Tag Archives: marriage

What Love Looks Like

On this day six years ago, on the bank of a lush green peninsula with the Tennessee River weaving its way around us, my (now) husband nervously dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him. My heart raced. Excited as I was about the expectation of this day, I was stunned in this moment of surprise. With tears in my eyes, I wholeheartedly exclaimed, “Yes!” and he somehow managed to slip the ring on my shaking hand. Our lips curled into smiles as we kissed and settled into the strange sense of relief and anticipation that this great decision brings.

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In the span of time between then and now, our lives have shifted so much. We’ve made three moves and had two babies together. We’ve switched jobs and quit jobs and attempted to create jobs. We’ve lived apart and together. We’ve traveled, we’ve learned, we’ve grown. As our minds and our bodies and our routines have been forced to adapt to our ever-changing circumstances, so, too, has our love. The love I said yes to six years ago looks a whole lot different than the love we live out today.

Sometimes love looks like chasing down dreams. Mine. His. Both of ours. Sometimes love looks like putting my dreams on hold to allow him to pursue his. Sometimes it looks like rejoicing in gratitude when he selflessly does the same.

Sometimes love looks like sharing adventures. Traveling the world, climbing glaciers, flying over fields and valleys. And realizing, no matter where we go, he and I are still our same selves; which is both beautiful and daunting.

Sometimes love looks like settling. For a place we don’t want to be. For a house we don’t love. For jobs we don’t enjoy. For a person who doesn’t always meet all of our expectations.

Sometimes love looks like surprise. Surprise at how we can know each other so well and still uncover new gems. Surprise at how our hearts can soften when it would be so much easier to let them grow hard. Surprise at the depth of our commitment to better our selves and our relationship.

Sometimes love looks like acceptance. Acceptance that his emotions and reactions and outlooks are going to be different from my own. Acceptance that we’re not always our best selves, but at least we keep trying.

Sometimes love looks like weathering loss together. Holding each other through the heavy burden of grief. Holding space for the hurts that cannot be expressed. Holding grace when those hurts seem to flow through us and out onto each other from the gaping wounds that have yet to heal.

Sometimes love looks like the strange combination of hope and fear that big life events bring. Babies and birthdays and moves and job opportunities. Love looks like supporting each other through the joys and trials of these transitions.

Sometimes love looks like doing dishes or doing laundry or mowing the lawn or paying the bills. And choosing not to stew in the resentment that passes through our household when the scales of the chores seem unevenly tipped.

Sometimes love looks like staying home. Or going to work. Dividing and conquering the responsibilities that never end. Even if it feels more like dividing than conquering.

Sometimes love looks like the faces of these children we’ve created together. Little faces that are a beautiful blend of both of our bodies and spirits. Faces that both delight and and exhaust us.

Sometimes love looks like putting the kids to bed early so we can have a little extra time for just the two of us. And sometimes love looks like a shared sigh, a glance, a brief embrace, when, despite our best efforts the kids just won’t sleep. And this is the best we’re going to get today.

Sometimes looks like talking about our deepest thoughts and dreams. But sometimes love looks like simply sitting together in silence.

Sometimes love looks like the soft touch of gentle hands. His hands on my back as I labor to bring our children into the world. My hands stretched across his chest in the dark of the night as we savor this silent time together.

This love that has changed shape over time is not always what I expected, not always what I signed up for six years ago. And yet, it’s so much more. I didn’t quite know what I was saying yes to this day back then. I still don’t know what I’m saying yes to in this future together. But I’m so glad that I said yes, that I continue to say yes, to our ever-evolving love.

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A Love Letter to my Husband

Dear Handsome Husband,

I know this phase of life feels a little tricky at times. I know that there never seems to be enough time or energy or money to go around. I know our days are endlessly consumed with meeting the needs of small children, with little left for ourselves, much less each other. I know I often forget to tell you how much I love and appreciate you. I know that when we find ourselves completely spent, day after day, it’s far easier to focus on the annoyances than to celebrate the fantastic.

But I know, too, that I am still madly in love with you in a million amazing ways every single day.

The things that make my heart melt these days look a little different than when we first met. They are not all roses and romance (although I did absolutely love those beautiful yellow roses you surprised me with!). What takes my breathe away are the things that make the rhythm and flow of our life, however chaotic, feel a bit more bearable and beautiful.

I love how you show up. For work. For the kids. For me. For your flying community. You are all in and all there, even and especially when there never seems to be enough time and energy.

I love how you work tirelessly to support and better our family. I know you don’t love your job, and the sacrifices you make every day to provide for us cannot be underestimated or over-appreciated.

I love how you support and encourage my dreams. Whether it’s staying home to raise our children or getting out to write, you bend over backwards to help make it happen.

I love how you relentlessly chase down your own dreams. You reach and strive to learn more and become better and grasp you goals, stubbornly rejecting failure.

