Thirty Years: A Marriage in Pictures

John and I were married thirty years ago today, at 12:30 p.m. to be precise.  To celebrate our anniversary and to reflect on what all those years have meant, I am sharing one picture from each year, with commentary.

August 12, 1989, as we emerged from Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Knoxville, immediately after the ceremony.  Like any newly married couple, we were starting a journey that we couldn’t have imagined or predicted.  We were 23 and 22 when this picture was taken.

April 1990, at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.  John and I met at Georgetown University, and lived in Alexandria, Virginia just outside D.C. for most of our first year of marriage.  John, who graduated in 1988, was already working as a Federal Investigator and I found a job as Secretary of Georgetown’s Department of History.

Fall 1991.  A lot happened in a year and a half!  We learned we were expecting our first baby.  We decided to move to Knoxville to establish residency so John could attend the University of Tennessee College of Law.  We left good jobs in D.C. for no jobs in Knoxville and settled into a two-bedroom apartment,  I found a job as Secretary of the Liberal Arts Advising Center.  John worked in the UT Traffic Office by day and sold shoes at Proffitt’s (a local, now defunct department store) by night.  Emily was born in February 1991, and John started law school later that year.  We have never regretted this decision.

February 16, 1992, dressed to go out to celebrate our 5th dating anniversary.  We still celebrate that day every year.  At this point we were living on a combination of student loans and part-time jobs.  John was making fundraising phone calls for Tennessee Right to Life and I was the Foster Care Promotional Coordinator for Sertoma Learning Center.  Later that year John started working as a law clerk.  Childcare for Emily was cobbled together: my little sister watched her all summer, my grandmother helped once my sister was back in school, I brought her with me when possible, and she spent one day a week in a Parents Day Out downtown.  I hated having to leave her.

July 1993, New Orleans, where we were taking part in Katrice and Rico’s wedding.  Katrice was one of my best friends in high school.  She and Rico are godparents to our oldest son, and we celebrated their son’s college graduation with them earlier this month.  What I remember about this day is that I was hot and miserable and suffering from morning sickness.  John was getting ready to start his third year of law school and I was preparing to return to grad school and my Graduate Assistant position in the College of Liberal Arts.

May 1994, John’s graduation from law school! I love this picture.  We were very popular in law school because students with babies were rare and ours were spoiled by all our friends.  Jake was three months old when John graduated.  And he was four months old when we found out we were expecting another baby, just days before John took the bar exam.  Thankfully he passed and landed a job in Oak Ridge reviewing OSHA regulations shortly afterwards.  I was able to quit my job and have never worked outside the home since.

Easter 1995, a classic picture and one of my favorites of all time.  Teddy arrived when Jake was 12.5 months old.  He had only learned to walk about two weeks earlier.  Two babies at once were a lot to handle and most of that first year is a blur.

Christmas 1996.  We still had two babies in diapers (and two cribs!) but we also had our first house! A year in a dreadful two-and-a-half bedroom apartment after Teddy arrived spurred us onward to home ownership and we loved our sweet 1940s house in South Knoxville.

Halloween 1997.  The kids were two, three, and six.  They spent most of their time outside, and I spent a lot of time outside as well, having discovered a love of gardening.  By now John had his own solo practice, and I did (and still do) very part-time grant writing and editing for my mother’s non-profit organizing work.

February 4, 1998, John’s 32nd and Emily’s 7th birthday celebration.  Looking back now, those years of being overwhelmed by the needs of little kids seem like the golden years.  It was hard, but it was simpler.

February 1999.  The date is a guess, but this was taken at a restaurant at what was probably a birthday celebration and we have four of those at this time every year.  I make a lot of cakes for awhile!

January 2000, dressed for church.  Teddy’s hat came from a New Year’s Eve celebration John and I had attended at Club LeConte.

March 2001.  And then there were four!  The arrival of William was exciting but rough, as I had postpartum hypertension and had to remain in bed for about a month after he was born, with ten-year-old Emily taking care of her brothers when John was at work.  We were beginning to be very cramped in our 1400 square foot house and our Mercury Sable.  Both were replaced later in the year.

Christmas 2002.  When the big kids were little, every December meant a trip to the portrait studio for Christmas pictures to insert in our Christmas cards.  By this time I was taking a roll of film with my own camera and then sending triple prints.  The closest family members got the worst pictures!  Here the kids are standing in front of the house where we had lived for just over a year, a 3000 square foot Queen Anne Victorian built in 1889, in a non-gentrified but walkable neighborhood just a couple of miles from John’s office downtown.

