Sunday, December 21, 2014

Two Years of Real

Today, two years ago, I married William Baldwin. I felt very prepared. Perhaps that isn't the most romantic way of putting it, but it's the truest thing.

Will and I met at a New Year's Day party in Louisville, KY - he was wearing a black button down with stripes and his dark jeans, and I was wearing a black long sleeve shirt, herringbone skirt, black tights with leopard print kitten heels. We were the first ones at the party - high school friends of his, college friends of mine. We talked on and off all night, including a debate about the purpose of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and me semi-briefly monologuing about why Calvin Coolidge is my favorite president. I remember he was intrigued that I played lacrosse in high school, and I loved that he plays tennis.

In the beginning, there was the date.

Our first date was about a month later, at the Creationist Museum, and ended up lasting over 24 hours: we got pizza for lunch back in Cincinnati (30 minutes from the museum), we sat around the table chatting with my mom and younger siblings till the early evening, when my mom asked Will if he wanted to just stay over in the guest room - meant we had dinner, played cards and watched Doctor Who with my sisters (whom I was babysitting while my parents were at a party), and more fun conversations.

Then, there were the follow-up dates. 

Our second date, we did fun things in Louisville and back in his Indiana hometown across the Ohio River, like play tennis, eat his favorite pizza, play Dictionary with a few of his friends, watch Firefly for the first time, met his parents and grandfather (I spent the night too to compensate for the distance) and attended mass before Chinese buffet for lunch.

Even typing it out, I realize how atypical these first two dates were; but they only cement to me how comfortable we were with each other from the beginning, and that is truly a gift I do not take for granted. Part of that, I think, is for want of a real connection and for a willingness to put the "real" you out there - as well as the willingness to say goodbye.

Will, the one who never made me wonder (and always answers my questions)

Will is always honest with me - on our fourth date, he said we weren't boyfriend/ girlfriend yet. He encouraged me to date other people - until two months later, when I wrote him a short letter explaining I didn't want to see other people, and how I wanted to only date him. Will still has that letter in his car, in a side shelf on the driver's side.

His honesty with me could be chalked up to the fact that if we broke up, we never had to see or hear from each other again. Besides our two {original} mutual friends, we had no connections. We lived in different states, pursued different interests and careers, and would never be "just friends."

But it wasn't that: Will is honest, always. He's honest with others, and he's honest with himself. He put his cards on the table, and I respect that because I am still trying to be that honest with myself. Will sees me and exactly who I am, and he loves me and respects me. He sees my weaknesses, and doesn't exploit them. Where I am sensitive, he encourages me. He sees my strengths and honors them. He teases me and makes me want to always be a much, much, much better person.

We began discussing marriage six months after dating. For us - a medical student and a post-collegiate employed person, the timing was appropriate. We were 23 and 24. We went through a marriage book and covered every topic imaginable. A married guy friend of mine teased me about how unromantic it was that we were talking about everything - no surprises, he said.

But Will surprises me every day with his thoughtfulness and love. We don't argue. We might disagree on how to do laundry, but knowing that all non-negotiable are on the table and accounted for has helped me come to the realization that this marriage is more than two people who love each other: this marriage is real.

What is real?

I've been thinking a lot about "real". So much of life can feel like a theoretical - and even in marriage and the preparation that comes before it, nothing is guaranteed. You can love each other - theoretically. You can put God at the center - theoretically. This is why faith and works must support each other; this is why faith and reason must be interdependent.

It is not good for man to be alone - which is not to say that everyone must get married, but that community is the lifeblood of humans. We strive to uphold family relationships, friendships, and to do unto others.

I went into this marriage feeling my love of Will, and two years later, I know it even better. I do not just hear it - I experience it. It was a hard transition in some ways - he is not a presents or gestures person, or a naturally talkative person (whereas I am). I've learned his ways are not mine - and how genuine love cannot always be seen. What makes our marriage real every day is the way we re-affirm it to each other: our words, our actions, our intentions.

Marriage isn't easy, because life isn't easy. There is always going to be some sort of curve ball, and it's our job as husband and wife to swing together.

June 2014 - before residency!
I think a lot about all the curve balls in our marriage - mostly because it is our actions that define the moment. It is our words that nourish love. Will and I recognize that we are both individuals who still have a lot to learn about the other person - I like not presuming I know everything about Will. I like peppering him with questions about his thoughts and feelings because I want to know. I like bouncing between the mundane and marvelous with him. I appreciate the sacrifices he makes (he's working this entire Christmas week, for anyone who needs him!), and he lets me know how important I am to him, and what a wonderful mother I am to Grace and bebe.

In this season of Advent, as we await the Incarnation, I am reminded of the incarnational love of marriage. I need these reminders in my loneliness. These reminders are pictures, my wedding rings, our child, my ballooning belly and the bebe who kicks inside (31 weeks!!); the house I clean up every day because we share it and we're building our lives together within its walls.

I like to reflect on the Holy Family during the day - Joseph and Mary traveled long distances and toiled together too; they gave birth far from family too. They were newlyweds seeking a life beyond fear - to live simply, to go about our work as good and noble, to raise our children in love and for God, and with each other.

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2013
Christmas 2014
Will, I love you. I can't wait for our schedules to align better. My heart leaps for joy the way Grace crawls around the house now, and goes to the stairs and calls "Da!!" because she thinks you're just in your office, not at the hospital. I am not sorry I beat you in CandyLand, and one day I'll beat you in Monopoly. Here's to all our adventures, and the ones to come! Happy anniversary, my darling husband.

Your loving wife,


  1. Happy anniversary! What a sweet post! I have a hard time believing our next anniversary will be #5. It goes so fast! And I feel like 5 years is finally long enough where people don't think of you still as newly weds or just recently married or complete novices. Always so much more to learn about and in marriage though!

  2. Happy Anniversary, dear Julie and Will!

  3. So beautiful! Thank you for your witness to Christ's love through your marriage, Julie and Will! Many prayers for you :)

  4. Happy anniversary to you & your husband! Beautiful reflection, Julie.

  5. Happy two years and many, many more to you and Will!!
    PS Your wedding dress is beautiful!