I love to watch your boyish wonder and fascination with all things aviation.

I love to watch you share this passion with our daughters.

I love how you can elicit laughter from our children with a simple silly face or fun game and turn everyone’s moods around.

I love how you can walk in and breathe patience into a room when I have none left.

I love how you cook for us and am constantly blown away by the delicious concoctions you create in less time and with less mess than I ever could.

I love how you clean up after me. I know I am a walking mess maker, and there are always dirty dishes, scattered laundry, and random clutter left in my wake. Thank you for not nagging me (too much) about it; thank you even more for silently doing the dirty work.

I love how you effortlessly seem to figure things out and fix things to keep our cars, house, and life running smoothly.

I love how you twirl me in the middle of our cluttered kitchen when one of my favorite songs plays, even though dancing is the last thing you want to do.

I love how you still look at me, after all these years and a couple of babies, with desire in your eyes.

I love how I get to glance across the kitchen at your rugged handsomeness, kind dark eyes, and smile that lights up the room.

I love how you seek adventure and and ruthlessly refuse to settle for the ordinary. And I love how you push me to do the same.

I love how you bring me milkshakes and pay the bills and watch our daughter so I can have a weekend away. I love how you clear the drains and shovel the snow and take out the trash. I love how you make coffee in the morning and do bedtime in the evening. I love how you get out of bed to help our daughter and how you stay in bed to snuggle me close. I love your rough hands and your kind heart and your brilliant brain and your compassionate soul.

I love you for all these reasons and so many more that too often go overlooked. I may not be as great at saying or showing it these days, but I love journeying through this life with you and all the everyday joys you bring with us.

All My Love,

C

The First Ten

Today marks ten years since I first met my husband. A decade. A third of my life I’ve now spent with this man.

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When I think back to that fateful night ten years ago, it feels like the time that’s passed is both a lifetime and a blink. In the span of the last decade there have been countless moments and memories that have shifted and shaped us, both individually and as a couple. We’ve grown up and grown out of bad habits and grown into ourselves and grown together. The evolution of it all is wondrous.

There was the beginning. There was the late night with too many drinks and bad dance moves and his irresistible dark eyes and sweet crooked smile. There was our first date. My sick day off work and my warnings of being contagious and his reckless abandon as he kissed me anyway. There was my move halfway across the world and the awkwardness of saying goodbye to something that was still nothing. There was the crushing loneliness of knowing no one in a new land and spending hours at a European Internet cafe just hoping I could connect with him. There were entire nights spent chatting online because we were young and had all the time and energy in the world to burn. And thousands of miles couldn’t dim our spark. There was him flying halfway across the world to visit me. The glimpse of a familiar stranger in a foreign place. There was the love that sprouted as we traversed new territory, even though we weren’t yet brave enough to give it a name.

There were the adventures. Oh, the adventures! There were the 7 countries we trekked through, devouring food and culture and experiences and laughable moments. There were the countless states across this great nation, stretching from the southern tip of Florida to the furthest reaches of Alaska, upon which we’ve made our small but meaningful marks. There were planes, trains, and automobiles; and mopeds, gondolas, and donkeys too. There were missed trains and sleeping outside on station benches. Or airport floors. There were broken bones and crutching over cobblestone. There was the warmth of the Grecian sun kissing our skin and the chill of ancient ice glistening on a glacier. There were alligators and pythons and orcas and eagles. There were mountains climbed and vistas viewed. There was the magnificent flying, just the two of us soaring  high above lakes and rivers, hills and valleys. The most unique and beautiful way to experience this gorgeous Earth. There were more places and people and experiences that have taken our breath away as we’ve explored the world together over these first ten years than I could ever hope for in a lifetime.

There were the places we came home to. There was Maryland and DC, Florida and Tennessee, and now Illinois. There were crowded college houses and quaint city apartments. A tiny travel trailer and abodes shared with relatives. A house covered with dog hair and a home filled with all the joys and messes of children. There’s our conflicting zest for more travel and adventure mixed with our fervent desire to settle somewhere we love.

There were the leaps of faith. The jobs left and the passions pursued. There were the foolish but fun choices and and the vehement refusals to live according to someone else’s plan. There were the moves and the upheaval; the packing and the unpacking. There was the striking out on our own and encouraging the other to blaze their own unique trail. There was the catching each other when we fell and supporting each other when we floundered. There is the seemingly reckless but ultimately unwavering faith we have in one another to pursue our best lives; together.

There were the life transitions and momentous milestones. The moving in together and rearranging our lives for one another. The walking down the aisle and rings exchanged and vowing to love each other for the rest of this life. There was the heartwarming joy of growing new lives together and welcoming our children into this world. There was the heartbreaking grief of shepherding life out of this world and figuring out how to go on living.

