Better Together

Life is full of surprises. Cliche? You better believe it! But there’s so much truth in that statement. We plan for the future but never really know what’s waiting around the bend. Case in point: I’m getting married. Again!

3 years ago my marriage lay in waste with bleak prospects for reconciliation. Now, 1095 days later, I’m in the midst of wedding planning. In less than a week, I’ll be marrying my best friend and life partner all over again. But how did we go from a decade of marriage to the brink of divorce and back? This is that story.

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Before jumping in I do want to answer a question I’m frequently asked: “Why are you so open about sharing – isn’t it awkward?” The short answer is, “No.” Going through a separation from a spouse is a dramatic experience. When I first started to share, it was to invite others along for my journey. I wanted to open up about what I was going through because I needed prayer, love, and support. By seemingly making myself vulnerable, I was actually building up strength by gathering people around me. I had to fight the impulse to isolate myself. Being alone would not lead me down the right path. As the Bible says, there’s wisdom in a multitude of counselors, and what I really needed was advice! The outpouring of support I received was otherworldly. Phone calls, letters, meals, financial provision, legal advice, counseling, prayer, and more. Having this practical, emotional, and spiritual support from friends and family helped me get through the fog of those early days.

But that’s not the only reason I have chosen to share. Now that I’m on the flip side of this experience, I can extend the love I  received to others who are walking a similar path. Beyond building a safety net, sharing my story has also allowed me to take a difficult experience and transform it into something useful for others. It would be a shame to hoard the wisdom I gathered all to myself. There are so many people going through similar situations and my openness invites them to share, to seek help, and to seek support.

One more thing before jumping in. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention how David feels about all of this sharing. Isn’t it uncomfortable for him to have me writing about this openly? Throughout this experience, I’ve been careful to filter out certain details out of respect for Dave, me, and our family. Opening up about a trial doesn’t mean having to spill all the beans. Just some of them. People who are closest to us know the intimate details and we use discretion beyond that. I maintain my commitment in this way by having David proof any writing I do about this topic. It’s not just my story, after all, it’s his too.

So how did the rekindling begin?

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It all started the night the Cubs won the world series. Really?! Really. How very Chicago of us! The entire city felt electric that night and that energy was contagious. Cubs fans all over the city were on the edge of their seats, bleachers and couches, watching the game with bated breath. Meanwhile, we were sitting on the floor of the sunroom in my apartment talking. Really talking. We both expressed regret, made our apologies, and professed our love for one another. Sparks flew, and then, the fireworks started. Both literal and figurative. It was like the making of an early nineties rom-com. As we won the game the city erupted into a jubilee. There were explosives going off, people running into the streets, and crowds cheering for joy. We were celebrating too – but not for the Cub’s win. We were celebrating the potential of our marriage’s rebirth. This was the breakthrough we needed. There was hope again.

The Cubs won the world series on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. David and I had been separated for 5 months. It would still be another 20 more before we officially reconciled.

Picking up the pieces after a dramatic split is a long process. Think about how quickly a house can be burned down to the ground by a fire, and then, how long it takes to build it back up again. That’s how it was with our marriage. We wanted to make sure that if we got back together it was in the right way and for the right reasons. That took months of soul-searching, counseling, laughter, and tears. I was scared, unsure of how to proceed and what the reconciliation process should look like. But David gave me one of the greatest gifts possible in that season of doubt: time. He affirmed to me that he would wait for me, however long it would take. He respected my need to move slowly, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. 

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David and I both went to counseling, separately. It was intense but a lot of healing needed to take place on both sides. We had to rediscover our unique identities, understand our hurts, and find healing before coming back together again. We then started couples therapy. There were weeks where we made leaps forward and in a matter of days found ourselves back at the start line. But that’s okay. We knew that if we truly were in it for the long haul, it would require a lot of hard work to build a sturdy foundation for the years to come. Once our couples therapy came to an end we joined a newlywed small group at church and it was incredible! We giggled at first, knowing that we were quite the seniors of the group, but the practical wisdom we gathered up was invaluable. We learned about the basics all over again and firmed up the building blocks of our marriage.

All in all our reconciliation process took two years. It seems lengthy, but boy, are we glad to have taken all that time! Now, years after our original marital implosion, we can look back and see the fruits of that long, arduous process. Thanks to God’s grace, hope, and wisdom, and support from our community, we haven’t just pieced our marriage back together, we have completely resurrected it from the ashes. There’s a sweetness that we share, unlike anything we had before. Our dedication for one another is deeply rooted and stronger than ever. There are still those rare moments when we’re reminded of the tough times, but we work through those memories. Together. 

