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Archive for the ‘Life Lessons’ Category

Just under five months ago, I asked Casey to marry me.
That’s going to happen today.
Almost immediately after I proposed, we talked about how we didn’t want to wait too long and that we were ready to be married to one another.
We just didn’t realize how quickly five months would go by.
Even up to today, we’re making last minute adjustments and prep. No matter what’s ready, we are crossing the finish line together by 5:30. We’ve come to realize that today isn’t the finish line, however. It is the start of the longest, most life-giving marathon there is: marriage. Along the way, we know there will be faith, family and friends with figurative water cups to help nourish and sustain us. We will never be thirsty without those things in our lives.
I know one thing: I am emotional as I type this. As a boy, I dreamed that I would marry a sweet and smart woman who brought me joy, made me laugh and made me better. As a man, I will stand in front of the altar and know I’ve found her and much, much more.
I will aim to be her equal.
A look at Cassandra Michele Anderson puts the world in perspective. All of its possibilities come into focus.
I don’t know where life is going after today, but I go into the unknown with great joy, anticipation and humility.
This blog will continue beyond today and become our marriage and family blog.
When I proposed, I asked Casey if she would be interested in doing a blog with me. As a professional writer, this was a natural outlet for me, but I figured Casey could use it as a teaching tool for the teenagers she works with. They would see the Sacrament of Marriage is something truly special. I may be the writer, but Casey is this blog’s best contributor and I learn something each time I read her musings. She makes me laugh and think at the same time.
Thanks to you, the reader, who has followed along. You’ve contributed so much to our journey and we hope you continue with us.
The journey is only starting. Bring the water cups.

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In 34 days, I’ll be standing in front of the altar waiting for Casey. I’ve always been waiting for her and three years ago I penned this blog for The Catholic Review about my status as a single man.

It’s an odd place to be when you are 30, Catholic and single in a church that is all about family building.

Everyone and their mom claims to know someone who “would be perfect for you.” So, you go on a series of blind dates that leave you wondering if the people who set you up really know you at all.

“The Big 3-0” is the point of no return in the real world. You’re not- in theory, at least- a kid anymore. The bottle opener still on the key chain should have been gone after your 25th birthday party… at the latest. All of your friends had their weddings three or four years ago and those bottles you used to open for them at parties are replaced with ones that contain baby formula.

So, when the family gets together to give you a watch for the landmark birthday, it’s not by accident. It’s one of those non-so-subtle reminders to make like Simba in The Lion King and get on with the Circle of Life already.

So, where do you go from here? Some, like my childhood friend recently did, enter the noble life of the priesthood. Some people keep at the dating scene, whether its through local parish singles groups or Web sites.

Who can resist E-Harmony, with its 29-dimension match system?! Seriously, look at those people, laughing and dancing in the commercials. They’re not just harmonious. They’re e-harmonious.

I turned 30 last month and joined the Review two weeks later. As a single guy, I didn’t think about the “point of no return” much leading up to the big day, but have lingered more on it since I transitioned from sports writing to covering the church.

It’s easy not to think about the married life much when you’re eating hot dogs and covering games until 10:30 p.m. every night. Sports writers can be as emotionally stunted as the athletes they cover.

Families, though, are the essence of the church.

Single men and women are the stragglers, trying to find a place to belong. Who wants to be the loner sitting in the back pew? Trust me, we’ve seen you looking at us and it’s uncomfortable for us, too.

Even though we may not be running on everyone else’s clock, we can still be an important voice in the church. Finding that voice is the challenging part.

Casey tells me that she used to read my blogs and think we might be compatible. We were each on a similar plane, but on different tracks. One day soon, God willing, we might walk to the edge of Pride Rock and raise our own cubs to the sky. OK, Casey might kill me if I do that, but wouldn’t it be sweet to have an African chorus welcome your child into the world?

It’s extraordinary, really, to think of life’s possibilities. This weekend, I’m going to Mass by myself again. This time, it’s to look for a parish that Casey and I will possibly share as a couple, raise our children in and grow in our faith together. I know my future in the church now – as a family man.

