work each day. You also need to take five minute stretch breaks at work. And you should do some finger strengthening exercises. And if that doesn't work we need to call your doctor-- otherwise you might need surgery!"

"I don't need to call my doctor," my husband said as he attempted to cut his pork chop with the knife in his left hand and held his fork in his right hand in a grip more awkward than our newborn's fist.

I stared at him in horror. "Everyone at this table depends upon that one hand to eat!" I exclaimed. The force of that statement hit both of us at once. "I'll ask my boss to order a better mouse pad tomorrow," my husband said with a nod. (Happily some minor changes on his computer desk have cured the problem.)

My husband is a graphic designer. He is the skilled laborer of our modern day. He loves to draw, but sadly handles pencil and paper all to rarely at work. Most of his day is spent doing click after click on his mouse. He moves type and photographs from web browser to spread sheet and then back again. Click. Click. Click. His right index finger moves up and down all day for nine to ten hours a day with only a modest break for lunch.

The steady paycheck from such humble work feeds a family of five, keeps a roof over our heads, and buys us netflix rentals and coffee grounds.

I'm so, so grateful to my husband for being a model of Saint Joseph for our family. Humble & Devout. Strong & Gentle. Diligent & Loving.

Saint Joseph pray for us, that we may always appreciate our spouses and their hard working hands.

Simple Beginnings

alec vanderboom

Sarcophagus of Etruscan couple c. 510 BC, Louvre, Room 18

Last night, Jon and I decided that we want to celebrate the eighth anniversary of our first meeting. When I rummaged through my old journals to fix the exact date (January 29, 2000.), I found this entry.

"Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Jon invited me to the art museum on Thursday at 10:00 AM.

In Paris, I saw a sarcophagus of a married couple. I remembered it from my high school Latin textbook. The husband and the wife were laying side-by-side with their legs jutting out at a 90 degree angle from their side. Yet their smiles were sweet and the husband's arm was resting so comfortably around the wife's shoulders. I wanted to slip under his arm and feel it myself."

I have an odd habit of walking behind famous statues to observe them from the rear & the side. I like to look at work from different vantage points from the traditional frontal view shown in my Art 100 class.

I stared at a photo of the front of this sarcophagus for my entire junior year of high school Latin. When I ran into it at the Louvre, during my first & only trip to Paris in January 2000, I spent a long time starting at the back of it. I noticed the gentle tension in the husband's arm, how he rested the whole weight of his arm on his wife's shoulders, so certain, so firm, and so "comfortable."

I had this urge to climb under that arm to feel it's reassuring weight on my own shoulders. "Please let me have a love like that someday" I whispered.

Three weeks later my husband saw me at a bar playing darts with my best friend and four of her brothers. I was supposed to be working on a complicated law paper that night, so finding a mate was the furthest thing from my mind.

I've promised Jon that someday, I'll take him to Paris. (He's never been.) We'll track down this statute and share a kiss in front of it. I don't know if we'll ever actually make it to Paris. (It's hard to save money with all the little Benjamins that keep arriving). That's alright. We live the reality of this statute every day.

(P.S. My High School Latin teacher was a Catholic priest, an extremely unusual occurrence in a public school located in the middle of the Bible Belt. I wonder how many of us Protestants found ourselves drawn to the true faith as a result of Father Hogan's prayers.)

Head Exploding Thought Today

alec vanderboom

When I get to heaven, I will love everyone as much as I currently love my husband, Jon. That thought just explodes my head.

This morning I spent twenty minutes, with all the hustle of three tiny kids, patiently tearing out the poems in each of the 30 New Yorker Magazines I was about to recycle. I knew that Jon enjoyed a few of these original poems and would be sad to lose them. I had no idea which 3 to 4 of the 80 poems he'd want to save. I doubted if Jon could remember enough of the opening lines to tell me which ones to save if I called him at work. So, I patiently flipped to the contents page of each issue, located the two poems inside, carefully tore out the pages, tossed the remaining magazine in the "to be recycled" pile, and placed the poems in the "to be filed" pile. I repeated this procedure thirty times, while Maria begged for more food, Hannah wanted to jump on me instead of just my bed, and Alex refused to stay on the potty.

When I told Jon that the New Yorker poems where now filed under his name at dinner, he was totally shocked. "You did all that for me?" "Well, of course" I answered.

Well, of course. He loves poetry. The poems are the first thing he flips to each time the New Yorker comes into the house. He asks me questions about them hours later when we are driving to random events. How could I not take care of these poems for him?

Jon also has this dangerous big toenail from a botched ingrown toenail operation that he had as a kid. I affectionately call it "the claw." In the middle of the night, when my husband kicks out the tangled comforter from the foot of the bed, he'll occasionally hit my leg. "What is that sharp, knife like thing glazing my ankle?" I'll awake from sleep with a start. 'Oh, it's just the claw" I think, and snuggle closer to him. A scrape down my leg now means that I'm in bed with the right man. Hard to believe that I'll one day accept all bruises this kindly and see similar beauty in other people's scary toenails.

On Marriage

alec vanderboom

There's a thread on dealing with the frustration of washing your husband's balled up socks on Danielle Bean's website today. Most of the wives have posted inspiring ideas of dealing with domestic strife with sacrifice, forgiveness, and other heroic virtues. I'm just a baby Catholic, so my virtues of meekness and obedience are in the barely budding stages of development.

The thing that keeps our domestic engine running is the deep friendship that I have with my husband, Jon. When we met on a snowy night in January 2000, we started this fascinating conversation which hasn't stopped in seven years. At our first coffee date, he poured out his entire life story over a Venti cup of Breakfast Blend. I left the date feeling comfortable and "heard."

Then I realized that Jon wore bicycle clip tennis shoes (the kind that snap directly onto bike petals). His shoes made this annoying clumping sound on the sidewalk payment as we walked out of Starbucks together. Saying goodbye to Jon over the distracting noise, I thought "This guy is way too green for me!" Those shoes placed Jon firmly into the "friends only" category for a few more weeks.

Even so, our interesting talks kept me wanting to hang out more with this unusual fellow. The "dating deal breakers" of Jon's tattoos, rambling aimlessness in a career path, and service in the Army Reserves, eventually, seemed to matter a lot less than his incredibly kind heart.

Now, after even more time, I've come around. Jon is the one with a steady paycheck, while I'm the one whose career is aimless. His army medic training comes in handy every day as a father of three. As for the tattoo? How can I not laugh over a biology major's decision to tattoo a salamander to his arm because it is one of the key indicator species of environmental health in his beloved Adirondack State Park?

Meanwhile, the fascinating conversation keeps rolling along-- art, religion, philosophy, biology, world history, along with the added observations of "Today Maria rolled over!" and "Is organic milk worth the price?"

When I'm petty and refuse to talk to my husband over stupid disagreements- the thing that tends to correct my attitude isn't heroic virtue, it's the feeling of being lonely. Remember how you felt in third grade when you fought with your best friend during class and then discovered that there was no one to play with at recess? It's like that feeling, multiplied by a thousand. The emptiness of losing my best friend, and some days what feels like my only friend, turns me fairly quickly around.

That is how we survive the entanglements that lovers, who are roommates and not sleeping well because they keep having babies, occasionally fall into.

And Oprah, I can easily answer the "Why Did I Get Married" Question. I got married for love. Pure, simple, & profound, love.