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The naivete of our youth is gone, and in its place is a calm assurance that we’re together, truly, because this is where we want to be. There’s no doubt, no bitterness. Just love. A deep root-watering life-filling love that pours out from each of us. A river flowing stronger, longer, than we ever thought possible.

So there you have it! The final saga in our separation story and how everything came back together again. In just a few days we’ll be exchanging vows again and publicly recommitting ourselves to our marriage. We cannot wait because we know, we truly are, better together.

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Building Our Nest

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One year. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve held the keys to my first ever home. A place, a space, a nook that belongs to me. No more leases, no more landlords, no more restrictions. A property that’s all mine.

Owning had been a dream of mine for years but something that always seemed just out of reach. No matter how much I planned and saved I couldn’t scrap enough together. So when my parents offered to have us move in to save money for a nest egg I eagerly said “yes.”

 

After six months of saving and house hunting I found a beautiful condo nestled on a quiet street just outside of Chicago proper. It had everything I could dream of: vintage charm, solid bones, ample parking, and was within walking distance of public transit, a playground, beach, shops, cafés and a library. And the best part? A view of the lake! I could envision August running up and down the shore, scurrying off to the beach or running around the park with newfound friends. It was my dream come true.

 

The unit was just big enough for our little family and just under my budget. The night of the viewing was the night I made an offer. I couldn’t risk it getting away from me. After a fervent prayer and a couple of calls – my offer was pitched and by the next day – accepted.

 

The building, which August refers to as “the castle,” is a historic landmark built in the roaring 20s. A large collection of units are strung together across three floors and two courtyards along the lakefront. Our block is bookended by a park, complete with playground, and a beach. The listing for my unit described it as “the perfect site for your vacation home.” Except ours would be a 365 day home. Perfect.

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A Very Confetti Birthday

I have a 4 year old. Repeat. I have a 4 year old! There is a child in my house who is potty trained, can speak in full sentences, knows how to operate light machinery and can recite the planets to me in order. 4 years old!

Hitting this milestone was a cause for celebration. With August sharing his birthday with an epic holiday (cough Valentine’s Day cough) we knew we’d have to plan early. So way back in December I asked August, “What kind of birthday would you like?” I was expecting an answer along the lines of dinosaurs, legos, robots, animals or space. But not August. He’s always thinking a bit outside the box and of that I’m always proud. “Confetti” he replied. Really? I had to ask him a second time to make sure I understood. “Confetti?” He nodded yes. Alright then! Confetti it would be!

As soon as he confirmed his vision I started collecting goodies for the party. There were tons of New Year’s Eve decorations on store shelves and lots of sparkly colorful knick knacks that would lend themselves to our little celebration. I already have an arsenal of party decor that I reuse from event to event – so that was on the docket too. My kitchen cabinets are loaded with colorful cake stands, bright plates, customizable message banners, fun paper straws and colorful napkins. Perfect! I also knew I had a sizable stack of construction paper that I could tap for a homemade element. I ended up cutting out hundreds of confetti circles and sewing through them with my machine. Voila! Instant party decor.

When planning food for kid parties handhelds are always best. The goal is to keep things nice and simple so the kids can self serve, leaving the adults to have a chance to connect.  Trader Joe’s is always my go-to for party food. The prices are great, the products are delicious AND there are no creepy chemicals lurking about. That’s right! No synthetic additives, gmos or high fructose nonsense.Even the color additives are natural. I’ll take beet and carrot derived hues over red 40 any day! The final party spread included organic low-sugar juice for the kids, coffee, sparkling water and hard cider for the adults, fresh jumbo pretzels, cheese sticks and wheels, cheddar popcorn, peanut butter banana shish kabobs (thanks Pinterest!), grapes, a vegan veggie platter, and of course, cake. The best part? The cake, also from Trader Joes, was covered in confetti sprinkles. Love!

So there you have it. Our take on a very confetti birthday. Happy birthday little August!

2018 in Review: Changes

Driving down a familiar road made me think about where I was exactly one year ago. It’s really amazing how much can change in 365 days.

In January of 2018 my heart was shattered. My dear Peanut succumbed to prostate cancer, I was still separated from my husband, and I found myself living back with my folks driving 4 hours a day just to get to work. Everything in life seemed to be regressing instead of moving forward. I found myself at the bottom of a valley. Wasn’t I supposed to be doing better by now? Why did I keep moving backwards? Why did things continue to unravel around me? But God had a plan and His timing is always good.

