Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar

Twenty-five years ago today, which would have been a Thursday night, John and friends were having a bachelor party (and the less said about that the better!) while my friends and I celebrated more sedately at the family home of one of my bridesmaids.  We were married two days later, on August 12, 1989, which means that we are marking our silver anniversary this week.
Yes, we have been married for a quarter of a century.  It sounds even longer when you put it that way, but no matter how you put it, it is an accomplishment, and nowadays it seems like a rare one.  John and I both have definite ideas about the importance of marriage and commitment and what has to be done to maintain that, and luckily those are issues we agree about strongly.  I told John I would probably be writing a “marriage tips” blog post some time this week, and asked him for his input, and I didn’t disagree with anything he said.
Sometimes it seems like it’s been more like half a century, and sometimes it feels like we were married yesterday.  No one going in truly understands what “for better, for worse,” really means.  Like everyone, we’ve had joy and sorrow, bitter arguments and harmonious agreement.  There have been long stretches when we couldn’t stand each other, when love was something we DID, not something we FELT.
You love your kids unconditionally from the moment of their birth.  That’s biology.  Loving the person you are married to is a decision and a commitment that you must renew every day.  You might know that intellectually when you get married, especially if you’ve been lucky enough to undergo some kind of marriage preparation, but you can’t and won’t understand what that’s like until you are in the middle of it.
I vividly remember saying to John, when we had been dating all of six months, that it didn’t seem like enough just to SAY “I love you,” anymore:  I wanted to LIVE it.  That’s what marriage is, and we didn’t know how hard, or how rewarding, it would be.  Those romantic early days were wonderful.  I love remembering them.  And I’m happy to say that we still like romance and spending time together and that spark has never gone out.  But love sustained and nurtured over twenty-five years is  stronger and richer and deeper and profound in ways we could not have understood back then.
John and I were only 22 and 23 when we took this life-altering step, when we yoked ourselves together forever.  We were young and we didn’t know a lot of things but we knew that we believed in marriage and that no matter what happened we would not break the vows we made.
Just see how young we were:
Wedding Couple
And we were surrounded by friends who were just as young, almost all of whom are still important parts of our lives:
wedding group 1
wedding group 3
wedding group 2
The Entire Wedding Party
And of course by family, many of whom are gone now:
wedding group 4
Emily and I were talking yesterday about why Catholic wedding ceremonies are supposed to take place inside a church.  I’ve been to some lovely outdoor weddings but as I sat this morning at Mass I was thinking how grateful I was that I still attend church every Sunday in the building where my parents were married, where I was baptized, were we were married, where four of our kids were baptized and two have been confirmed.  That’s a blessing.
wedding couple 7
wedding bride
wedding couple 6
wedding couple 4
wedding couple 8
We haven’t decided yet exactly how we will celebrate on Tuesday.  There probably won’t be dancing:
wedding couple 5
wedding kids
But there may be cake!
wedding cake

One Is Silver and the Other Gold

The popularity of Facebook has made the concept of community-building via the internet commonplace. But for most of us, our Facebook friends are people we know in real life, even if we haven’t seen them in a long time or do not know them very well. The idea of building a community of people you have never met and probably never will is still a strange one to some people.
I’m thinking about online communities right now because of what I have been witnessing on my friend Katie’s Facebook Wall and in the comments on her blog since she asked everyone to pray for her gravely injured son. Hundreds of people, many who know her only through her writing, have been checking in daily, grieving, praying, rejoicing. Many of the people in her online community have mentioned that they have known her through parenting newsgroups for over 12 years, and that they participated in another prayer vigil for her, when her other son, then a newborn, was ill.
To me, that is powerful, and community is good wherever we find it. It would never have occurred to me to look for community online, but it happened for me too. My first online home was in the X-Files fandom, many long years ago now. And although most of our interaction concerned the show and the fanfiction we were writing for it, it grew personal over time. Several times, regular posters lost loved ones, and all of us supported them in these losses. When I was expecting William in 2001, some of my XF buddies held an online “Blessing Way,” for us, sending me poetry, pictures, and other well wishes.
I grew involved in pregnancy and breastfeeding newsgroups at that time as well. I had a special affinity for many of the women I “met” there and really considered them to be friends at that time. I still think about many of them and miss them, and have kept in touch with a couple. [Edit: One of them took the initiative to form a Facebook group for us and we have all reunited there!] We followed each other’s pregnancies closely, checking in anxiously when someone was due, and looking forward to the birth story. We offered advice and and encouragement. When William’s birth hit  first the local and then the national news, I received probably 100 messages of congratulations from my online friends. When Lorelei was diagnosed with failure to thrive, my friends on the newsgroup were an unfailing and understanding source of support. In short, we did all the things that “real life” friends do for one another.
A virtual community may not be quite the same as a “real life” one, but that’s no reason to diminish it. Friends are friends–people who care about you, even if you’ve never met.
Have you ever been part of an online community? Would you like to be?