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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

my life : newlyweds


Currently doing a auto-bio series, hoping to reflect, learn, and grow...and for you to get to know this blogger better!  To catch up read:

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Sometimes I read blogs/facebook and I wonder: Is their marriage really like that?   You see all the cute photographs, as you will see in this post, of a happy couple, smiling from ear to ear, giddy in love, and get the distinct feeling that perhaps your marriage is lacking somehow.  At least I do.  I wonder: are there marriages out there that really have no fighting, pettiness, anger, resentment, consisting solely of cutesie nicknames for each other (we have none, unless you count 'baby' and 'angel') and stories about how they read the Bible together religiously (we have trouble getting to church every Sunday) and send lovey messages to each other on Facebook (uh, not sure if my husband know how to check his FB?}

You may feel, looking at these relationships from the outside, like they have no problems.

Please don't feel like that reading this post.  Despite the happy and lovey- dovey photographs you will see -- this marriage is not perfect.  It is real.  It is awesome. And hard sometimes...really hard.  We love each other deeply - we do.  We have romantic moments and both say we couldn't imagine life without each other.  Yet, we also get really annoyed at each other.  Sick of each other.  Fight.  Say things we don't mean.  Make mistakes.  Forget the other person's feelings.  Want to escape.

And so on, and so on.

We have our faults - many - as sinful, imperfect human beings.   I am super stubborn, can have a wicked, easily flared temper, am very jealous {perhaps possessive is a better word}, selfish, defiant and judgmental if I feel threatened in any way.  That probably barely tips the iceberg.  Hubby has his faults as well.

We all do.  No matter what the photographs look like, or what image we try to present to the world.

Marriage does not make anything easier.  In fact, many might argue that things only get harder in your relationship at that point.  There is a reason that half of all marriages end in divorce.   Sticking around and putting in the time and effort to make things better is hard.  Forgiveness is hard.  Change is hard.  Whether you like it or not,  marriage requires you to change.  Who you are.  What you are used to.  Particularly if you had time prior to marriage to grow up and become an adult.  Live on your own.  Forge your own, single identity.  Then you have to change that identity.

{I can't speak for people who get married really young (early twenties.)  I guess maybe then you grow and change with each other???  Is that easier?  Harder?  I don't know.   All I know is during your twenties you change SO much!}

For example, prior to being married I was very non-commital in relationships.  In fact, Paul was the only guy I dated that I ever seriously thought I could spend more than a few months with.

I liked the whirlwind of romance that dating involved.  The first kisses and the fun dates.  The drama.   The meeting new people who would take me new places.  The newness and the constant ego-boost of being with someone who seemed to find you infinitely attractive.  {Well, until you broke up.}

Plus, I liked my independence.  I didn't want to be joined at the hip with any guy.  I didn't want to live with anyone.  I liked having my own apartment, working as much as I wanted to, spending my own cash, and not having to answer to anyone.

Nope, I wasn't a relationship girl.  I was a serial dater who would usually be the one who lost interest first and did the dumping, or the self-sabotager, who became kind of annoying to deal with, prompting to guy to run for the hills.  Remember the movie How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days?  I could do it in nine.   I actually liked the idea of a theatrical, tormented breakup...

I would usually cry a couple days, simply because the fellow wasn't the "one," dye my hair a different color, and move right along.

But I couldn't move on from Paul, despite years of trying.  He was very clearly the "one" - the only one worth giving up dating and independence for.  The only one I actually liked (and didn't feel trapped by) spending massive amounts of time with.  The only one who made "comfortable" a nice feeling and not a boring one.
So we got married.  It was beautiful.

Then began the hard part.

Marriage is wonderful in a million ways.  You have your best friend there with you every night and every morning.  You have a person to plan the future with. To dream with. Someone to listen when life gets hard, a shoulder to cry on, to cheer you up, to 'get' your humor.  To see you in your sweats, with no makeup, scarfing down half a pizza with sauce on your face and still find you sexy.  (Oh, and someone to always read your blog like you are some really interesting writer.  :D)

Marriage is also an adjustment.  You now share a living space.  Have to adjust to another person's quirks and habits.  The money is now "ours" and not "mine."

We got married at barely 26 years old.  At the time it seemed old.  My older siblings had married their high school sweethearts right after college, around age 22.  I felt like I was practically an old maid comparatively, I mean - four years until thirty??? GAH!

Now I know just how young 26 was.  In fact, most of my good friends were not married.  NONE of Paul's good friends were married.   Most people our age were still on the dating scene, hanging out at bars, staying out til 4am with wild stories to show for it.  In our social scene, we were the old married folks at 26.  The official 'adults.'