August 2003, the big kids’ first day of school.  It was the last year they would all attend St. Joseph School together.  Jake was in third grade, Teddy in second, and Emily in sixth, but Jake and Teddy were both homeschooled for their fourth grade year.

November 2004, Lorelei’s first trip to church.  We didn’t know it then, but she would be our last baby and the last family member to get to wear John’s heirloom baby dress.

Christmas 2005 marked the end of a hard year that included periods of unemployment, financial difficulties, and John’s hospitalization.  Looking back now I can see that it was the only beginning of the most difficult period in our family’s life so far.

September 2006, celebrating my mother’s birthday.  This photo includes Ella and Zachary, my sister Anne’s children.  Ella is 17 months younger than William and Zachy is 17 months older, and they grew up playing together.

Spring 2007.  William is wearing his St. Joseph School uniform.  Kindergarten was his only year in Catholic school.  He spent the next year at the public school down the street, then was homeschooled for several years while I struggled to figure out why he wasn’t as easy to teach as Jake and Teddy had been.  We called the back stairs in our kitchen the “snack steps” because that’s where I would sit the little kids to eat something while I was cooking.  You can see evidence in this picture that our old house was starting to crumble a bit.

May 2008, Jake’s graduation from 8th grade, taken next to Holy Ghost Church.  We were all smiles, and very proud of Jake who graduated with straight A’s and won some academic awards, but I was putting on a brave face.  The day before this I was in the hospital undergoing outpatient surgery after having miscarried our last baby.

November 2009.  I’m not sure who snapped this picture of John and me the afternoon of our move into a new home.  It wasn’t a happy move, springing from financial necessity of being upside-down on the mortgage of our disintegrating but much-loved Victorian home.  But I love that the picture shows us supporting each other.

May 2010, Jake’s first prom.  I love this picture for the personality it shows, but also because it was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult stretch where John and Jake (who have a great relationship now) did not get along well at all.  Something else noteworthy about 2010 is that it is when I became John’s legal assistant, working from home to run his office.

September 6, 2011.  Our rental house had just burned down and we lost almost every material possession.  Thanks to the overwhelming kindness of our family and community, we were able to move into the home in which we still live three weeks later.

Fall 2012, Senior Night.  John and I are not athletic, and our kids showed no interest in sports until Teddy wanted to play football in 8th grade.  It was all new and exciting to us and we thoroughly enjoyed those few years as football parents.

May 2013, Emily’s college graduation.  Emily attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, graduating with a degree in Creative Writing.  We thoroughly enjoyed our many visits to Mobile, where my mother’s family has roots, especially the seafood!  Just a couple of months later, we sent another kid off to college as Teddy began his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame.

August 12, 2014, a 25th anniversary selfie.  This was taken at Club LeConte, a fancy restaurant on the 27th floor of Knoxville’s tallest building.

July 2015, in a Chicago skyscraper more deserving of the name.  We were in town to attend a wedding and to visit Teddy, who was doing a summer internship there.

March 2016, a Spring Break trip to Chattanooga.  Traveling was starting to get easier.  On our last family trip with all five kids, we had to take two cars and book three motel rooms.

May 2017, Teddy’s graduation from Notre Dame.

March 24, 2018, our first wedding.  Jake and Jessica were married at Frozen Head State Park.  Six months later, they moved to Nashville.

July 2019, our first cruise.  We sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas to Bermuda, in honor of our upcoming anniversary.  I haven’t blogged about the cruise but I plan to.  It was wonderful and we deserved it.

“[Love] is the unity that binds us all together, that makes this earth a family, and all men brothers and the sons of God.”  ~ Thomas Wolfe

Maintaining Connection in a Busy Life – Quality Time

f you are a parent—perhaps especially a mother who works outside the home—you’ve heard all about Quality Time.  When it comes to my kids, I’m more about quantity than quality.  But in my marriage, it’s a totally different thing.
Quality Time is one of the Five Love Languages.  For me, it’s in a tie for top spot with Acts of Service.  Luckily for our marriage, it’s high on my husband’s list as well, coming in just after Physical Touch.
We should have no trouble then, right?
Read the rest at Under Thy Roof.

