Oh, those bows!

From the minute Michael and Kristin were engaged, my little girls have been merrily planning for their Flower Girl Day. Oblivious to anything but the happily-ever-after theme of a wedding, they have loved every minute of the last year. 

Very late in our wedding planning, I recognized that I had no plan for their hair. Karoline's hair is very curly. Katie's is heavy and straight. Sarah's is fine and straight . Kristin thought "half up" and curly. We practiced curling the straight hair for a week, trying this method and that until everyone was satisfied. Then it dawned on me that I didn't have bows to go with the dresses.

It was moments before Christmas and the girls suggested I ask "Elle's mom" about her bows. Elle is in Karoline's ballet class. With that, Elle's mom became a part of our handmade wedding. Despite a lack of local ivory ribbon-and-no time to order-and-a classroom full of kindergartners learning a whole bunch of new security things the week before break-and-the fact that she had to get her own family on the road for Christmas in order to get ahead of a blizzard {whew!}, she delivered these beauties to my doorstep, late one night on her way out of town.



Thank you for your kind words and prayers yesterday. I think I hit rock-bottom around three yesterday afternoon. I'm pretty sure I sent Ginny a couple of desperate emails. In addition to her warm words, she also helped me find these pictures. Pictures have a way of telling a deeper story, a side story, sometimes sharpening a memory and sometimes offering a unique hope for the future.
And sometimes, the perfect picture, from the perspective of a friend, is just the perfect, perfect laugh. 

(Karoline's bow probably had the most fun;-)
I slept a solid eight hours last night for the first time since Thanksgiving. Hope is definitely on the rise!
All photos are Ginny's.

Wedding Moments on a Monday





So many moments I want to remember. Not for a second can I begin to  capture them here. I think I've hesitated to put words to the moments because I'm quite sure I can't adequately express my heart. So, let's just try to catch a few moments.
::This was a small, intimate wedding.  Of all my girlfriends, only two were there. They came with their cameras and they offered us the gift of their art. Forever, we will remember the wedding through their eyes. For me, I know I entrusted wedding memories to kindred spirits who know my heart. That's a rare treasure. Several years ago, a photographer named Lori asked if I'd like her to take pictures in the bluebells. I hesitated, because those woods are so very special and personal to our family. I couldn't fathom a photoshoot there. Mike encouraged me to jump at the chance. All through that beautiful day in the woods, Lori kept saying, "You have to meet my friend Ginny. You two--you're a lot alike." I met Ginny in those same woods a couple years later. And our friendship has grown into a treasure of my heart. The gift of these pictures is just the beginning. The gift of their understanding was priceless.
::Mary Beth was terribly sick the week before the wedding. So many of my logistical plans hinged on her. At the last moment, Kristin suggested we invite Mary Beth's darling friend Molly to be one of the family for the weekend. And Molly--lover of weddings--enthusiastically jumped in. I think that between eleven o'clock Friday evening and the march down the aisle Saturday, Molly spent eight hours curling hair. She was sweet and gracious and wonderful and willing to do anything to make the day fairytale perfect. Girlfriends. They're the best.
::Seven minutes before I was to walk down the aisle, Patrick knocked on the Bride's Room door. He insisted that Michael needed to see me immediately. Fighting panic, I practically sprinted across the back of the church to the sacristy. I looked at all the people gathered and briefly wondered if the groom had cold feet. I ducked inside and Michael held a small, tissue-wrapped package. "Kristin and I don't want you to cry. But we thought you should have this before the wedding." Inside, was a handkerchief embroidered with the familiar words of a bedtime story I've read a million times in the last 24 years. They were the words my children have sung at bedtime into Mike's voicemail when he is away. When I first read Love You Forever, I thought it was creepy. What mother picks up grown sons when they are sleeping to rock them? Totally weird. As my boys have grown though, I've understood the message. Mothers never stop wanting to make the world safe, to keep their babies close and ensure they know they're loved. Never. When my friend Jan saw a picture of the handkerchief, she said, "Nothing could have made you happier." She is so right.
::All weekend long, I got text messages and emails and sweet notes from girlfriends who were holding me in prayer. Never have I seen the Holy Spirit and the communion of saints so visibly. Not a one was hurt that they weren't there. They understood. And then they prayed.
::There was moment before the girls walked down the aisle that I think has escaped everyone's camera. Just outside the sacristy door, my five boys gathered themselves into a huddle. I'm not sure what all was said. I hear that Michael told Paddy how much he appreciated the latter's decision to forego earrings on this day. What else? I don't know. I just know that the sight of them there filled my heart to its fullest and made my husband's eyes spill over. Patrick's girlfriend Hilary was sitting next to us. I caught her eye. We looked at Mike. And the three of us shared the moment. One day, God willing, I will be very old. My memory will fail. I dearly hope that someone will remind me of that moment. I never want to forget.
::The plan for the recessional was for me to take Sarah's hand and Mike to take Karoline's hand and my arm and then for the four of us to walk down the aisle. Karoline escaped Mike and skipped all the way down the aisle. Oh, yes she did. And she caught the spirt of our joy as she always does.
::This was a handmade wedding. The flowers were a gift of love from Kristin's roommate. Kristin sewed her own veil and upcycled her rehearsal dinner dress from a vintage wedding dress. We had a wedding favor party in my kitchen on Nutcracker weekend and assembled darling gifts for guests. The cake was the creation and gift of Megan Kampa, one of Michael's childhood friends and homeschooling buddies. It was carried into the reception hall by their friend Billy, now a marine. Hours and hours of love went into the details. And hours and hours of love are still being poured into the photographs. Handmade. Heartfelt. So good. (Lots of those pictures are on Instagram @heartofmyhome or you can click the camera icon on the sidebar.)
::I thoroughly enjoyed the little chats I had with Kristin's friends and relatives. Small weddings are truly wonderful for making meaningful connections. I don't think I've ever known a more thoughtful bride.
::Nicholas gave a toast that brought the house down. It was so good that the wait staff in the room left to go get the rest of the staff to come hear the twelve-year-old who is now seriously contemplating a career as a stand-up comic. He'd have to take his ghostwriter with him. Christian, no doubt, is a gifted speechwriter. Genius was the word I heard more than once.
::Hilary caught the bouquet. Everyone--everyone--was ever so glad. Perfect. Just perfect.
::Michael swept Karoline up to dance Sweet Caroline. Not a dry eye in the house. 
::At the end of the evening, after Ginny and Lori had headed home, Michael played the song that Mike had chosen for our first dance twenty-five years ago. My husband held me close and I could not take my eyes off his face. I just kept saying, "We did this. We did this." I didn't mean the wedding. I meant something much, much bigger. God. Mike. Me. Together for something big. Mike understood. I'm pretty sure there are no pictures of the dance. I'll never forget, though.
All photos: Ginny, who spent her birthday with my memories.