We had recently purchased our first home together.   Bigger home than we probably should have purchased at the time, since we had no kiddos to fill it up, but we were super excited to start our 'adult, married life' and fell in love with this completely renovated old stunner:
our very first home

Despite the home purchase, we immediately started a drastic debt elimination plan (read Dave Ramsey's book Financial Peace) in which ALL of my income went towards paying off our debt: first our wedding, then a credit card, the balance of a car loan, then all of my student loans.  All of this totaled around 80K.  Could have been much worse, but still a decent chunk of debt.

So we lived off Hubby's income, with me getting a set cash amount each week to cover everything from gas to groceries.  Plus a little spending cash.  Not an extravagant amount, by any means.  An amount some women, especially those who were used to spending their own cash however they wanted, might faint at.  But surprisingly, I loved the plan.  I loved having a budget to maneuver.  The challenge of making it work.  Plus, I've never desired anything fancy.  I have one piece of expensive jewelry - my wedding ring.  I've never bought expensive clothes or makeup or handbags. So the small budget wasn't particularly difficult.

We aren't fancy people, in general.  (To this day we still use the cash envelope system!)

The idea of being debt-free (besides our mortgage) was music to my ears.  Getting to a point where our only debt was the house, and we paid everything with cash, out-of-pocket, interest-free, sounded awesome.  I grew up in a wonderful, loving home...but we never had extra money.  In fact, there was always a bit of financial stress that didn't escape us kids.  I've always desired to have a home free of financial struggle.

And Hubby, being the finance guy he is, was adamant about it.  So we've always been on the same page financially.

{ps - we were officially "debt free" as of October 2011 -- HURRAH!}

We also wanted to always be very comfortable living on one income because we were also both on the same page about me staying at home - or at least having the option to - when we had kids.  Paul hoped that I would, but was always okay if I wanted to keep working.  I always felt it was what I wanted to do, in my heart.

But that was a long way off.

Besides changing our 'financial mindset' as a newly married couple,  there were a lot of other changes going on in our lives...

I was still trying to find my place in the career world. I was still working as a store manager at a large shoe store in Cincinnati.   It was becoming more and more stressful at the very busy location, and less and less fulfilling.  I found myself longing for a change - of job, of environment, of life goals in general.

In December of 2007 I decided I wanted to go back to school, and get my Master's degree to teach English.  It sounded like a perfect fit.  I loved literature and writing, and I loved teaching people.  The training aspect of my job was what I enjoyed the most.

After discussing the idea with Hubby, who fully supported me following my dreams, even though it meant I would have to take on more student loans and slow down our debt reduction dream, I knew I had to quit my job and find something less stressful/time consuming. I knew I couldn't attend graduate school and continue my retail management career.  There was no way I could handle both.  So I put in a month's notice, and left as gracefully and gratefully as I could.  I would be forever thankful for my eight years, various promotions, and two different states with that company.   I had learned a lot, both job skills and life lessons through it all.

But it was time to move on.

Before I started looking for another job I decided to take the opportunity of being "jobless" to take a cross-country road trip.  Because I was in Cincinnati and my family was scattered across the country, I wanted to spend about a month of solo travel to re-center and visit the people I loved but now didn't get to see very often.

My first stop was Minnesota, with Hubby, of course, for New Years and a full-family holiday celebration.  Everyone was there.  Then Hubby flew home and I drove with my little brother back to where he was currently attending college - Denver, Colorado.  It was great to have the car trip to bond with my little bro, who was in the midst of his early twenties.

After a few days hanging out at Spence's college and Spence and I got to do some cool stuff, such as tour the Coors Brewing Company, and attempt to summit a 14-er.  {Uh, he made it, I wimped out at the last moment.}

enjoying a beer with my bro
touring coors with my little bro
Then it was time to head to visit my sister in Montana.  So I pointed my blue Honda Civic north.

driving away from colorado towards montana


My sister has lived in Montana for most of her married life - she definitely calls it home.  And what a beautiful place to get to visit!  

At the time of my road trip that January of 2008 it was just her, her husband, and my sweet niece Isabel.   I had been out to visit them numerous times before, taking the Amtrak during my college days, and it was always so awesome to hang out with them.

My older sister Heidi is basically a tinier, brown-eyed, sweeter version of me. 

We had a wonderful time just hanging out, talking for hours, drinking coffee, me introducing her and her Hubby to my love of sushi...
I love unattractive sushi eating photos!!!!
not sure she loved the sushi at that point...but she has since warmed up to it! :D
...and then it was time for me to head back to real life.  