Called by God: Fulfilling My Vocation

Growing up Catholic, if I thought about the word “vocation” at all, it was in the context of a call to the priesthood.  We were encouraged to pray for more vocations because of the looming shortage of priests.
And this sense of vocation as a specifically religious phenomenon was in fact its original sense–not necessarily as a call (the word comes from the Latin for “to call”) to the priesthood exclusively but nevertheless a call from God.
More recently the term has been diluted to refer to one’s way of earning a living, which may in fact be a calling from God for some, to use the gifts and talents with which He has blessed them to serve a particular purpose, but which for others may be nothing more than a preference or an accident of fate.
But in the Catholic sense vocation means primarily your call to the married life, the single life, or the religious life.  Starting from the the basic premise that “all men are called to the same end: God himself” (CCC 1878), it is up to us to discern with God’s help to which of these states He is calling us.
CCC 1603 states that ” . . . the vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.”  Marriage and motherhood is my vocation and I’ve never really doubted that even though at times I think somewhat longingly of how much easier I would find it to be holy if I were a cloistered nun.  From the time I was about 17 I fell in love with babies and I remember wondering how I could possibly stand having to wait years until I could have one of my own.  I loved shocking people with my declaration that my aim in attending a prestigious university was to find a husband.  I was only partly kidding, and I did it too.  I was married the summer after graduation and had a baby 18 months later.

I am a well-educated, extremely competent, intelligent woman, and my oldest son told me the other day that he had no doubt that I would have been a millionaire by now if I had chosen to pursue a career.  (I am NOT a millionaire, and we have struggled financially thanks to my remaining mostly unemployed.) But even though I’ve worked part-time outside the home and work at home now running my husband’s law practice, all I’ve ever really wanted was to have lots of children and be at home with them.  Even now with my youngest entering her teenage years I have no plans to embark on a career outside the home–after all, I’m expecting (and hoping) I will eventually need to be available to help care for grandchildren!
Yes, I am a writer and I LOVE to write more than just about anything, but writing (and any hobby) is an AVOCATION.  It’s our challenge to use our avocations, whatever they are, in service to our vocations.  It was instructive to me to discover that the derivation of avocation is from the Latin to call AWAY.  So if our avocations become a distraction from our vocation then it’s time to reevaluate.
If you believe God speaks to our hearts, even if not from openings in the clouds or burning bushes, then maybe you’ll believe He spoke to me the other day.    Everyone in the Catholic blogosphere is talking about their Saint of the Year, which you can randomly generate here.  I clicked and prayed, as I was advised to do, then clicked again . . . and got MARY.  Yes, that Mary.  I hope she will (of course I know she will) forgive me for being disappointed.  I mean, I know all about her already!  I wanted some obscure, interesting saint I could learn about, who would somehow mystically illuminate my path for the year.
So there’s also a word generator, where you can get a Word of the Year if you don’t want to pick one yourself.  So I clicked again and my word was . . . MOTHER.  OK, Holy Spirit, I see what you did there.  My mouth more or less dropped open.
So it looks like I’m supposed to be doubling down on that wife and mother vocation this year, and seeing how Mary can help me with that.  And who better, of course, than the young woman who accepted God’s extraordinary call and lived that vocation so fully and perfectly?
This post is part of the Catholic Women’s Blogger Network Blog Hop.  For more posts on the topic of Vocation, click the image below!
CWBN vocations
 

Who Doesn’t Love a Good Wedding?

I remember a time when it seemed like we were always going to weddings.  Next came the baby showers.  Lately, it seems it’s always funerals.  It’s the circle of life and all, I realize (and I do love a good funeral, as I may have mentioned a time or two!).  But I’m ready to circle back to weddings (and my big kids are not quite there yet).

So I was excited to be able to be at my cousin’s wedding in Nashville last weekend, which left me with all those warm feelings you get when you attend a wedding where the bride and groom obviously really love each other (as opposed to that other kind where you leave thinking, “Well, that will never last.”).

I wanted to share a few pictures with you so you could feel all warm and fuzzy too.  But first, just a little background: My mother has one sister, and this cousin is her only son (he has three sisters).  Eight years younger than me, he was the only boy in our family.  I remember thinking he was a wild little thing, but that was before I had three boys of my own!

We grew up living in the same neighborhood, where our grandparents also lived, and we saw each other pretty much every day for many years.  But then they moved to a new neighborhood, and then I went away to college, and Jeff grew up and moved to Nashville, and our grandmother died, and what with one thing and another I think it may have been five years since I’d seen Jeff, at his father’s funeral.  And other than his oldest sister, whom I talk to regularly, it had been a while since I’d spent time with anyone else in his family either.  So it was a real honor to be able to share this special day with them and to get to visit just a little bit, and to meet his beautiful bride who we are all so happy to have in our family.