And there were the heavy and hard times. More than we’d probably care to admit. There were the dreams shattered and hearts broken. There were the harsh words spoken and tears brought forth. The blame and shame and resentment and restitution. There was the bickering and the fighting. The honest miscommunications and the blatant bitterness. There was the questioning of whether this relationship could be or should be. The wondering if we were broken, and if we could be repaired.

Then there was the learning. The learning how to give and how to take. The compromising. There was the pushing and pulling to bring out the best in each other. The seeing through the broken cracks to discover new light in the other. The calling out of that light and trusting the person and the process. There was the embracing what truly matters and letting go of the rest. There was the realization that we’re in this for the long haul so we have to put in the effort, because nothing good ever comes without a little (or a lot) of work.

And there was, and of course still is, the love. Always the love, ever evolving. First burning hot and fast under the guise of desire. Then steadfast and righteous and ardent, followed by raw and vulnerable and real. Now all of those things combined, faded slightly in intensity, into the comfortable commitment that comes from spending a decade together. Strong and steady and simple. There were the small seemingly insignificant daily acts that formed the love song of our life. There were the million moments when we chose us and chose love, when we could have chosen something different.

There is the now. There are the sleepless nights that a decade ago were spent drinking or dancing or talking and now are spent caring for sick children. There are the soothing messages with scented lotion that have been replaced by the tender smoothing of vapor rub on our always sick and tired bodies. There are the beautiful babies and jubilant laughter and simple pleasures. There are the heavy burdens of responsibilities that accompany adulthood, and especially parenthood, and the effort not to let them consume us. There are the extraordinary joys we’re creating that often go overlooked in our ordinary life. There is the continual choosing, every day, to love one another and to carry onward on this well worn but still entirely unpredictable path together.

Here’s to the next ten, and the many more to follow.

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Alaskan Anniversary

A few months ago when I thought about how me might spend our first anniversary, I figured we would maybe go out to a nice dinner to celebrate, perhaps even escape to a bed and breakfast in the mountains for a weekend. Never did I think that we would get to celebrate in the biggest way possible, out in the great big estate of Alaska. Turns out, that was the absolute perfect way to celebrate the big day.

We considered beginning our anniversary with a 15 mile hike, but instead decided to indulge in sleeping in, since there are only so many more mornings we can enjoy this simple pleasure. So after a relaxed morning and a hearty breakfast, we set off towards the Chena Hot Springs about an hour outside of Fairbanks.

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The drive was gorgeous, winding through valleys surrounded by spruce-filled mountains and meandering rivers. As cell phone reception diminished within the first few miles, we were able to just focus on each other and this beautiful land we were exploring.

Finally we reached the end of the road – the hot springs.

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The entire resort was lovely. Secluded, but bustling with uniquely Alaskan activities – flight-seeing, dog-sled tours, ice museum, and Aurora watching, just to name a few. Beautiful flowers peeked out from every imaginable container.

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I had never been to a hot springs before and it was quite a treat. Having just flown in from 90 degree heat a few days before, I was chilled to the bone by the cool Alaskan air with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees. So climbing in the steaming water felt like a bear hug, warming me from the inside out. There’s something surreal and so relaxing about sitting in a warm natural pool with a cold mountain breeze blowing around you.

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Since the average temperature of the springs is a little over 100 degrees, I spent most of the time lounging on a chilled rock with my feet submerged in the hot springs so as not to overheat our little one. Still so very enjoyable.

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After a long, hard day spent relaxing at the hot springs, it was time to feed our appetites. Originally we had planned to head back to Fairbanks for dinner. I’d brought a nice dress for the occasion, we’d picked out a recommended restaurant. But in typical Andrew and Courtney fashion, our plans changed at the last minute and we decided to dine at Chena – no fancy clothes, no fancy plans, we didn’t even have our wedding rings! But it was delightful and perfectly our style.

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Besides, you can’t go wrong with fresh made creamy smoked salmon pasta.

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After dinner we toured the world renowned ice museum.

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Where I warmed up by the fire place.

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And used the icy outhouse.

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And for a mere $600 we could stay a night in this cold Christmas-themed room.

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We decided to pass.

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Having our fill of the hot springs and cold ice, we headed back to Fairbanks. The sunset drive was indescribably gorgeous. One of the magical things about Alaska is that the brilliant twilight sunset time, that breathtaking light that most of us barely manage to catch a glimpse of on our drive home from work, lasts for hours up here. It creates the most stunning colors cast across the sky and landscape, giving the appearance of a watercolor painting.

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But our anniversary wasn’t over yet! Because back at the hotel it was time to dig into the dessert that had traveled over 4,000 miles for this special day – the top to our wedding cake.

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Yes, despite Andrew’s protestatations, I somehow managed to get that frozen chunk of sugary goodness past airport security and lugged it all the way across the country to enjoy this first anniversary tradition.