I definitely was missing Paul a lot, as we hadn't been apart for more than a day or so since being married, so I made the drive back and it was definitely nice to be home after the three week solo vacation.

Also, a little scary.  For the first time in over ten years I was jobless.  I had no idea what type of career I even wanted.   With my degree in English literature and my professional experience entirely in retail management I felt limited.

However, I didn't waste any time constructing various versions of my resume to show how my degree and my management experience could make me an asset to any number of employers.  I started sending it out, looking for some sort of low-stress job, perhaps as an administrative assistant.

I got calls from two temporary staffing agencies in downtown Cincinnati who wanted me to come in for an interview.  Both seemed interested in placing me, but at the second interview I got a pretty good feeling they had me in mind for something specific.  Soon I got a call from the site manager of that staffing agency's other Cincy location.  She wanted me to interview to work as a temporary support person to herself during a very busy hiring season for her site - working directly with the client to hire hundreds of workers for their biggest project of the year.   It would be a lot of phone work, paperwork, computer work, background checks, new hire orientations, etc.

Sounded great to me - I had plenty of experience with hiring and human resources, and felt I could handle everything she was explaining.  She made me the offer, which later she shared that she thought I would never accept.  But I did. With that, my short month of unemployment ended and I was eager to start working again.

It was a drastic pay cut from what I had been making...but I loved my new job almost immediately.  It was fast-paced, diverse, and I was constantly busy.  I loved the people, both those I worked with and those that we hired for the temporary positions.

With a new job and steady (albeit lower) income coming in, Hubby and I agreed I should start looking into grad school, since my end goal was to teach high school English.  I interviewed for the masters of arts in teaching program at the nearby university, and was fully admitted for the fall.

Meanwhile, Paul had decided to feed his entrepreneurial spirit and fulfill a dream - start his own business.  This he was doing while he worked his day job as a finance manager.  Starting a small business is a big time investment.  Also, a big money investment - but thankfully he found partners/friends willing to put up all the cash, believing in him and his vision.  Paul did all the work for the startup.  So...

He was gone a lot.  On the phone a lot.  Stressed a lot.
In turn, I was annoyed a lot.  Distant a lot.  Stressed a lot.

I tried to be supportive to make the process easier.  He says that I was very supportive, but inside I was praying for the business to open soon so life could go back to normal.  

It did eventually.  We weathered the stressful storm, somehow.

Here are some photos from that first year of marriage...which we'll both tell you was the hardest...
at a seafood fest, on the river
trip to northern mn camping with my family

first Christmas in Louisville
made my first pie - in my first 'big girl' kitchen!
out in louisville, the night before derby
me and brad pitt, er, my handsome hubby at the kentucky derby
kentucky derby tailgating with hubby's friends - 2008
in baltimore 
visiting my friend since kindergarten, Lindsay and her hubby Mark in Baltimore
first Easter as a married couple 



out at an outdoor campout/concert
redneck vacay to florida - we camped on the beach every night, and enjoyed a lot of beer

one of our beach campsites
our 1st anniversary date night!

first anniversary!
Fall of 2008 came and that meant 'back to school' for me!

I was so excited.  I loved school.  I missed school.

Classes began and I had a generally good experience.  I really liked the professors and mentors in the program.  I did well in my classes and fulfilled all the requirements that first semester.

I even made a few girlfriends!  This was new for me.  I hadn't made any new girlfriends since moving from Minnesota.  All my close girlfriends from there now lived all over the country, starting their careers, meeting the guys they would eventually marry, and having their own 'late twenties' experiences.  I kept in touch with them, but now I wasn't used to having female friends living in the same city as me.  I 'out of practice' interacting with women.

Yet, here they were.  My new, fellow grad school teaching friends.
Not surprisingly I clicked best with my fellow English 'nerds.'

so, so grateful to have met these women
 May 2009 - at the end-of-semester party hubby and I hosted at our home

me and my bestie M 
 another sweet grad school gf of mine - 2009
The second semester of my teaching program I applied for a long-term sub position at a nearby junior high, as I was eligible to teach at both junior and high school levels.   I interviewed with the pregnant teacher and she picked me for the job.

I was excited to get my first taste of teaching!  I told my boss, who wasn't thrilled, but had known my intentions to teach from the start.  Plus, it was only for eight weeks and I would come back after that.

Well, then a possibility for a permanent position came available at another school, to teach ninth and tenth grade English.  Since my end goal was to teach, a permanant position sounded much better, so I applied and interviewed for that as well.  It was to start immediately.  Only a few days to prepare to teach if I got it.  And...

I got the job.

It was an epoch in my life.  Perhaps not the good kind.  The kind you learn from, though.