Now for the pictures!

Jeff and Quinn were married at an historic church near downtown, so first some pictures of that:

wedding 11 wedding 10 wedding 4 wedding 3 wedding 2 wedding 1

I just have a few highlights of the people walking in to share:  my aunt Mary Leslie (only we call her Aunt Mezzie because that’s what my mother came up with as a child) with her husband, David, who was also the best man; the adorable flower girl; and of course the bride and her father.

wedding 5

wedding 6wedding 7

Next we have the proud father in the process of giving his daughter away, and then we have the newly married couple processing out (I really love that one!). 🙂

wedding 8

wedding 9

The reception was at Union Station downtown, an impressive location.  I’ll share just a couple of pictures with you.  Please note the FOUR (delicious) cakes.  When I remarked to one of the gentlemen cutting them that I had never been to a wedding with four cakes, he replied, “I’ve never served at a wedding with four cakes!” (They were chocolate, almond, caramel, and lemon, if you were curious.)


wedding 13

wedding 14

And now on to living happily ever after. 🙂

More Than a Feeling

https://lesliesholly.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/more-than-a-feeling/  #love
Like most people, I routinely share pictures I consider to be cute or profound on my Facebook wall.  Sometimes I’m surprised by the lack of attention paid to something I found particularly noteworthy; other times one picture gets more likes than I expected.  And who knows how much any of this has to do with the value of the pictures themselves versus those mysterious and ever-changing Facebook algorithms?
Still, the picture above resonated with more people than the usual random post.  I shared it almost off-handedly–I can’t even remember whose wall I found it on–and it had been shared so many times before it got to me that I can’t find an original creator to credit it to.
I related to this picture because it conveys a powerful message about what love IS and what it ISN’T.  Love is ACTION, not FEELING.
Those romantic and mushy feelings we all enjoy at the beginning of a relationship are wonderful.  And I promise you that after 25 years I still have those feelings for my husband.  But not all the time.
The strength of your love for someone shows in how you care for them when you are not feeling mushy or romantic AT ALL.  When I’m feeling angry and resentful towards my husband and yet I still get his medicines together for him in the morning (and don’t add arsenic), that’s love.  When I wash the clothes he needs in the morning which he put in the hamper at bedtime, that’s love.  When I go outside in the rain to roll up the windows of his car, even though we just had a fight, that’s love.
If you have been married any length of time, you know these things.  If you haven’t gotten married yet, you had better learn them now.  Romance can only take you so far.  Flowers and candlelight are great and I still like them, but having the capacity and the will to ACT loving when you just aren’t feeling it is what will enable a relationship to endure.

Book Review: The Relationship Project

Off The Shelf-V3
It’s been awhile since I’ve done an Off the Shelf book review for Beacon Hill Press.  Today I am happy to be sharing The Relationship Project by Bill Strom with you.  As always, my views are my own, and the only compensation I received was the book itself!

When this book arrived, I was intrigued right away.  I love the subtitle: Moving from “You and Me” to We.  I enjoy books that offer insights on marriage, especially from a Christian worldview.  And I like books that are interactive, which including “project” in the title seemed to imply.
I was imagining that this would be a book to read with my husband, something we could work on together.  We both agree that a good relationship takes work and we are committed to working on ours!  But here’s where the book was different from what I was expecting.  And I learned that pretty quickly, in the preface in fact:  ” . . . if you picked up this book to figure out how you can save your relationship, or fix a friend, put it down . . . the more important goal is to understand that we have our own heart work to do, our own self project.”    That’s not to say that you couldn’t read this in tandem with a spouse, but the point–and it’s a good point in general, is it not?–is that you are to work on yourself,  not on your partner!
That’s just the start of how this book is different from other relationship books you may have read, particularly if you’ve been reading mainly secular books.  In those books, you’ll learn about contracts and commitments–and those are discussed in this book too–but the focus here is on covenant relationships, which are “motivated by unconditional love and grace . . . not driven by the pursuit of personal happiness.”  It’s vocabulary I’d heard before, but here it is explained well and illustrated by clear examples.
The author shares from his own marriage, and the tone of the book is informal, making reading it a bit like listening to the good advice of a friend.  The Relationship Project is full of examples–stories of real people, their relationships and struggles.  There are illustrative quotations–and relationship stories–from Scripture as well.  There are several self-assessments along the way–I love those!  And there are questions for reflection.  In short, this is a book that asks you not just to read it, but to engage with it.
 