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Being the kind husband that he is, Andrew waited to tell me that the cake had become a little dry. And of course, nothing goes better with wedding cake than a nice mug of beer.

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Cheers to the most wonderful Alaskan anniversary and many more adventurous years to come!

The Greatest Adventure of All

Anyone who knows Andrew and I know that we love adventure. The drive to pursue paths that are out of the ordinary seems ingrained in our souls. We seek out experiences that make each day unpredictable and completely unique from the one before. This sense of adventure has taken us from Washington, DC to South Florida, from Tennessee to Europe, and now to Alaska.

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Yet these adventures pale in comparison to the thrill and unpredictability of simple everyday living together. In just one short year, we’ve discovered that marriage is our greatest adventure to date. Both more challenging at times, and more rewarding overall, than either of us ever could have imagined. There have been moments when we’re trekking over rough terrain, uphill, with all the elements bearing down upon us. We think we couldn’t possibly go one more step. But our strength and unity carries us and somehow we reach the the summit once again. The beauty up there is breathtaking and we know we would make the climb a thousand times over just to see this majestic beauty – the love and life we have created together. So we capture that beauty and love and carry it with us, over the tough trails and the mundane paths, always forward. Sometimes not knowing where the path may lead, but always trusting in this adventure we’ve chosen together.

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It’s this journey of learning and loving through marriage that prepares us for what lies ahead – the greatest adventure of all – parenthood. We are overjoyed to announce that we’re growing our family and will have a new little one to join in the fun and adventure next March!

Having children is something we have both spent a lifetime looking forward to – the culmination of so many hopes and dreams. What could be more important, more adventurous, than bringing someone new into this great big world and teaching then how to live and love and embrace all it’s beauty? We’re so honored to have this opportunity.

There’s no doubt that the path to parenthood will be filled with so many new and wonderful adventures, as well as it’s own share of challenges. The months and years ahead will be unpredictable for sure, which is both exhilarating and terrifying. But the rewards, getting to watch our child grow, are already so very extraordinary.

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We’re overwhelmed with excitement for every step of this next great adventure! We love you so much already little one…

How’s Married Life? My Messy Beautiful

Cochrane-Moore-701“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote. Though he was referring to 18th Century Europe, he might as well have been talking about marriage.

In the seven and a half short (but seemingly long) months since we said our vows, I’ve learned more about myself, relationships, and life in general than I did in the preceding 26 years. And what I’ve learned is not that love conquers all and “I do” is simply followed by happily ever after. I have learned that marriage, just like life, is messy and incredibly hard. But if I keep showing up, keep putting in the effort, there is also incredible beauty to be found shining through.

Nothing prepares you for the simultaneous glory and heartache that comes from committing yourself to another person for life.

I like to think I walked down the aisle with open eyes, prepared for what lied ahead. “Marriage is hard,” people tell you. That’s ok, I thought, I can do hard things. I’ve got this, I was made for this. We had been together for years, so we both knew what to expect. Or so we thought.

When we get too comfortable and confident, it seems that’s when life starts throwing curve balls. In a matter of weeks into our marriage, the curve balls started flying fast and furious, relentlessly pummeling the foundation of our marriage and our very selves. From a devastating loss to broken promises, from lies to issues with alcohol – the beauty we worked so hard to create was replaced in the blink of an eye with endless mess raining down.

Daily disappointments settled into the cracks of our broken hearts and shattered dreams. There seemed to be no space for beauty to shine through.

But seeds of hope, like wildflowers, bloom most beautifully in unexpected places; taking root through the sheer force of will to hang on under difficult circumstances.  And this hope is where the hard work of sifting through the mess begins.

Day after day we have to clear the debris and rebuild one block at a time. Day after day we have to choose to trust – ourselves and each other – and keep moving forward. Day after day we have to rediscover that person we chose to marry and learn to love them, to truly accept them in all their broken humanity, all over again. Some days one or both of us don’t think we can make it, and that scares me more than the mess itself. But we keep trying, keep taking tiny steps of grace; each step uncovering just a bit of beauty.

The beauty shows up in the unexpected and wildly ordinary moments. A glimpse of my husband’s face, alive with passion, as he prepares to pilot a plane. The soft brush of his hand on my hip as I wash the dishes. Working together, side by side, to weed the garden and make room for new growth. The magic of uttering “Thank You” and “I Love You” to one another, even on the worst of days. Sometimes it’s simply those precious few moments before we fall asleep as we hold each other close, our silent victory lap, we made it through another day.

When I get asked a dozen times a day, “How’s married life?” I know these are the things I’m not supposed to say. Hide the mess, sing out the beauty. I should, and usually do, smile and respond, “great!” But the truth is, beauty and mess coexist. It’s their inseparable intermingling that make life and love honest, real, and incredibly enlightening.

 

momasteryThis essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!