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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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My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.
~Jim Henson

Today is the opening of the much anticipated new Muppet Movie… well, maybe not as anxiously anticipated by everyone… but when you ask this humble couple, there hasn’t been enough hoopla surrounding the return of Jim Henson’s beloved creations.

Even though we’ve been counting down to this new movie for months, Matt and I will not be able to go see it tonight on opening day — happily, we made a commitment to something far more important:  babysitting my niece.  (I’m not gonna lie — the temptation was to combine the two activities by taking this sweet not-quite-two-year-old to her very first movie… but better judgement prevails, and we’ll leave that special moment to her parents.)

Still, Matt and I cannot wait to go see this movie as soon as we get a chance together.

You see, for most of my life, I have taken pleasure in silly, quirky, and whimsical childhood affinities like the Muppets, and Disney/Pixar movies, and even those old claymation Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials. It’s great to be a youth minister for the excuse to pay attention to current attractions (I really needed to see Harry Potter’s last movie — it’s my job to be aware of youth culture)!  For me, it’s not just nostalgia for a simpler time, or childhood memories– but also rejoicing in the lasting quality of the children’s programming that transcends pop-culture into lasting legacy.  (yes, the memories do exist, and they are nostalgic… my parents did not allow very much TV to my brother or I when we were little, but they encouraged us to watch Jim Henson programming.  Evening bedtime rituals sometimes revolved around quotes like “Bathtime is over in five minutes — the Muppet Show is starting!” )  Not all cartoons and kids shows are created equal.  The creators of these shows and movies were dreamers who had more in mind for their characters than entertainment or merchandising.  These characters have heart, personality, and courage, portrayed in personalities that are timeless.  They focus on the values that build up lasting friendships, and on the work it takes to follow their dreams.  They inspire 30 year old Cassandra as much as they did 5 year old Casey.

Now for the past couple of decades, my championing of Jim Henson productions seemed like a uniquely quirky characteristic amongst my friends.  In high school/ college/ adult circles of friends, I easily became characterized as the “childlike one” because of my endearment to the value of Muppet movies, etc. so much so that one Christmas (less than five years ago, mind you), more than half of the gifts I received from friends were toys or decorations involving Rudolph characters.  That experience gave me pause, and I realized how funny it was to other adults that I took so much joy in the simple pleasures provided by these characters.  It seemed like no one else “got it”, and I felt a little foolish for so openly sharing my joy with them.  Did no one else relate to the relevance of Kermit to someone in their thirties?

And then I became friends with Matt.  Here is a man that not only relates to my theories on why Fraggle Rock deserves a whole-series collectors edition DVD set… he instigates them!  Finally, I get a glimpse of what my friends observed in me several years ago — the endearing quality of a grown adult who will shamelessly wax poetic about the deeper meanings of the song lyrics to “Rainbow Connection”.  It’s sweet.  Engaging in witty banter with Matt over the character development of Fozzie Bear totally cracks me up.  Our early friendship bonded over an appreciation of the “art form” of quality G-rated movies.  I hope that throughout our marriage, we can continue to connect over the simple joys of childlike faith and love and laughter.

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Recently in the news I’ve been hearing about a saddening law proposal in Mexico.  Apparently:

(Reuters) – Mexico City lawmakers want to help newlyweds avoid the hassle of divorce by giving them an easy exit strategy: temporary marriage licenses.
Leftists in the city’s assembly… proposed a reform to the civil code this week that would allow couples to decide on the length of their commitment, opting out of a lifetime.
The minimum marriage contract would be for two years and could be renewed if the couple stays happy. The contracts would include provisions on how children and property would be handled if the couple splits.
“The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends,” said Leonel Luna, the Mexico City assemblyman who co-authored the bill….

What the what?!?

As someone preparing for marriage, I cannot comprehend what could possibly be going on in the mindset of someone who would choose to opt for a temporary license.  How could I ever look at Matt and say, yes, I agree to offer my total commitment to you, and to make vows before God and my community to love and support you for better or for worse, in sickness and in health…  but I’m going to put a time-limit on our relationship.  This marriage is conditional, and my love could be finite… we’ll have to see how we feel about it in a few years.

Seemingly, I’m not alone in my scoffing at this news.  The radio morning DJ’s I heard this week were commenting on how decidedly un-romantic this concept was.  Stephen Colbert wagged his finger at Mexico City for this in his Oct 5 episode.