Five Favorite Marriage Tips

Because today is Tuesday (Five Favorites day) AND it’s our 25th wedding anniversary, it seems like the thing to do is to post five marriage tips.  Because 25 years qualifies me as an EXPERT, y’all.
five favorites
1.  Never ask “whether,” only ask “how.”
This one comes straight from the homily at our wedding, and it’s the one thing that John and I both remember.  To expand, Father Spitzer said that once you are married, you should never question whether you should have gotten married, but only ask how you could STAY married.  That advice has helped us stay committed through some difficult times.  Whether is a pointless question if you want your marriage to last forever.
2.  Grow together, not apart.
So how do you do that?  Most important, make time to be together.  Don’t tell me it’s impossible.  We had three kids in four years, and we got a babysitter and arranged to go out regularly.  When I had a nursing baby, we just brought him or her along.  Our life as a couple did not end when we became parents.  We’ve made it a point to celebrate not just our wedding anniversary but also the anniversary of our becoming a couple.  We hold on to little rituals and traditions.  But at the same time we don’t just cling to the past.  We make it a point to be involved in each other’s lives, so that even as we have separate friends and pursuits, we each know about and are interested in each other’s passions.
john and leslie
3.  If you are really mad at your husband and you need to vent, call his mother.
Maybe you are laughing as you read that, but I’m serious.  Complaining about your husband to your friends and family can be very destructive to your marriage, and to the relationship you want your husband to have with the important people in your lives.  But your mother-in-law is going to love your husband no matter what he does.  And if you have a really good mother-in-law like I do, she’ll fuss at him on your behalf.
4.  Communicate
Well, duh, right?  What do I mean?  Talk about everything, good and bad.  And if you are having trouble with this, don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek professional help with your communication skills.  Problems don’t just go away if you don’t discuss them.
5.  Endure
It’s hard, hard work to live day in and day out with another person, someone who is not your blood relative and who you are bound to by choice.  There are bound to be times when you don’t get along at all.   But check this out:  “on average unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier five years after the divorce than were equally unhappily married adults who stayed married when rated on any of 12 separate measures of psychological well-being. Moreover, two-thirds of unhappily married people who remained married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. Even among couples who had rated their marriages as very unhappy, 80 percent said they were happily married five years later.”  So hang in there!  Chances are, things will get better, especially if you are using tips 1-4.
Those are my top five–at least today!  For more favorites, visit the linkup at Mama Knows, Honeychild!
5 TIPS for a mariage that lasts a lifetime

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
 
 
 
 

Not Your Parents' Rhythm Method

I’m late to the party, but thought I should do my bit to promote NFP Awareness Week.
If you aren’t Catholic (and in a sad commentary on . . . lots of things, maybe even if you are) you may have no idea what NFP even is.  The doctor I went to see right after I was married didn’t.  Of course, that’s been a while back, so maybe the situation has improved.
NFP stands for Natural Family Planning, and it’s not your parents’ Rhythm Method, which didn’t work.  Learned properly and followed exactly, it’s just about as effective as the Pill.  Only it’s permitted by the Church and non-abortifacient, and if you don’t care about that stuff, maybe being able to avoid pregnancy AND possible blood clots and other unsavory consequences of bombarding your body with unnatural hormones for extended periods of time might pique your interest.
I remember my first exposure to NFP.  I was a Senior at Knoxville Catholic High School, in a co-ed class taught by a priest, and he showed us some goofy movie.  We heard the words “cervical mucus,” became disgusted and/or embarrassed, and quickly tuned out.  Now, I give him props for at least trying, but I can think of better ways to introduce the topic.  And because no groundwork had been laid beforehand (at least, not that I remember) to explain exactly WHY artificial contraceptives were wrong, other than “because the Church said so,” none of us understood the importance of what he was trying to teach us.
I was engaged to be married before I heard about NFP again, not in a marriage preparation class, but rather in a Christian Marriage class at Georgetown, which I took voluntarily as one of the classes I needed to get a minor in Theology.  This priest had us read Certain Declarations Concerning Sexual Ethics, Familiaris Consortio, and Humanae Vitae before we read The Art of Natural Family Planning.  These books changed my attitude and shaped my future life (and John’s, which he didn’t much appreciate since he was not a Catholic at the time!).
I’m not going to go into the details and the science because if you are truly interested and want to know you can Google the links as well as I can.  I can only share with you the freedom of knowing that you  are 1) following the law of the Church; 2) not polluting your body with chemicals; 3) not interfering with intimacy by the use of unpleasant and inconvenient devices.  Given today’s value for doing things naturally, I’m surprised that more people don’t embrace NFP for purely ecological reasons.
Well, you say, but it doesn’t work.  You have five children and everyone I know who writes about NFP has at least that many if not more.  I don’t want five children.
I didn’t want five children either.  I wanted ten.  See how I don’t have ten?  John didn’t want ten.  That’s called compromise.  I’ve been married for not quite 25 years.  If NFP doesn’t work, why do I only have five children?  Do you think that six-year space between Teddy and William was just luck?
Teddy's Graduation