Wedding Day: Lord, Hear Our Prayer




Twenty-five years ago today, a new life began. It grew from the love of a brand-new marriage. Nine months later, on September 29, 1988, a son was born. My firstborn. The baby who made me Mama, who made us family.

Today, that boy--now grown to a man--will take a wife. In many ways, he's grown up here in this space and in the pages of books and newspapers. We've stumbled along together, he and I, learning as we go, and sharing those lessons with all of you.

I'm at a loss for words. I have been all month.

I tend to take a while to process big things and this is a very big thing. We head to church this morning to meet both the same priest who baptized Michael and our dear pastor, who will concelebrate the marriage. My heart is full--very, very full. I'm eager to encircle Kristin, to call her daughter-in-love, and to fully celebrate this new beginning. But as I said, I'm at a loss for words. So, I beg your prayers for us this weekend and for Michael and Kristin as they begin their new life together.  And I leave you with Mike's words from last night, when he welcomed family and friends after the rehearsal.


I thought a fair-amount about what I might be able to share this evening….something that would capture what Elizabeth and I are feeling this weekend.  Coupled with that, I also considered the amount of time I would be allowed to speak before my sons would begin shouting me down.  I think I have about 30-seconds left.

Mark and Terumi, distinguished grandparents, family and friends, thank you for accepting our invitation tonight and for sharing this evening with us.  Elizabeth and I are very grateful.

In spite of what anyone might tell you (and by anyone I suppose I mean our current culture), this life is about relationships.

What we share and what others are willing to share with us.

What we do for others and what we allow others to do for us.

About half of this room is filled with people who have supported Elizabeth and me for at least 30 years and in many cases, closer to 50.  They were there to help us through school, help us through cancer, to help us change the diapers of nine children and help to drive to so many soccer games and ballet rehearsals that it would be impossible to count.
I know the other half of the room is filled with those who have supported Mark and Terumi in a similar fashion.  And while I may not know the specifics of their actions, I do know something about life…..and this outward demonstration, their attendance here tonight, is life.
As I look around this room tonight, each and every person can claim a special relationship with Kristin and Michael.  Grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, and many friends.  As you both consider the weekend ahead, I hope you will take time to reflect on the love and the support which surrounds you tonight, which will surround you tomorrow and which will surround you for years to come.
Kristin and Michael, as you have learned, marriage in the Catholic Church is a grace-filled sacrament.   As the early 20th century Belgian Priest and theologian, Jacques Leclercq wrote:

The sacrament of marriage is the imprint of God on the souls of the married couple, not merely in order to deify their life in general, but in order to deify their union . . . The sacrament of marriage is thus not merely a religious act sanctifying a human one, it is a seed sown in the soul and bearing fruit through the whole of married life, giving life to all its acts and sentiments . . . it is a predisposition to holiness placed in their souls by God on the day of their wedding.

As you celebrate the powerful and grace-filled sacrament of marriage and enjoy the events of this weekend,  I pray that you will find time to reflect upon the many blessings God has bestowed upon you.  Particularly the blessings of your family and your friends who have gathered with you tonight.

May God grant you many years and may He bless your marriage forever.  We love you both.


video credit: Mary Beth Foss, with help from Kristin's sister, Cherise.