It was early February 2009 when I started.  It was a very small public high school, in a low socioeconomic area. I was taking over the classroom of a young female teacher who had been fired for having inappropriate relations with a student at the school (not one of hers, but still.)   Since her firing there had been a number of substitutes that had come and gone.   The classroom was in chaos - in every form of the word.  There had been no consistent lesson plan or discipline (er, classroom management) in quite a while.  (ever?)

Clearly, I was coming into a rough situation, particularly for a new teacher with zero teaching experience.

But I was bright-eyed and completely naive.  I thought I could handle anything.  I thought my passion for writing and literature and love of the physical act of teaching would be enough.  I was excited about the novels we would examine and the paper topics I would assign.  Even grammar lessons!  I spent a bunch of money buying supplies and those few days before my start  I spent cleaning and organizing my classroom.

It took a grand total of three days in the classroom with the students to realize I was in over my head.  That teaching would not at all be what I had been envisioning.  That it was not what I had experienced in high school.  

This was not a school where parents were involved, for the most part.  It was nearly impossible for me to reach any parents to discuss academic or behavioral issues.  When I did, they were combative or whatever they said they were going to address with their son/daughter produced little, if any, change.

I struggled with classroom management, as I am sure most brand-new teachers do.  But the behavior of some of my students was to a degree that I didn't even imagine possible.  (Remember, I went to a Lutheran high school where maybe one student in each class misbehaved every once in a while.)

At this school it was multiple at one time every single day.  Well, at least in two of my periods.  (I dreaded those two hours of the day.)  

Don't get me wrong -- there were some great kids.  Some really smart kids.  Some really sweet kids.   I adored several of my periods, and there were some bright shining moments in teaching.

But those moments were few for me.  Every morning I had a panic attack while getting ready for work.  Literally.  I dreaded the confrontation I would face with the kids prone to misbehaving and worked myself into a nervous tizzy.  I am just not someone who loves confrontation.  It stresses me out.  Since I am definitely not a pushover I didn't let the misbehavior slide...but that meant an every day battle.   Sending kids to detention, and feeling like it really wasn't doing any good.   Talking to them after class and often feeling like I was talking to a brick wall.  

So - panic attacks. Every day.  Right before driving to school.

I know it was hard for Paul, who had to witness my slow meltdown.  Who told me every day, during such anxiety attacks, that I could quit anytime.  Go back to my other job.  "Just quit," he coaxed gently. "It's not for you.  You don't need the job."

It was tempting.  But, as I said, I am stubborn and was determined not to be a quitter.  Almost every day one student or another would try to manipulate me into saying I didn't like my job, or the school, or them.  I never did.  In fact, I went out of my way to say how much I liked them and loved teaching and my subject area.  I forced myself to make it through those four months.  To smile and be calm.  It was an every day struggle for me mentally.  Really I just wanted to break down and walk straight out the building.  But I knew that wasn't the answer, and would be bad for everyone.

I hardly ate during the day.  I was too stressed and busy.

The weekends were never long enough.  And I probably drank more alcohol each Friday after 3pm than ever before in my life.  Lots of teachers I knew did.  Friday happy hours were made for teachers, I came to believe.

I hated it, yet I carried on like a martyr.  Continued on with my grad classes.  Got support from everyone there.

"It will get better!" they encouraged.  "It is just the school."  "It is just a bad situation you were put into." 

I just nodded and tried to believe them, putting on a brave face.

When it came time for contract renewals and interviews for the position for the coming year (I had only signed a contract until the end of the year) I didn't even express an interest.  Some co-workers asked if I was going to interview.  Students asked if I would be back.

I remained vague and friendly on all fronts.   I didn't want anyone to think I was miserable there.  I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  I smiled at the students, even the ones that had given me the most issues, and told them how much I had enjoyed my time with them, and was excited to continue teaching, and gosh they had a great school there.

But in truth there was no way in hell I was going to continue in that position.  

Teaching, I had realized, was NOT my thing.

I walked out of school that last, sunny day in May with no regrets.  I had survived one of the hardest times of my life.  I had managed to not quit, and remain reasonably sane.  My salary had helped us continue to chip away at our debt.

I breathed in the warm spring air that last day as I exited the school as though it was a breath of new life.

Time for more changes.

I completed the summer semester of my grad school teaching program and then decided I was done.  With only two semesters left, some might wonder why I didn't just finish and have my master's degree in hand.  But a degree in teaching would do me no good - I knew it wasn't for me.  Also, I didn't want to rack up any more student loan debt.  I had learned an expensive life lesson, and was now renewed in my determination to just pay it all off and be done with the debt.