A Quarter of a Century

That’s how long ago it’s been, as of today, that John and I have been a couple.  On February 16, 1987, he asked me if I would be interested in going out with him, and I bet if he could have seen the future, he would have run the other way instead.  But I guess if any of us could see the future we’d run the other way, right?
I went to college with the express intention of finding a husband.  I also said he would be a lawyer (because I thought all attorneys were rich!) and that we would have a lot of children (I wanted ten) and I would stay home with them.  I got what I planned for, although it doesn’t always look exactly the way I thought it would!  John went to college to prepare to join the Foreign Service.  He was going to live a wild bachelor existence until he was at least 30, and he wasn’t really interested in having children at all.  He also got what I wanted. 🙂  I think he’s not sorry, most days.
Our early courtship was . . . shall we say . . . complicated, because John had been dating my roommate first.  But we worked through that, and all the things that followed.  We were best friends first, and I know that helped (still does).  We also enjoyed one of those romantic, chemistry-charged beginnings–and we can usually recall those feelings when we need a boost, even if that kind of intensity cannot be sustained non-stop for 25 years.
We’ve always celebrated this date with the same fervor as our wedding anniversary–which is probably why Valentine’s Day has never been a big deal for us.  The first year we were dating, we exchanged cards on the 16th of every month!  John planned to pop the question on August 16, 1988, which would have been our 18 month anniversary, but once he had the ring he just couldn’t wait, so he asked on July 16 instead.
I have an exceptionally clear and detailed memory of my whole life up until I started having children.  Ask anybody.  And I’m glad, because I can conjure up not only the feelings of those early days (not wanting to eat, seeing John’s face floating above the Platonic dialogue I was supposed to be reading, being able to think of nothing but our next meeting . . .) but the actual details (what happened each day leading up to the 16th, where I sat and waited for John to meet me after his class, him playing “Only the Good Die Young” whenever I came over– and no, it did not work!).  This is more important than ever now.
Because normally today I would go to my dresser drawer and pull out a sheaf of love letters and cards from the first year of that courtship, still in their envelopes, many addressed not to “Leslie” but to “Pumpkin” or whatever the pet name of the week was, neatly arranged in chronological order.  It embarrassed John to hear the things he wrote back then, but I treasured them, and realizing they were reduced to ashes was the post-fire moment that brought me closest to tears.
Which brings me to a happier story that I don’t think I’ve shared yet.  When I tell people that our house burned down, the thing they all are most upset by is the loss of all our pictures (we will be the last generation that can lose pictures to fire, thanks to computers).  Now, honestly, I was more upset about a lot of things.  That’s because I made triple prints of every photo and sent one whole set to John’s family in Baltimore, so I knew that most pictures of our kids survived somewhere.  I thought, though, that our pre-kid pictures were gone for good.
One day John went over to the ruins to get our fire proof box, which had all the negatives for our pictures, including our wedding pictures.  Sadly, fireproof does not mean waterproof, and everything in the box was ruined.  But John also came home with a photo album with some salvageable pictures.  I sent him back to look again and he returned with most of our photo albums and the baby books too! Somehow, amidst the utter destruction of the room they were in, the built-in cabinet they were stored in provided some level of protection.  The albums are singed and many pictures are ruined.  But many can be saved.

I can’t do it.  Looking at the destroyed ones upsets me and so does the very strong smell of fire.  But Emily worked on it at Christmas time and will finish the job this summer.  And because of this little miracle, I do have a couple of courtship pictures to illustrate this story.

My 21st Birthday

Diplomatic Ball – Georgetown 1988