Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Marriage Isn't Hard

This weekend we celebrated 365 days as Mr. and Mrs. and I found myself wondering why the first year of marriage gets such negative press. 

Because to be completely honest, marriage isn't that hard.

You're probably saying, oh Caitlin, what do you know, you've been married for a nanosecond. But in our short 12 months, Matt and I have faced difficulty -  an unexpected family situation that left us emotionally exhausted and almost completely depleted of joy.  A health concern that took months of therapy and understanding to overcome. Juggling our jobs while contemplating what fulfillment in our careers looks like, Sunday mornings volunteering with our Church, the countless hours spent at the Junior League, the 5am wake-up calls to get to the gym. Making sure we spend adequate and meaningful time with both of our families. Nurturing relationships with our friends who provide us so much love and support. The nightly battles of ESPN or Bravo.

Looking back, we have given more of ourselves, our resources, and our time in the last year than ever before. But I can still look you in the eye and say that marriage is not hard. And I mean that.

Life is hard. But waking up every day next to my best friend is not hard. Having someone by my side, knowing the depths of my soul, both good and bad, yet still choosing to push me toward the goodness of God - that is not hard. Is it challenging? Absolutely. But most valuable things are not achieved with ease. And the unforeseeable trails that have been thrown our way? We've viewed them as opportunities to rejoice. We have such a solid foundation that we refuse to let any storm destroy what we've worked so hard to build. 

“The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws.  That’s just the way it is.  This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last.  You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake.  Love is something different.  Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart.  Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate.  Love is hard.  Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship.”

Marriage isn't always easy, and we don't have all of the answers - but here are a few strategies that have helped make our nuptials that much sweeter: 

Marriage Bucket List | One night during our honeymoon we decided to come up with a Marriage Bucket List - things we wanted to do, see, or accomplish in our first year of marriage. The list ranged from very tactical things like hanging pictures and organizing the garage to more purposeful things like serving together, figuring out how to help develop each others faith, and playing in our first doubles tennis match together. Having similar goals has helped us stay on the same page and work towards a common purpose.

Being Intentional | The therapist we saw for premarital counseling stressed 'being intentional' and I would say this became our "focus word" the last year. There are often times when I've had a train wreck of a day, but use my time in the car on the way home to refocus.  I know it's so important for me to be present when I get home and not bring the stress of the day into our time together. Matt travels almost every week for work and I value the nights we do get to spend together. I would estimate that Matt traveled 45 of the last 52 weeks and he left me a love note every.single.time (except the one time he forgot, but sent me a text message 10 minutes outside of town saying he forgot). He got really creative with the places he would leave them; sometimes they were hidden so well that I thought he had forgotten. This is the beauty of intentionality - it makes me feel loved and valued to know my husband is thinking about me, even when he's rushing out the door. And yes, I've kept every single one.

Serving Together | I mentioned that a bucket item list of ours was to serve together. While I was thinking we would build a Habitat House or something, we somehow got roped into volunteering in the Church nursery this summer. Let me tell you how exhausting 20 three and four year old's are for 2+ hours (I think each Sunday pushed our baby timeline back a year). But, I loved seeing Matt make a million playdough pizzas - and it's official - he is a baby whisperer. He was definitely the favorite.

Scheduled Date Nights | We made an concentrated effort to celebrate each "monthiversary" where we watch our wedding video (still not over it) and either go out to a nice dinner to stay in and cook. We try to eat at home during the week, but I always look forward to the weekends because I know it typically means a nice dinner out with my main man. We know it won't always be this easy for us to get out, but I love that we are setting the routine now so that once little ones come we will know how important it is to have "us" time.
Budgeting | Matt and I took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University a few years ago and it absolutely changed the way we think about money. We sit down every other Sunday and create our budget for the following two weeks. This practice forces us to engage with our finances - and has allowed us to control our finances, instead of letting our finances control us. We don't worry if we want to go out to a nice dinner, or stress if we (I) want a new pair of shoes because we have made sure there is money in that category. That doesn't mean we still aren't constantly adjusting our budget  because each month and each week is different. But it has allowed us to respond to life as it happens and keep pace with things, instead of just responding to things and causing worry. Our main goal is to buy a house soon, so the majority of our paychecks go straight into savings. It has been fun to watch our account grow (wow, I'm a nerd). We also found a Financial Advisor who we really trust and has helped us make the most of our investments. They say finances are one of the main causes for divorce - so we want to be transparent about where our money is going - and also position ourselves to be able to enjoy our hard work one day.