I guess it’s time to get a watch.

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A little more than a week ago, I packed up all my earthly belongings (except those Star Wars toys my mom promised to not throw away) and moved to Catonsville to the house Casey and I will share for at least the first year of our marriage. With the help of my mother, my friend George and Casey’s family, we also moved Casey’s stuff into the house during the same weekend.

One thing that hasn’t moved in is Casey.

I’m there alone until Dec. 30, the day she becomes my wife. Sure, she comes over and we have dinner or watch a movie together, but right now it’s mostly just me in there. While I was covering the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) for The Catholic Review, Casey spent an extraordinary amount of time unpacking boxes, putting things in their proper places (which I’m still trying to figure out) and getting the house in order. All of it was preparing the house to be our home.

And, that’s the thing. While I have adjusted to living in Catonsville, it’s not home yet. The most important piece for me – Casey – isn’t there yet. All of the material goods in the world make a home fun to be around, but love fills it.  I look forward to New Year’s Eve morning, when I can look across the bed and see the face of my wife and know I get to spend every day of  my life growing with her, supporting her and loving her.

The cliché goes, “Home is where the heart is.” My heart will be full Dec. 30 and each day that comes after.

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Appropriately, today I stumbled upon this inspiring true story about Danny and Annie (thank you, Life Teen!), who speak to the ability to make every-day married life profound.  Totally worth 6 minutes.

Cheers,   Cassandra

 

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

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Back in 2003, when I was graduating from Mount Saint Mary’s College and applying for parish youth ministry jobs, I had to put a lot of thought and prayer into my decision to be a youth minister.  This job would mean that I get to follow my dream and serve the community in inspiring and fulfilling ways.  I would have the opportunity to promote positive influences to teenagers.  I would be able to teach young people about faith, and about what it means to live as a disciple of Christ.  I would get paid to eat ice cream and pizza …  a LOT of pizza!

But the flip side of that coin was that in order to be a good resource to teens and families in a Church community, I would be putting in many hours working on weekends and weeknights.  I would have flexible time during the week (I make my own hours, more or less), but would be required to be available at the times that everyone else is “off”.  This was no 9 to 5.

The toughest part of my ministry schedule is that there are so many times that family gatherings become sacrificed.  People normally plan backyard barbeques and birthday parties and movie marathons on the WEEKENDS, and depending upon what’s on the parish youth ministry schedule, it could present a tough choice of priorities for me.

sharing an evening at Camden Yards with Matt "at work". Not really. Well, maybe a little bit.

Matt’s work schedule is a little more structured (unlike me, he does have enforced office hours Monday through Friday), but even still, he often has reporting assignments that take place  during the evening and weekend hours.  I think that for him, it is even tougher to manage because at least in my case, I can comp my own time by taking a random morning off or work from home, but he has more pressure to have articles ready for printing deadlines.  Additionally, Matt has a second job (part time), covering the Orioles for PressBox Online, in which he blogs regular reports for their website.  During the baseball season, he attends home games at Camden Yards and interviews players, coaches, and managers … it makes for some very late worknights for him as well!

Matt and I began to learn about balancing schedules as soon as we began dating.  Sometimes my work week was flexible and provided opportunities for spontaneity on a weekday afternoon.  Sometimes, when the retreat season is busy, we’d go for days on end without seeing each other.  Early on, we began to realize how important it would be for us to prioritize one another with our time management.  It was easy to do, though, because we so enjoy time together!  It’s most challenging when our respective schedules pull us in opposite directions, so that we can’t find ways to synchronize our time off to spend together…  Thankfully, those seasons are few.