So there I was, living with my parents, running a marathon on weekdays and spending each weekend in an emotional coma. I was burying myself in books, music and prayer just to get through the day. I didn’t know what road I was on, which direction it led, and who was on it with me. But God knew. In the last 12 months the most extraordinary things have happened to completely transform the trajectory of my life. What a difference a year makes!

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Here are just a few of the highlights.


Spring: Home Sweet Home

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I had always dreamed of owning my own place. A nook that was all mine, to do with as I pleased. No landlord, no lease, just property. A place where I could nest, without restraints, that I knew could be mine for however long I’d like. It’s the American dream after all.

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The Big T-W-O!

Oh my goodness – when did it happen?! When was I suddenly the mother of a full-fledged toddler?!

This past Valentine’s Day we crossed the milestone. August turned the big T-W-O! My little bundle, my baby boy, is now a floor stomping, bug poking, soil slinging mini man. He’s independent, fiery, curious, and addicted to routines. Thankfully, his tantrums are few, and his appetite is still big, so I’m clinging on to those two baby hold overs for as long as possible. His vocabulary is expanding in an exponential rate as are his physical capabilities. I’m telling you – mini man. Mini man.

To celebrate his passage into this new phase of life I hosted a small shin dig in his honor. As I’m quickly learning with this stage, less is more. Instead of busting out all stops for a big hoopla of a party, I planned an intimate breakfast bash with family, friends, and some of his toddler buddies. “Keep it simple sweetie” – definitely the way to go.

For the decorations I stayed away from a true theme and instead pulled together some basics in a variety of colors and textures. I also fell in love with a gold “Yay” Mylar balloon I found at Target – so threw in a few more metallic elements to bring it all together. Add a few bright floral bouquets and a smattering of wooden animal figurines and wallah! My apartment was birthday party ready!

For the food spread I, again, kept things simple. I filled up a cutting board with a variety of cheeses, including the standard brie and blue, both of which August promptly took whopping bites from. See my Instagram for video proof. I filled several bowls with berries, yogurts and granola, and set out jams and other condiments for spicing things up. Putting my collection of cake stands to work, I piled up mini omelettes, freshly baked mini croissants as well as towers of silver dollar pancakes skewered with berry kabobs. Do you see a pattern yet? Mini, mini, mini. One thing that was full sized was August’s birthday cake: A delightful chocolate ganache that we purchased from Whole Foods which I then topped with fresh cut flowers, a wooden animal figurine, a sparkler, and of course, two candles. For drinks I also kept things minimal and served orange juice, french pressed coffee, and organic milk boxes for the kiddos. The food was definitely a huge hit!

As seems customary at kid parties, I had an activity planned, but in the hub-bub of guests, food, and toddler antics, there was no opportunity to introduce it. Aka, I totally forgot. Oops! I had bought the supplies to have the kids make their very own seed bombs which they could “plant” somewhere in their neighborhood. Since I have the wildflower seeds and peat rarin to go – I may host a spring themed play date to give the littles a chance to get their hands dirty while teaching them some horticulture basics. But I digress.

730 days old. Quite the milestone and so glad we had a chance to properly celebrate. Now to start plans for Easter!

 

August Year One

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It’s been twelve months since the birth of Augustine.

Twelve months since we learned to swaddle, sway, and sweet talk. Twelve months of changing diapers, sorting toys, and counting sheep. Twelve months of learning the ropes, building up confidence, and settling into parenthood. Twelve months of prayers, patience, giggles, and dreams. Twelve months of learning to love deeper, higher, and without limits.

It’s been twelve months since our lives changed forever, and for the better, which is why we’re celebrating our first twelve months as the mom and dad of Augustine.

Happy birthday to our little jelly bean!

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Our little jelly belly turned eight months earlier this month. Crazy how time flies, right?! Besides hitting a new age, our little man sprouted his first two teeth, said da-da, and started to crawl. And all in just a week! These  developmental leaps were a sudden wake up call that his infant days are fleeting.

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After this realization a rush of sentimentalism washed over me, prompting me to schedule some time off for a staycation with the boys. I wanted a handful of days where I could slow down, spend time with August and his dad, and soak up the season.

One of the highlights of our recent stint of hometown tourism was a visit to the new Maggie Daley park. Continue reading