Shared Calendar  | As I mentioned above, Matt is gone a lot and it's hard for me to remember if he's in Darlington or Rockingham or some other unknown small Carolina town. Couple that with the fact that I have Junior League meetings weekly, tennis lessons, business travel and then the million engagement parties, showers, and weddings, it became really hard for us to keep track of where and when we needed to be. The Google Calendar app has worked really well for us. You can update in real time, events are color coded, flights are automatically added from your email, and has been really helpful for us to keep it all straight.

Find an Encouraging Community | One of the best things that has happened to us this year is landing in an awesome married couples small group at Church. There are seven other couples - ranging from 20 years of marriage and four kids to us newlyweds. It is an honest and open space where we feel like we can be authentic. We have shared in the joys of birth and moves, and some sorrows too, with this group. This was the group that circled around us, pouring prayers over us when we were in one of our roughest spots. We both really look forward to Tuesday evenings knowing we are growing in our marriage and being uplifted by some of the best.

My prayer today is the same that it was when I was twelve years old; laying in bed wondering where my future husband was and when we would find each other. I pray daily that God shows me how to be a joyful wife, a compassionate wife, a humble wife and a truly forgiving wife. I pray I never lose sight of what a blessing Matt is to me. I pray that God continues to bless our lives and that we have many more great years ahead of us. 

You are all I've ever longed for. You are mine, at last. I love you, MRH.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cancer-Free for Twenty!

October 8, 2016 marks TWENTY years that my mom has been cancer-free! She shared with me that when she was diagnosed, she said a prayer that God give her ten more years; enough to see me and my sister graduate high school. The Lord has blessed us all with ten additional years on top of that, and I know many more to come! I am thankful every day for this powerhouse of a woman; thankful she fought and won the battle against cancer, thankful for her strength thankful I get to call her mine! For some reason this year’s anniversary has hit me more than others. I have teared up multiple times thinking about how tragically different my life would have been the last twenty years without her in it. She is my rock and I don't know where I would be without her.

So, what can YOU do to fight breast cancer?

  • Self-Examination – I vaguely remember awkwardly glossing over the topic in 8th grade health class, but that’s about it. So here’s a link if you need a refresher like I did: Breast Self Exam
  • Yearly Mammogram - Beginning at age 40, yearly mammograms are a necessity for all women. Those with breast cancer in their family history are recommended to start these earlier.
  • Run or Walk in a Race Challenge yourself to run in a 5k race and set a monetary goal. 75% of what is earned during the Komen Race for the Cure stays in the Charlotte community. With locations all over the world, there’s no excuse to not participate. 
  • Purchase Items That Support Research: Women love to shop, so why not buy items that also support breast cancer awareness. Here is a great site with 20 products that support breast cancer awareness.
  • Limit Alcohol Usage: Women who have three to six drinks a week versus women who don’t drink have a 15 percent higher risk of developing cancer.
  • Limit Plastic Usage: Plastic carries the chemical BPA, a weak synthetic estrogen that acts as a hormone disruptor. BPA affects how estrogen and other hormones work by blocking or mimicking them throwing off hormonal balance and increasing the risk for cancer.
  • Find Out Your Family History: Women with a strong family history of cancer can take special steps to protect themselves, so it's important for women to know their family history. You may be at a high risk of breast cancer if you have a mother or sister who developed breast or ovarian cancer (especially at an early age). My insurance covered me getting the BRCA1 and BRCA2 (genes that when mutated can increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers) testing which was a simple and easy blood test. Luckily everything came back normal - and it certainly created some peace of mind with me and my sister that our mom's cancer was not genetic. 
The best news is that when detected early, the survival rate is 99 percent! Do what you can to protect the women in your life.  I love you Mom, thanks for being a fighter!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Wednesday

What Wednesday is where I talk about what I'm reading, watching, listening to, and experiencing. I write these posts late at night while simultaneously watching Bravo, taking Snapchats of my snoring husband, and making to do lists of everything I was supposed to do and didn't do that day and likely won't do the next day either. Or the day after that.

What I'm Reading>> With election day 98 days away, Refinery29  will be releasing a challenge a day to keep you informed, involved, and excited. Yesterday, the challenge was to register to vote. Today, the respective VP candidates are highlighted, because we unfortunately cannot elect Selina Meyer. And while you're at it, watch this montage of the best Veep insults.

What I'm Watching>> Vice Principals is just in it's third episode on HBO, but it is HILARIOUS...and this is shocking coming from someone who loathes all scripted television, including but not limited to Friends, Gilmore Girls, Modern Family and all other shows I'm supposed to love, but despise.  The plot line goes something like this: two V.P.'s in an epic power struggle for the coveted school principal top spot. It was also filmed in Charleston, so that's neat. It takes a lot for me to laugh out loud at television show, and this one does the trick.