Yes, I understand that the divorce rates in our society are disturbingly staggering… and just as so many people seem to be regarding marriage as disposable, these lawmakers are claiming that temporizing licenses would help avoid the complications of eminent divorces… it still alarms me that if our society accepts ideas like this, then they have lost touch with the point of marriage.  This rant could go in a hundred different directions here, but the point I will focus on today is that of discernment.

Discernment is about taking the time before we get married to prepare for our commitment to be life-long.  We need to acknowledge that unless we prepare for the best and the worst case scenarios now, our future marriage could be endangered.  Discernment begins early in a dating process and involves courting, getting to know one another’s family backgrounds, learning about your personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and compatibilities.  This means not only getting to know your partner, but also truly knowing yourself.  Before being ready to commit my life to loving and honoring my husband, I needed to take the time to contemplate my own values, my life goals, and my own insecurities.  Discernment means having the courage to open up lines of communication and having the toughest conversations about touchy issues (finances, family, religion, politics, personal values). Most importantly, discernment includes prayer… and listening to what God is telling each of you through quiet meditation, through the conversations with each other, and with family and friends, and even in those intuitive gut-feelings that the Holy Spirit gives us.

Discernment is a slow process.  I was dreaming and praying of the kind of wife I could be long before I even met Matt… and then even as our friendship began to develop, we were carefully examining our dynamics, looking for the compatibilities that came naturally as well as the challenges that would take work to overcome.  In our case, discernment was gradual and casual at first.  The closer we became as a unit, the more deliberate our discernment conversations of marriage became.

When you’re this careful… this intentional  about considering making a commitment to marriage, you can’t help but acknowledge that at some point in the future, things won’t come so easily.  You know beforehand that there will be stressful days and years which most certainly will offer challenges that obscure your focus on each other and will test your marriage.  But you enter into the covenant anyway, because you know that this is a commitment worth the effort it will take to last.

Finally, the engagement period itself is an important part of the discernment process.  Just because a beautiful diamond ring is on my finger, does not mean that we are past the point of figuring out how to deal with potential issues before we make our eternal vows.  The difference between saying “I will” and saying “I do”, is that getting engaged was a statement of intention and betrothal… and getting married is a covenant.

Why does it seem that those lawmakers are ready to allow marriages to be made with an escape clause?  I’d speculate that all too often, people could be making the decision to marry too hastily, too quickly, too rashly, and without taking the time to really weigh the consequences of their decision.  Of course, some rational judgment is lost when you are young and in love… those awesome feelings of twitterpated butterflies are all you want to care about, and it’s so darn romantic to be infatuated!  But if marriage were designed to have a shelf life of butterflies and puppy-love, then none of us would have grandparents celebrating wedding anniversaries after 50 years.

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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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Being single often, not always, means you can afford to be a little selfish. OK, a lot selfish.
While I’ve always been conscious of others and want to help those in need, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about me. That means going to the movies and spreading out. A 5-foot-9 guy can go big sometimes.
It’s amazing how quickly you get used to sitting alone in a movie theater.  I watched couples file in over the years and guessed which one was likely to talk and not let the other person watch the movie. I thought about how bad they had it off because I could use the empty seat next to me to store the Industrial-sized popcorn bag, candy box and drink. One of them was going to wind up butter in their lap.
Have you ever had two cup holders? It’s how the kings live.
As a young man, I used to think about marriage in an idealized fashion, but as I got older, I got used to being single and love seemed less appealing. Answering to no one ruled.
I now know, thanks to the presence of Casey in my life, that I was kidding myself.
One of the recurring themes for our Engaged Encounter weekend was that marriage isn’t a one-day thing, but a lifetime partnership. In our Catholic faith, it’s rooted in Christ’s love.
Casey and I currently live about an hour away from one another. When she’s working late, I’m faced with the same options I always had when I was a single man and bored. I’ll check out Fandango and go to the movies, get my snacks and plop down. Then I’ll look at the empty seat next to me and the word “bonus!” doesn’t come to mind. Instead, I think “Dagger!”
Love’s to blame and I’m not putting up a fight.
I look forward to having Casey by my side, not just when the theater lights dim, but for life’s journey ahead.

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