To that end, we decided to move.   To a smaller home.  Only two blocks away!  We loved the neighborhood but our current mortgage payment seemed unnecessary, especially when trying to pay off our debt.

So summer of 2009 we downsized to a home that fit our needs better.  Smaller size (less cleaning!) much smaller monthly mortgage payment, and...a yard!  (The other house had neither a yard or a garage - this had both.)
our second home together

Why did we need a yard?  Because our family was about to grow!  No, not a baby...we definitely weren't ready for that yet.

A dog!  July of 2009, right before moving, we purchased a sweet blonde Goldendoodle puppy named Colbie....
our first "baby" - back before we knew what having a baby was really like!!!

Colbie was perfect.  He helped us feel more like a family.  He helped heal my wounded sense of self, and traumatized mindset after my horrible teaching experience.  He totally saved me at that point in my life.

Thus began a period of peacefulness.

I was welcomed back with open arms at the end of the summer to my former position with the staffing agency.  I was promoted to a salaried position before long, with my own office!   I seriously loved going to work every day.

Paul went through several changes, too.  He had taken a finance position with a brand that was then sold unexpectedly to another company.  He then, after several months, was hired back at his original company, which would allow to stay more stable in our current city.  We both loved where we lived and hoped to stay here quite a while.  Paul, for his part, took all of this in stride, ever the calm professional.

We enjoyed the next year.  Worked hard at our jobs.  Worked on our marriage...which had gotten easier since the first year, but we were still working on communication and expectations.

In July of 2010, craving a creative outlet, I started blogging.  I also had a lot of fun learning how to cook and trying to bake...which I had never done before getting married.   Then there was the home-making process.  In that second home we renovated the kitchen and re-did the master bath, as well as a lot of outdoor landscaping.  My love for gardening deepened during this time, as well...since I now had a yard and plenty of space to plant things and watch them grow.

Life, in general, was pretty calm and good in that third year of marriage.  We travelled some, attended various weddings of friends, saw our careers prosper and our debt diminish.

Here are photos from that third year (and a few from the second)...

my bud and co-worker potts
out with thania - friend through paul's good friend bryce
double-fistin' it on a bar crawl -- enjoying the last years of my twenties, before kiddos!
lovey-dovey on halloween with my popeye
"yeah...I like this guy."




fun out at the bars!

celebrating more friends getting married!
I watched as my older siblings had more beautiful babies!!!
my friend rachel's wedding in MN
our second anniversary
Second anniversary date!



my sweet sister visits me!
a stop in chicago on our way to christmas in mn
ice skating date downtown 
hubby and I dancing on the table at the local german beer hall
totally married him for his dance moves  


florida 'roommate reunion' - right before we all started having babies!
love these ladies - we are officially all mamas now! EEEK!
out with our dear friends joyce and richard
my 29th birthday

vacation with my family in montana



hiking with my fam in montana
my friend kristina gets married -- while beth 'cooks up' baby #1!
sure, I love kentucky football...particularly with beer
wine tasting at a local art festival

Jimmy Buffet concert!

Jimmy Buffet!  

one of our various camping trips!
hiking in the pacific northwest
seattle trip - on top of the space needle {nice pose!!!!}

valentines date - 2010
another camping in red river gorge - when our family was just us and the {stubborn} dog
another fun halloween night out!
our little fam - fall 2009 
a visit from my former roomie/good friend kristina 
deliriously in love
learning to be supportive of all things UK - even freezing cold football games
on our way to paul's sister's wedding
one classy couple
there was a time when we could make it to midnight on New Year's Eve
a wedding in minnesota
at another wedding - this will make our children proud someday

Our third anniversary!




halloween 2010...right before finding out I was preggo!
After three years of marriage, having gone through a lot of personal changes, and - dare I say it -  some growth - it was October of 2010 and we thought that perhaps we were ready to think about having a baby.

A confession - my entire life I had worried I would not be able to have babies.  Maybe it is just part of my neurotic personality, but I feared that God wouldn't trust me to have any, due to my lack of maternal instincts and general lack of experience with babies.  There was also a part of me that thought I would be "punished" for past poor decisions I had made in life.  But God doesn't work that way, thankfully for me.  He gives us the desires of our heart when we seek His will - and, of course, when those desires coincide with his perfect plan He has for our lives.

Two months after I went off birth control and while tracking my ovulation we decided to throw caution to the wind and give the whole baby-making thing a whirl.

I honestly thought there was no way it would happen on the first try.

But it did.

And so began another chapter.

Marriage definitely changes things. 

Motherhood changes everything.
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