What I'm Listening To>> Willie Geist is always on my guest list when playing the "If you could invite anyone to your dinner party" icebreaker game. I imagine we would drink bourbon neat and bond over our shared admiration for Tamron Hall...I digress...he recently shared his summer playlist. A couple of my favorites...

What has my Soul Singing>> Two of my closest friends recently got engaged - there is nothing better than seeing your best friends glow with pure joy. Knowing there are weddings to look forward to helps cure my post-wedding nostalgia that seems to be at an all time high lately. 
The Olympics opening ceremony starts this Friday! Take me back to 2008 when it was socially acceptable & encouraged to listen to "Party in the USA", have pitcher races while wearing an American flag as a cape, all which was considered patriotism. 
Also, the #NSale is almost over which means bloggers will stop shamelessly plugging the same flannel shirt and riding boots.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Wednesday

In full transparency, I totally stole this idea from Justin, who is actually a writer, and not a semi-average online diary author like myself.

What I'm Reading >> Have you heard of the 4-7-8 breathing technique? It seems so simple yet but apparently very effective. Also, how can something that puts you to sleep also work at making you more focused? Must be magic.

What I'm Watching >> The summer solstice might technically kickoff the season, but we all know that it's not officially here until Big Brother premieres. How has this show been on for eighteen seasons? Also, how do they still come up with these challenges (3! just in night one!?). Then there are the multiple twists Julie Chen lays on us and suddenly I'm laying in bed with more anxiety than I have waking up from that reoccurring dream where I forget to drop a college class and don't realize it until the day of the final exam. Did you follow that last part?

What I'm Eating >> Essentially nothing. A group of friends and I started Weight Watchers last week, including a 4-week weight loss competition with a pot of money going to the winner. Come on, big money!

What I'm Doing >> Having feet comparable to a babies seems to be all the rage these days. I ordered my Baby Foot on Amazon Prime Day and was giddy when it arrived. I started the process on Saturday evening and can't wait to keep you all posted "As the Ped Peels"

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Helgy's Geaux to NOLA - Part III

Sunday morning started at The Ruby Slipper Cafe for breakfast. Matt's uncle actually lives (on a house boat!) in New Orleans, so he met us for some Bloody Mary's and breakfast.

Next we hopped on the Street Car. There are three different lines which all originate downtown but take you to different parts of the city. We chose to take the St. Charles line which is the oldest continuously operating street car in the world! The route is 13.2-miles and goes through the oldest and most majestic section of uptown New Orleans. Swaying along St. Charles Avenue through a tunnel Live Oaks, the streetcar passes dozens of antebellum mansions (rumored the Manning family and Drew Brees live here), Loyola and Tulane universities, the sweeping grounds of the Audubon Zoological Gardens, shopping centers, fine restaurants and hotels.

Halfway back, we hopped off the street car and stopped at the most adorable inn, the Column Hotel. This was recommended to us by Matt's uncle and probably something we would have never stumbled upon on our own.

The interiors of the Column Inn were exquisite and radiated southern charm. We chose to have a 19th Hole (Dirty Arnold Palmer) because sweet tea and lemonade seemed like the natural choice when sitting on a large antebellum porch. 

We spent a few hours just relaxing on the porch and chatting. It was the perfect place for a stop and we are so glad we added this into our day. 

Once we got back into town we headed back to Jackson Square and grabbed a beer at the rooftop bar at the Jackson Brewery. 

By the time the sun set we were all hungry again. The one thing left on our list to eat was a muffaletta and a po boy for Matt's dad. Luckily we were able to check those off the list at The Market Cafe.

In true tradition, we headed back to Pat O'Brien's for our final night. We got a table right beside the piano and listened for over three hours! It was so entertaining and one of my favorite parts is when the entire crowd gets into the song - singing and dancing loudly.

No 2am night in New Orleans is complete without a slice of pizza the size of your head and one more Huge Ass Beer.

I cannot thank my in-laws enough for planning such a meaningful trip. They surprised us with this trip and went out of their way to make sure we did, saw and ate everything on our lists. They were extremely generous and thoughtful. This was my first family trip as a "Helgy" and I am so grateful for the way they have embraced me into their family. They aren't a family of four with a daughter-in-law. I am their daughter now.

Family is like jambalaya. Each one of us a different ingredient with our own flavor. Individually - we are ok, but we are at our best when we're together.