Monday, May 28, 2012


Last night I got home after visiting my mother-in-law for 13 days. It started out bumpy; Ed forgot to call her to tell her that I'd caught my flight, which caused her to panic; while I was en route she left me a voicemail in which he was practically in tears - an e-mail, too - worried that something terrible had happened to one or both of us. Once I landed and got her messages, I was able to call her to relieve her, but she was again nearly in tears, worrying. She calmed down once she realized it was nothing more than a lapse, that no one was hurt. (One of Ed's employment benefits is such that I fly for free; the downside is that I don't always get a seat on my preferred flight, or I learn moments before the door closes that I'll have a seat on the flight I want. I'd asked Ed to call her to let her know I'd boarded simply because I couldn't be sure I'd have enough time to let her know myself.)

The visit was an eye-opener in ways I hadn't foreseen. I'd only met Ed's mother three times previously, and only briefly; this was the first chance I've had to spend time with her for any length of time - and was the first real opportunity I've had to see what traits Ed inherited from or was taught by his mother. Ed has already had that chance to get a better sense of me; he's spent more time with my parents, who have been more proactive in getting to know him.

Ed's parents began the process of divorcing not long after we married; they're currently separated, living about 20 miles apart. I agreed to help her with household tasks she did not feel she could manage or had not learned to do. These weren't particularly strenuous tasks, but she has a bad back, so I pulled weeds and helped rearrange patio furniture, fixed a plumbing issue until a professional could be called, etc. She also had a medical procedure scheduled, one that required her to have someone drive her; unfortunately it did not go well, so I was able to drive her around until the issue was resolved (and fortunately it turned out to have a fairly good resolution, despite a few days of worry).

What I saw was that she was extremely frightened and feeling intensely vulnerable, very unsure of herself and uncertain how to live, afraid of being in the house alone, or doing anything; she has no self-confidence in her ability to do anything. Any one thing, big or small, caused her to spiral quickly downwards. I felt badly for her, but did not allow myself to be drawn into hopelessness or pessimism, or be put in the middle of their divorce or take part in disrespect. (To be fair, she and Ed's father have been very careful to not put either Ed or myself in the middle; Ed's mother said one or two things but either she caught herself, or I cut such comments off at the pass.)

The upshot of this visit was that I got to know my mother-in-law more, have a better sense of her, got to see childhood pictures of Ed, and we did have some good conversations. But more importantly, I saw how Ed himself has been taught to handle stressors, which, odd as it may sound, is actually invaluable to me because now I have a better idea how to respond.


I've been wondering how much drama is self-inflicted, the result of low self-confidence or immaturity, or not being taught to be self-sufficient. And I realized for the first time this incredible gift my parents gave me in teaching me how not to be afraid and to be self-reliant and pragmatic.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Trindentine Mass

On Sunday afternoon, Ed's mom and I went to a Trindentine Mass at Holy Trinity church - the first I'd ever been to - and it turned out to be really interesting, but also pretty passive from my place in the congregation. I didn't know any of the prayers; the congregation said practically nothing, or they whispered responses; I could barely hear the priest, whose back was turned to us, and couldn't follow along in the Latin/English missal I was given because of it. I also screwed up during communion by putting out my hands, which apparently was not done back in the day. (I'm sure the priest is used to such infractions at this point. One learns new things when one was born more than a decade after Vatican II.) The Mass was sparsely attended, and many of the women and girls wore chapel veils

But it was a really beautiful church, and it included a gift shop where I was able to pick up a small wall crucifix and, finally, a missal (I haven't even been able to find one online; I cancelled an order after waiting for five months; the delivery date was pushed back one month, then two; finally, the customer service representative couldn't even guess when it would be delivered).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Year One

On Saturday, May 14, 2011, Ed and I were married in the same church in which my parents were married in 1969, and like them, we were surrounded by our parents, family, and friends. Despite my initial hesitation of having a traditional wedding, our wedding day was one of the best and most fun days of my life. My mother remarked that our wedding just felt happy. This is the best compliment I could have wished for; nothing complicated, just simply happy.

It's a rare occasion that one gets to have so many of the people one loves in one place for a happy occasion. We couldn't believe the distance that some of our guests were willing to travel to celebrate with us: Long gone are the days of the bride and groom growing up in the same part of the country, staying there, and having extended families and friends in the same area. Aside from my parents and some cousins who lived in the Lehigh Valley, guests came from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Utah, Canada, and Ireland. Our bridal party hailed from Long Island, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Albany, Boston, and Virginia to be there with us.

Some good things happened during the course of the year: I got offered a teaching job at a local university the day after our wedding; I was also hired later that summer as a teaching assistant at a local middle school. In January I was offered a job teaching at Salt Lake Community College, where I continue to teach; I've been able to continue teaching as a substitute teacher. Both are excellent places to work, and I'm lucky that even though these are part time positions without benefits, I get to do work I love.

Some not-so-great things happened, though, too: Ten days after our wedding Ed was told that he might or might not lose the job he'd held for a number of years; after a six week period of uncertainty - a time of great stress; there an agonizing uncertainty in not knowing something like this; financially we would have been devastated, probably lost the house and lost the health insurance I had just gotten for the first time in over ten years - Ed's position was eliminated for budgetary reasons. Although he was almost immediately offered another job, followed by an even better-suited one within the same company, this was a financial setback we weren't expecting, and from which we're still reeling. However, Ed manages to continue working for SkyWest Airlines, where he has been employed for over a decade, in a position that he enjoys, excels at, and in a department in which he is valued.

Even worse, we saw the marriages of friends and family end in divorce. Seeing people you love, who through the years have been such an important part of your life, go through such difficult times, especially when one's own marriage is new and happy, is difficult and poignant. We were contemplative, watching these changes happen around us.

In many ways, our first year was easy, in ways that might not be for others in their first year of marriage. Whatever problems we faced were not because of each other; our struggles were financial, the result of external factors over which we had little control. There were some initial bumps as we learned to merge our lives and renegotiate the manner in which we handle our problems, but things have been overcome easily enough. (We've come to the conclusion that we must be doing something wrong: We're not fighting.) We know we'll encounter unforeseeable problems, but we have begun a pattern of communication that will (hopefully) serve us well throughout our marriage: No screaming matches, no throwing things, no personal attacks, no drama.

There is no doubt that I made the right decision.