One thing I’ve kept in mind is that no matter how fun and exciting (or busy and stressful, depending upon the day) work may be, it is so important that we always make room in the busy schedule to have quality time with one another.  On the weeks that I go days and days with late nights in meetings and weekends away with teens on retreat, I don’t feel complete until I see Matt again.  I’m lucky that he, too, prioritizes time with me– especially when the calendar fills up with appointments and assignments.  Sometimes, I have to pray that God will multiply our time and provide us with unexpected ways to bond over shared activities.  Our time together energizes and inspires me, and his presence reminds me of the person I strive to be.

Looking forward to our marriage, we get to look forward to finally coming home to each other every day.  Even on the stressful days with early mornings or late nights, I will have a guaranteed chance to talk face to face when we wake up and a kiss goodnight at the end of the day.   Today, we settled on the home that we will make our own — our first home together as newlyweds!  It is exciting to be able to visualize the space in which I will, for the first time, come home to dinner with my husband in January.  Ahh — so soon!  We’re counting down the days…

Love, Cassandra

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I’m not sure when I contracted it, but I’ve got a chronic case of the blinks. While other kids had their awkward yearbook photos taken open-eyed, I always had my eyes closed.  I once got my picture taken with Sleepy the Dwarf at DisneyWorld and they changed his name to Awakey after he stood next to me.

My future sister-in-law, Rory, likes to say, “Open your eyes!” as she snaps a shot when I’m with Casey. But, Rory’s been on the other side of this as well.

In fact, here’s me blinking with Rory at Ice! in Prince George’s County in early 2010.

Here’s me blinking at a Pasni, a Nepali celebration for babies who are sixth months old. This is called International Blinking.

Here’s me blinking at an Orioles game with some friends. And, no, the Orioles didn’t put me to sleep.

Take a look at the shot this blog’s main photo. I’m blinking!

This week, Casey and I are meeting with a potential wedding photographer, which is something we’re both excited about. Admittedly, I’m a little paranoid about our wedding photos.

If ever there was a day I want my eyes wide open, it’s my wedding day.  I feel like I need to do some calisthenics and get ’em all stretched out.

A photographer is going to be a partner in this journey with us. Weddings tend to go by in a blink (No pun intended. OK, maybe it was intended.) and a photographer can be an extension of us, capturing people we love that are sharing in our day. Most importantly, he’s going to snap the photos of us that we will be sharing with our children in the years to come. It’ll provide endless amounts of entertainment for them as they make fun of how mom and dad looked back then.

Keep your eyes open – even if I can’t – for our photographer decision.

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Ever been to an Irish wake?  It’s exhausuting.
This week has offered Matt and I an unexpected lesson in “familyhood”:  comforting one another through times of sorrow.  On September 23, our world was rocked off its axis when my younger cousin was killed in a motorcycle crash.  The following days have been a blurry roller-coaster of emotion as my Irish Catholic family (dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins) have gathered from near and far to honor his memory … and to grieve together as a family community.  It has been a hellish string of days, and the only comfort we can take is in knowing that we are not alone in our pain.
When there are no words that can express the sorrow, and no actions that will heal the rawness of our grief, we can only support one another by being there. But when the loss is so sudden and unexpected, even the simple ministry of presence requires an extraordinary amount of effort…  and our family members have astounded me by their unhesitating willingness to take days off from work, to travel for hours driving and flying from across the country, to detour around several states so that my grandfather has a ride to the viewing (and back home to New Jersey again), and then to arrive at the doorstep armed with food, beverage, and extra towels.  In the sudden moment of crisis, we put into action the values on which we have been raised.  Without complaint or a second thought, we are there for one another.
As a future family member, Matt has followed suit without missing a beat.  Although we’re three months away from Matt’s taking the vows to become an “official” member of the O’Sullivan clan to which I belong, he bravely stepped into position at my side this week.  While I kept busy helping my mom prepare the house to host countless out of town visitors, Matt kept busy running errands for us, being ready with a box of tissues or a hand to hold.  Without any instruction or explanation, he had an instinct that told him where I needed him to be.  By my side. Even on the bad days.  Especially on the bad days.

 

For more information about my cousin Conor, here’s his obituary.

 

Peace,  Casey

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